Kindly give our readers an introduction to your business. Please include what your business is all about, in which city you are located and if you have offices in multiple locations/ cities.
ABODE OUTSIDE is an eco-friendly clothing brand headquartered in Minnesota. The brand is inspired by memories of camping in the Boundary Waters with family, combined with the need to protect these precious natural resources. I’ve spent years researching the clothing industry, and sustainability has become a growing concern. Clothing is a massive industry – one of the largest – with a complex global presence. Clothes are the #1 most purchased item in almost every country around the world. The complexity and size of the clothing industry means it is one of the leading contributors to many of the pressing environmental issues facing humanity including pollution, waste, biodiversity loss, land use and water conservation.
New research and technology continue to uncover the damage irresponsible fashion practices have on our lives. Recently, scientist have found microplastics in human lungs and blood for the first time. The clothing industry is a primary contributor. If we want to live in a healthier, cleaner planet, we must look at clothing and the culture around how people shop. Our mission at ABODE OUTSIDE is to enable you to live an eco-friendlier life through clothing and education.
Kindly give us a brief description about yourself (it should include your brief educational or entrepreneurial background and list some of your major achievements).
I graduated from the University of St. Thomas with a degree in Journalism in 2009. After college, I worked several marketing jobs around the Twin Cities. During this time, I enrolled and graduated from an online “Master Certificate” program in Digital Marketing through the University of San Francisco. I subsequently worked as a digital marketing assistant for a Swarovski jewelry brand called “Chamilia” where I helped launch their ecommerce website. After the successful launch, I took some time off from work. I had grown weary of unpleasant office cultures and the monotonous grind. I took a risk by quitting a comfortable job, setting aside some savings for a few months off and hitting the road around the country. It was during this time I renewed my love of the outdoors. I was inspired to attend wilderness medicine school so I could more confidently and safely travel the wilderness, away from cities and services. I received certification as a Wilderness First Responder, and in 2013 I moved to Colorado with my younger brother. During this time, my brother and I were managing a specialty shoe store, and I was doing some freelance digital marketing work on the side. These years were some of the most enjoyable of my life. I immersed myself in the outdoors. I ran around the mountains. I slept outside in tents. I met a lot of new, interesting people. Around 2015, I started working part-time as a marketing assistant for a knitwear development company. This is when I began to perfect the art of working remotely from my computer at campsites and while on the road. Part of my job was to research trends in the clothing industry. For years, I submitted weekly reports summarizing my findings. Each year, sustainability became a bigger issue within the fashion industry. This research served as the basis for ABODE OUTSIDE. In 2020, the clothing industry was severely impacted by the nationwide lockdown. It was during that time I organized my research and presented the idea of a sustainable clothing brand to the company I was working for.
What inspired you to (start a new business venture) or (to make significant changes in an existing business)? How did the idea for your business come about?
From 2015 – 2020 I was working for a knitwear development company. In the simplest terms, our job was to help other clothing brands develop their sweaters. Part of my job was to submit weekly research reports summarizing trends in the industry. Sustainability became a growing trend in my research over those years. I learned that the clothing industry is a leading contributor to all the big environmental issues we face. I used that information as the foundation of our eco-friendly clothing brand, ABODE OUTSIDE.
What three pieces of advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs?
- Focus on the needs of the customer.
- You don’t learn until you crash and burn – Meaning it’s ok to fail. Failure is the quickest way to learn.
- Act like a responsible adult.
What would you say are the top three skills needed to be a successful entrepreneur?
- Resilient – The ability to get up and forge ahead when you experience failure.
- Resourcefulness – Creative problem solving will be crucial when pioneering a new product or industry. Unforeseen obstacles will arise daily.
- Communication – Clear communication is key in every relationship.
How many hours do you work a day on average?
More than 8. Must put in the extra elbow grease if you want to get ahead.
To what do you most attribute your success?
A combination of passion, research and connections.
How do you go about marketing your business? What has been your most successful form of marketing?
Social media, specifically Instagram is the go-to for clothing business staying connected with their audience. Twitter and Facebook aren’t as impactful because our industry is so visual, so Instagram seems to create the best engagement. In-person events are usually the most rewarding forms of marketing. We have been most successful selling directly to retailers rather than ecommerce on our website. In those cases, good ol’ fashioned cold-calling and word-of-mouth networking has been essential.
Where did your organizations funding/capital come from and how did you go about getting it? How did you obtain investors for your venture?
I made small personal investment in yarn to manufacture the initial product. We sold through our inventory and used that money to make another product. We were successful with that product as well and used that money to build a small collection of products. At that point we had a solid proof of concept and pitched our brand to connections in the clothing industry and we secured an investment to build out our business.
What is the best way to achieve long-term success?
Focus on customer needs, have a well-researched plan and a good team that you trust.
Where do you see yourself and your business in 5 – 10 years?
ABODE OUTSIDE will have a significant presence in the outdoor apparel market. We will be viewed as an industry leader in sustainable clothing, specifically in the knitwear sector. Our ecommerce website will be thriving and our wholesale business will have expanded across the country into new regions. We will be a strong, sustainable, responsible business where our employees are excited and inspired to work together.
Excluding yours, what company or business do you admire the most?
Arapahoe Basin is a ski and snowboarding resort in Colorado. I love this mountain because they have an incredible reputation for focusing on the customer experience instead of looking to maximize profits every year. They also have one of the best sustainability programs I’ve seen on any ski mountain. They do everything they can do be human-friendly and environmentally friendly.
How important have good employees been to your success?
Vital! Absolutely 100% crucial to success. We have a small team, but every member plays a very specific, important role. Hardworking, trustworthy employees will make an entrepreneurial venture much more enjoyable and likely to succeed.
How long do you stick with an idea before giving up? What motivates you?
The idea that Mars is our backup plan motivates me to work hard to take care of this planet. Earth is a vibrant planet with diverse ecosystems, wildlife and distinct, changing seasons. Mars is a barren wasteland year-round. And every other known planet is a similarly harsh environment for humans. Earth is a precious, fascinating place and I think it should be with a little more respect than it has been.
What are your ideals? How do you generate new ideas?
Idea generation seems to come easiest while I’m listening to music or driving in my truck. Or both.
How do you define success? How do you build a successful customer base?
Focus on the customer experience. Treat all customers equally important.
What is your favorite aspect of being an entrepreneur?
The potential to make an impact. I want to make a positive impact on the world around me and the easiest way for me to do that is by being an entrepreneur.
What has been your most satisfying moment in business?
Securing an order for ABODE OUTSIDE at an old, historic outdoor outfitter that my father was fond of visiting when I was a child.
What do you feel is the major difference between entrepreneurs and those who work for someone else? What kind of culture exists in your organization? How did you establish this tone and why did you institute this particular type of culture?
A culture that puts a premium on hard work, respect and cooperation. If employees are stressed out and angry, their work will reflect that. I have worked in competitive, toxic work environments, and the employees and overall business suffered. Its best to cultivate an environment where employees can thrive. The best way to manage this is by taking the time to hire the right people.
In one word, characterize your life as an entrepreneur.
If you had the chance to start your career over again, what would you do differently?
I think your career starts in college. That is when many people start to secure their first jobs and educate themselves for their future. I would have immersed myself in the college experience more. I lived off-campus after my freshman year, so I was a slightly detached from the campus experience. College is a once-in-a-lifetime event, and everyone should make the most of it. Use all the facilities your university has to offer, and get involved in all the clubs, sports and activities you can.
How has being an entrepreneur affected your family life? What is your greatest fear, and how do you manage fear? How did you decide on the location for your business?
Minnesota is an area I am familiar with, and it has vibrant outdoor culture. There are also 4 distinct seasons in Minnesota which is crucial for marketing the clothing industry which has very seasonal trends.
Do you believe there is some sort of pattern or formula to becoming a successful entrepreneur?
Passion. It’s really challenging to be an entrepreneur if you are not passionate about the work.
If you could talk to one person from history, who would it be and why? Who has been your greatest inspiration?
My dad. ABODE OUTSIDE would not exist without my dad teaching me the value of the outdoors at an early age.
What book has inspired you the most? (OR what is your favorite book?)
Neither Wolf nor Dog.
What are some of the biggest mistakes you’ve made in business?
Being late. It looks bad and it is inconsiderate to make people wait.
How can you prevent mistakes or do damage control?
Research and preparation. This is a main theme of wilderness guiding: the more you prepare, the less likely it is you’ll have an incident. Being a wilderness guide isn’t all about responding to accidents. It is more important to prepare yourself in order to avoid accidents in the first place. I think that concept can be applied to most professions.
What are your hobbies? What do you do in your non-work time?
Spend time with loved ones whenever I get the chance. Try to be outdoors as much as possible. Travelling, road tripping, camping, hiking, fishing, paddling, snowboarding, skating and rollerblading are some of my favorite activities. I am also getting into gardening. It is quite rewarding to grow and eat your own food. It’s also less expensive and more eco-friendly of course!
What makes you happy?
My dog, Zuke.
What sacrifices have you had to make to be a successful entrepreneur?
Many people find entrepreneurship appealing because of the idea that it provides more freedom when you work for yourself. However, I have found I have lost free time because you must work more than 9-5 every day when you own your own business. It can be much easier to step away and take time off from work when you work for someone else. As an entrepreneur, the idea of working only 8 hours a day and dedicated time sounds good at times.