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A common dream amongst entrepreneurs is to create a brand so big it defines a culture.

These brands start from passionately serving a niche community. But if you’re not careful, money gets in the way and you lose sight of your purpose.

So, how do you prevent it?

By remembering that your business is not your identity. By detaching yourself from the results, even when your competitors overtake you. And by learning from someone who’s done it before.

Like today's guest Dan Abrams. He started Flylow to serve the backcountry skiing community. Even as Flylow expands into new markets, they never stray too far from their roots.

In this episode, you’ll discover how to build a brand so big it defines a culture, while staying true to your roots.

Listen now!

Show highlights include:

  • How “divorcing your brand” helps you sleep better at night and stay level headed when leading your business (5:26)
  • How grassroots marketing lets you dominate multinational brands (even if you can barely scrape together a dollar for advertising)  (17:30)
  • Why the dorky teenage cashier down the street makes your brand more sales than a well-polished ad campaign ever will… if you have a good brand story (25:43)
  • Why paying big bucks to celebrity athletes sabotages your sales and damages your brand (and who to work with instead) (32:59)
  • The “sun and shoes” method that makes critical decisions easier even if you’re stressed out of your mind (46:47)
Read Full Transcript

(00:29): Hey guys, welcome to another episode of the red Yeti podcast. Episode number 228, featuring Dan Abrams, founder of fly low, any hardcore ski, especially the back country. Crowd will recognize fly low as one of the bigger small brands in the ski industry fly low makes back country skiing apparel. Well, at least that's how they really made a name for themselves since they started. They actually expanded their line, digging into mountain biking as well. Fly low started as an incredibly small company has extremely humble beginnings, but in a lot of ways, fly low helps at the stage for helping back country become more mainstream, not just from the apparel side of things, not by a long shot. Sure. That was their main focus in the beginning. And they did and do still progress that side of it fly low first and foremost makes really high quality technical apparel.

(01:23): It is how they got their start, but just going beyond that fly low has done a lot to cultivate a culture and just add to the skiing community as Dan tells the story of how he got it started. You'll see what I mean by that. It's a lot of working with other filmmakers in the industry, building a team, building an as team, a team of athletes, people who actually could stand by the brand and understand that fly low. Isn't just about the gear. It's a lot more about the culture around the gear. Dan actually dives into a lot of stuff beyond that. Sharing a way more nitty gritty. Look at what actually went into building fly low. In this episode, Dan shines the light on how fly low got developed from its very humble beginnings. And there are a lot of lessons to be taken out of that.

(02:09): He really does dive into the details of what it was like actually building a brand from scratch. Having started taking other gear, duct, taping it, making alterations and just realizing, Hey, we can do this better. And they did. And they still do then also really shows a great example of how to stay nimble as a young company, even if it means hanging out to shoestring budgets and cobbling together, a plan until you have something a little bit more robust, but most importantly of all, we discuss how to build a community that people can proudly get behind. And with that, I give you Dan Abrams, founder of fly low forward. And here we go, Dan, thanks for coming on. Thanks for having me. Yeah, absolutely glad to have you. So for starters, the easy one who is Dan Abrams? Oh man. I am well, I mean, doesn't that question you just change over time now I'm a dad. But also co-founder of fly low gear, which is, is my outdoor and kind of back country ski free ride clothing company. And I am just trying to run a solid business and create jobs where people can earn a living with dignity and and make the right choices so I can keep those jobs around.

(03:38): You know, I guess you could kinda say fly low was your your firstborn child. I mean, you know, I, I over the years, I've, I've gone in and out of having that identity of having fly low, be too much of an identity and trying to make sure that fly low. Wasn't my only identity. I mean, a lot of people refer to me as fly low Dan, but I, I think it was the first time someone was interested in buying the company from us that I really had to unhinge my identity from that. And then before that, I remember my best friend at one point to didn't wanna hang out with me anymore because I just wouldn't stop. I mean, he always wanted to hang out, but, but he gave me trouble because I wouldn't stop talking about fly low. So I've unhinged myself from that. And but it is still very much who I am. Oh yeah. That's like the, the healthy thing though. I mean, it, it had happened, I guess, early on with, with red Yeti, even before we, you know, while we were still kind of doing other things, trying to support it, you know, always wanting to talk about it. You, you kind of figure out like, oh, like, yeah, yeah, I could do other stuff. I gotta have other interests. It's, it's fine. This isn't going anywhere.

(04:58): And you realized that there was, there was life before whatever you're or current project is, which for me was, was actually playing music. And in, in high school, my jazz band teacher helped me figure out how to run my own bands. And so I was always making these big blues and funk ensembles with horn sections and this and that. And, and those, those were my bands. And then eventually I got to college and someone asked like, what projects are you working on? And all of a sudden it changed the way I looked at the band. I didn't, you know, like I'm not married to this band. I'm not married to this company. I am married to my wife and there are different things. So you, you realize like these are projects and there's project a, B and C, and that's kind of how I live my life or how I can sleep at night is that you have all of the different ideas. And what's the number one idea it's fly low. What's B what's C, and you have to cover your and, and be ready to go at any time. So what's fly low for the listener who is unfamiliar.

(06:12): So fly low and its origins was was a product driven brand concept that came out of the needs or, you know, like the need of my group of friends from college to have a pair of pants that can climb a mountain with skis on your back and turn around and ski down a mountain and last more than a season. So basically, you know, we were, we were the college kids at the end of the nineties, early two thousands, and we were beating up our gear and we went to school and the only, the only stuff that we could use or the best stuff was mountaineering gear. So it was layer and it was light and it was packable, but it was also tight. And so we shreded it. So it didn't last very long. And then there was snowboard gear, which was cool, but it was a little bit too baggy and it was heavy and it was too layered and hanging mesh lining and stuff.

(07:14): And then the ski racing stuff that I had gone to, to college with, you know, just was uncool and built as poorly as a snowboard stuff. So this idea of making a pair of pants or bibs that could actually be manufactured in a mountaineering factory, a factory that manufactured mountaineering stuff, using three layer Hightech materials and, and and processes, and then make it more durable, make it fit over your legs so that you weren't stretching it to fit around the cuff of your, of your pants, of your, of your boots. And so that it would actually move with you last for more than a season so that we didn't have to warranty our gear over year. And that's just, that's just what the concept was increased. Venting free ride fit is what we kind of called it having cross flow venting.

(08:07): So the outer thigh vent opens up to the inner thigh vent and you get, you get flow going through, but over time what's happened is that this little project, this little brand has now grown to the point where now we have 12 full-time employees, we offer healthcare or a health insurance option. We have sales reps around the world. We have distributors, we have multiple factories that we've been working with for over a decade. And, and a friend of ours that is now, you know, like helps me with marketing a lot. It, it took having him come on to look at us from the outside to identify kind of what the brand means to our community because fly low is now so much bigger than my group of friends from college, where there were five of us that would go skiing and sleep in the back of the pickup trucks every weekend at Mount baker fly low is, you know, like was, was my way to live life on my own terms.

(09:13): And my college buddy, Greg, who help start the company. And as our co-founder like, you know, we both were trying to find our way in this world. And we wanted to be able to live in the mountains and not be ski bombs, but, you know, like have a job and be able to ski. And we had done that, you know, Greg was a service industry professional, and I was a ski schooler and played music in the mountains. So this was a way for us to do that. We didn't really realize that, but after the company took hold after five or six years and having our friend Jeff, take a look at the company and kind of identify that this is that we are not the only once, like we, we were doing this for this reason, but the people that were wearing our gear were doing the same thing. They prioritized, you know, life over money, living life on your own terms. And so, you know, in an esoteric sense, fly low is here to inspire people to live a life on their own terms.

(10:16): I like that it's, that's an interest. That's an interesting turnaround. And I guess it, it does kinda make sense that that's, you know, ultimately what I wanted to dig into the whole brand thing. So you really, you know, hit the ground running with that. I mean, I, I think it's that, I think it's that the new American dream, isn't just a white picket fence, or it isn't a white picket fence and, and two kids and, and marriage it's actually, it's owning your own business or being vested in a business, cuz not, everybody's crazy enough to take the loan or spend the money, but being vested in a business enough that you have a, a stake in it and a sense of ownership. And then you combine that and you don't let that identify that doesn't define who you are, then you have other parts of your life. And so you're, you're working to live instead of living to work. And I think that's a change in society.

(11:07): Yeah. I mean, even to take that further, like that's like the real freedom is like being, it's the freedom of being able to, you know, occupy your time, how you want and do something that you care about, that what you were people looking to, you know, either start a business or get vested actually, you know, be interested instead of just waking up nine to five, maybe hobbies, maybe you're too tired. Yeah. Yeah. To take a step back, I guess the timeline of when you started actually making the fly of gear, like the first fly of gear you was like late nineties, early two thousands. Yeah. Greg and I, and our, you know, like the, our other three buddies, Ethan and Seth and Braden, we graduated from the university of Puget sound in the year 2000. And I think I had come up with the name or I, you know, like the name kind of went in my head somewhere around 1999 and the product concepts, like that's what we did was sit around and kick around ideas as to, you know, what would be better in the world. I don't think we were like looking to be entrepreneurs. You know, some people say it's just kind of in your DNA. So then graduate college, I moved to Jackson I lasted nine months in Jackson and then I blew my knee out, teaching a lesson or I was, I was coaching kids on the weekend and blew my knee out, looked at my buddies and it was like, well, these guys aren't gonna take care of me.

(12:32): So I went home to my mom, other in Denver at the time and started playing more music, went to grad school, studied international trade and development. Hooked up with another buddy that was from college a little bit older. That was a fine artist that was developing product concepts. And he was he was a guitar player and he wanted me to play bass for him. And I wanted him to help me develop this concept. So we kind of had a symbiotic relationship and Jared Hankins helped me develop the initial logo for fly low. And so, and, and like hand sketched these drawings. So the pants and the jackets. And so I think the first product I had was a t-shirt and that was around like 2003, 2004. And then we launched our website in 2005 and another, or it was 2004, the website launched, it was fly low gear.com and fly low telemark.com because telemarking was blowing up. And that's how you got in the back country back then

(13:38): Driving that knee. That's right. And then and then we didn't start paying taxes until 2007. So, you know, from a timeline perspective, it was, you know, it, it was kind of a, it was a project, it was a hobby. If you will, I didn't get paid from fly low until September 1st, 2010. So it was, it was a long road and, and Greg and I, both, we both worked restaurant jobs. Greg came down from Jackson a few years after the fact to help me get things started. And we were working our jobs. We reinvested everything in the brand. We didn't get paid for years. Our third business partner, Scott Pearson, who's our CFO and our COO now he was 10 years older than us and had just, you know, like come out of the real estate world after the financial crisis hit. And even he signed on for two years. And didn't he, well, he agreed to take the same salary Greg and I were taking for two years, which was nothing that's, that's kind of incredible. You guys like got in and actually it's, I don't wanna say you were like ahead of your time, but you were like, just, you kind of were driving that, that switch from what do you call it? Like the baggy snowboard pants that you were saying, or like the super tight racer fit? Like it feels like that timeline, you kind of drove the the crossover to kind of what apparel looks more today.

(15:11): I think, you know, like I would, I, I think I've always thought that we were riding the wave and kind of, we were, we were going with it because especially when you're such a small brand and even now, like, it's hard to say that, you know, like our brand, even though we're, we're moving like 25,000 pairs of snow bid it's hard to say that we drive anything, but we were, we were that we were the demographic that, you know, like that right now is, you know, the 25 year old ripper that is finding flaws in their gear and they're gonna create the next generation of clothing. And that's great, you know, like there's these heritage brands like obeyer, and then there's Patagonia 10 years younger than Patagonia is Cloudville AKA Steelo 10 years younger than, than Steelo is filo. And then there's gonna be another brand that comes along that represents that next generation and that wave.

(16:11): So, you know, but at the time there was no one that was making mountaineering quality stuff for skiing, and we found that niche. And, and no one was, was actually making this back country free ride apparel, either. They were, if, if they were, were selling that they were rebranding for a long time too, like they were rebranding mountaineering apparel and trying to sell it to skiers. And that's why, you know, a pair of mountaineering pants, which is designed mind you to keep you alive and get you on and off a mountain alive, but not necessarily to last a whole ski season and, and not, not made to deal with four sharp edges or two sharp edges. But I guess a split order is four sharp edges too. And so the gear was just getting shreded and the warranties were great. And so we would just warranty our gear every year and every year it came back lighter and tighter, worse for skiing, better for climb the mountain. And then, yeah, it was just, everything just kind of came together.

(17:19): It's kinda amazing how, like you draw from other sports or, I mean, I guess it's kind of like the cousin of ski touring mountain. Yeah, absolutely. So you guys had that, that small start. How did you, I guess, what were the biggest and your success, like growing your business, like getting your name out there, how did you compete with some of the bigger, more established brands? Grassroots marketing. I mean, we had no money. We were bartending to pay for credit card debt and we were using, you know, like I was bouncing convenience checks back and forth from, from different chase Manhattan, United mileage, plus credit cards to, you know, like that's how I paid for the initial production runs. No banks will give you a loan for, you know, like, and there was a credit crunch. So initially I would make extra t-shirts and I put them in my jacket and I, they were women's t-shirts and I'd go up to women Telemark skiers, and I'd give 'em a t-shirt and talk to 'em about fly low. And then, you know, my friends that were, they were ski films called the, the powder horse. And then there was tough guy productions. And, you know, I really, you know, at the time Telemark skiing and Telemark equipment sales were blowing up they were growing at 20 to 25% a year.

(18:47): And, you know, granted after, after the first year of owning fly, low telemark.com, we could see the writing on the wall that like at gear and, you know, just backcountry skiing was gonna blow up. It, it was kind of like the way CrossFit, you know, like now no one wants to admit that they're going to CrossFit. As soon as you started seeing stickers that said, no one cares that you Telemark, you had to, you, you know, unhinge yourself from that sport and just be a, a broader, a broader sport brand. So this idea of back country free ride was how we led the marketing charge. But still like those tele whackers, they were, they were working harder than everybody else. They were doing demo. They were doing ski films, independent ski films and going on tour. And so I went on tour with the powder horse for, you know, like almost a decade.

(19:40): And these two tall brothers from from Utah were driving around and doing 40 to 50 stops where they, you know, as a production company, we're hosting events and I would fly and meet them at Bozeman. And I'd sit in the back of their little Tacoma. Cramed in there and we were on the road and I would set up mannequins and try to meet and talk with as many people as possible. And then of course that I, I think that that needs to, you know, maybe you sell one pair of pants at a ski movie, but word of mouth is the best marketing that there is. And so getting the gear out there, it just, it slowly was, was building. And it was growing at, you know, 80 to 40% year over year, which, but they were small numbers. And another key to the success was that we started this brand in the beginning of the two thousands, the middle of two thousands, and then the financial crisis hit and no one ex no one forced us to grow fast relative to how modern companies are, you know, a, a new company that started now is just looking for top line sales.

(20:58): They wanna pump money into marketing and they don't care what the cost is. They don't care if they're profitable well for grad and me, you know, like we, we had to be profitable and it's not like we were making money. It was because that's how we could make enough money to buy the next year's inventory. And every year I, I still kind of think of this in February. I have no debt. I have a bunch of money in the bank and I could just walk away. And then I think to myself, well, what fun would that be? You know, like the, the business is going well, we've created jobs and, you know, like, but back then we weren't getting paid. This was just like, in February of every year, we could have just walked away without debt, because, you know, as a small business owner and entrepreneur, or you know, that like businesses don't necessarily make you money, they can, they can cost you money if you don't play your cards.

(21:56): Right. But because of the environment and where we were at back country skiing was, you know, that wave was going up. No one expected us to grow ultra fast. And we were able to build the foundations of just really solid company that as we're proving right now I thought it was that we were repre recession proof, but it turns out we're also pandemic proof because, you know, like our brand is thriving right now. And part of that is, again, just, just luck that we're in the outdoor industry and that we were in the winter industry instead of when coronavirus hit and all those summer brands, they, they got hurt real bad this summer. But it was off season for us and we were able to push through regroup. And now, you know, like now we're, we're holding, we're holding solid.

(22:49): And I mean, it doesn't hurt when you're also, you know, delivering a product that was pretty innovative. I mean, it was the high quality mountaineering apparel designed for back country skiers that wasn't gonna tread. I mean, there was a need for that, and there's just now more need it's, it's actually interesting what you said about the I guess summer based grant. Cause in the beginning, like we ready, Yeti was in panic mode too. Everyone kind of hit that, but it didn't take long for basically the entire world seemingly to say, Hey, we can't go to other like buildings. We can't go inside. It's okay to go hiking. Let's just all do the, this even I, this is insane. I'm, I've never seen so many people walking around the neighborhood. It's kind of nice. It was always, you always see like cars and stuff, but you never see people outside now. Everyone's just like, well, maybe now is the time to get into skiing. Maybe now is the time to make the switch to back country.

(23:48): Yeah. And, and I think that, I think that there's these side benefits. I mean, you go to the gym and, you know, like, and I went to the gym for a long time and I'm not opposed to the gym, whatever, but like, you know, part of me was going for vanity. But I was younger and you know, like, I don't know, I didn't have all the stresses of the world, but when you go outside and you can clear your head and, and you realize the benefits of vitamin D and I just, you know, like I think the gym industry is gonna be fine and they'll recover. But I think that, I hope that society is, is getting better from this in so many different ways. One of which is that people are just gonna go outside more indefinitely. And then maybe they're gonna realize that if I'm outside more, maybe I should try to save the outside and be a little more conscious with, you know, like with my politics or my things about the environment. And I can support the, you know, like environmental, you know, like causes or just at least change the way that I look at the world because I want fresh air and I want snow. And yeah, you know, like after that initial knee jerk reaction, you know, we saw it first, you know, in my, in my big it's cuz we sell mountain bike apparel, we saw it in mountain bike sales. Like it was, it was just, it was crazy.

(25:14): Everyone sold, everyone sold out towards the end of summer. I was like, you know what? Like me and my friends ended up getting into mountain biking a little bit. They bought mountain bikes and I was like, all right, fine, I'll try this. You cannot get a bike you're out like on a wait list till next year, even apparel it's. And that's the same thing that we're seeing with back country ski equipment right now is like, you know, it's really tough to find back country ski equipment online, you know, like it was it's low hanging fruit. And the beauty of it is that it's out there, it's at the independent retailers. And we're seeing is that our independent retailers are thriving and you know, like, and we, we love 'em and support 'em and you ask about like, how do we, how do we get the, the brand out to people? Well, first it's word of mouth, but really it's, you know, like it's being a wholesale focused business that like everything in our numbers was structure it around, being able to sell wholesale and you know, like, and run a business and stay in business because there's nothing short of, you know, like you telling your buddy how much you love fly low and them seeing you the next best marketing is being in a shop, going in there and saying what's the best set of ski pants.

(26:26): And having a shop kid say, well, those are the most expensive, but these fly low pants, these are the best ski pants. And, and then they're like why? And it's like, all they have to remember is two college buddies beat the out of their mountaineering pants because they were skiing in them. And so they decided to make a better pant and a story. We have a face to our brand. We are in stores that, you know, like that, if you think that going outside is your, you know, like, is your church, you know, like, or is your religion, those stores are your Bible, you know, like they are, they are your guide to getting outside. So being a wholesale focused business, I think is, you know, one of the main reasons why ply was able to penetrate a market and to this day, like there are larger brands that, you know, that compete directly with, of independent retailers instead of fostering that. And, you know, we just, we just appreciate what those guys do as part of our business. So we still focus on that.

(27:35): That's actually really, it seemed, it's interesting that you say that cuz so many people I talk to and so many brands I'm looking at are making a very, very B line towards online sales. So the fact that you're still like doubling down being like, no, like we need this ecosystem. Well, yeah, we, we do. And you know, like granted fly low gear.com whole, you know, like our online sales are increasing. But our overall sales are actually increasing. So the, the focus of the brand is, is never, has never been. And isn't to be like we want to take all those sales direct it's that we are channel agnostic. And we honestly, we don't care how you get the gear. We just want you to have a positive experience and go outside and try it. We know that if you do try it, you're gonna come back and get it again. And again, like we don't care where you get it from, you can get it from REI or you can get it from, you know, like outdoor gear exchange or Al and glow sports, you know, like there's so many independent retailers in this country that, you know, like that.

(28:47): Yeah. You know, you could, you could be focused on it. And I'm glad to see that in society, in this shift where people are focused on trying to buy from, from small businesses, but you know what, like you show up on a ski trip and you break something or you forget something who's gonna take care of you. It's not gonna be an online retailer. It's not gonna be fly gear.com. You know, like it's your independent retailer. So it's great to, you know, like to take care of them and choose to take care of them because we need those guys around not to mention, like you go into a shop like Al Grove sports in my hometown in Tahoe, city, California. And like, you don't know what to buy your wife, you just walk in there and you're just like, yes. And you know, like they do such a good job of curating, whether it's the boots, the skis, the apparel, you know, like that's what a good store does,

(29:42): Customer service really. Amen. Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. So getting back to the, I guess, brand cultivation, I, I kinda like that we've been dancing in this circle when it came to, I guess, beyond sales, beyond wholesale, you know, brick and mortar stores. And even beyond the, or I guess getting more honed in on the grassroots marketing aspect of it, do you think, like hooking up with different athletes and I guess being involved in different ski flicks and stuff like that, has that done a lot to cultivate the brand or did the, the brand and the culture behind the brand add to that on the other side? I think it's a bit of both. I mean, I think that we attract we attract certain athletes, usually ones that are, you know, like on the way up or ones that have already cut their two and are interested in being involved in a smaller company. I've had some athletes that wanted they wanted to have more play. They wanted to be used in more advertising. But you know, now we've been around for 15 years, so we're not a art up necessarily, but we're still relatively young. And more importantly, like we haven't been diluted or we're still at, you know, our tagline's kind of independent, homegrown mountain rays. And the, the, the reality is that we still have a face to the brand. If you go to our about us page, there's a picture of Greg and me in Greg's west failure.

(31:30): And we honestly had gone for a photo shoot to help my wife out who was who's a writer. And so she was writing a story about inbounds out bounds at Alpine Meadows and squa valley. So we helped out with that ski models, if you will. And we walked back up the parking lot and we slid, opened the door, took off our boots and we started picking colors for the next year and the photographer, Robert O'Neal just like click, like it was real. And it was, it was so good. It was such a good photo. And we, you know, like we still use it, but the, you know, like the reason why it was good and the reason why the story's good and the reason why we don't necessarily lean on and, and pay for super high dollar athletes is that we still have a face to the brand.

(32:19): And that's something where, you know, the founders of north face are kind of unknown unless you look on the Wikipedia. And so the face of north face is Jimmy chin and Conrad anchor Arteris they, you know, like, I mean, as skiers, we know that Hoi and Michelle Parker, but you know, like our, our Arteris athletes, but I'm not a Mountaineer necessarily. I climb up to ski down. So I don't know who their mountaineering athletes are. I just think of Arteris as a pewter box that spits out perfection. They have beautiful sea taping and beautiful clothes. And I, and I look up to them for that, but there's no real face to that brand for me. So for fly low, we're kind of riding that wave. I think that because of that, we don't necessarily attract an athlete that, you know, like that wants to be a north face athlete. You know, like that's what the north face is for.

(33:14): I, I think it puts you in like this perfect situation where, you know, there, it's very clear that your, the brand is genuine altruistic. And like, it's not like you're using these like, kind of blown out names that are known from, by people who don't do this sport. It's like the people who like are actually, you know, kind of, I don't even wanna say live and die by it. Even like just people who are a little bit more casual, but you know, fairly consistent, serious skiers will know. I guess, the names behind the sport, whether they're new or have been around it. I, I feel like you avoid looking, like you're just putting up screen for a marketing purpose. Like, it's just like, this is it. This is kind of what we do. Yeah.

(33:57): I mean, and granted, like we have Darren RS, who's one of the most decorated American ski races of all times he's on the fly low team, but you ask him why, you know, like he doesn't have to be on the fly low team. He wants to be on the fly low team. Cause you know, like he lives in our town, he wants to be involved. He wants to have a voice. He has other, you know, like he's a red bull athlete for God's sake. And the then, you know, like, and then there's other guys like the amount of free ride world tour presence that fly low has is kind of insane, whether it's the free ride world tour qualifiers. And granted, we started out with the Telemark circuit and we got involved with this guy, Dylan Crossman who was like the king of Telemark.

(34:41): And, and then one day Dylan and you know, like Jake Saxon, another one of our amazing tele riders, they both were just like, you know what, it. We're gonna go on the free ride world tour. So Dylan goes over to the free ride world tour and starts winning. And then Dylan's, you know, like the next generation of mad river, Glen insane skiers, the Chickering airs brother. Well, you know, their buddy, Ryan Hawks hits me up and he's like, I got a van, three of us are going on the free world tour. You wanna sponsor us. I'm like, I'm a sucker for vans and this is way back when. And so, so Ryan and Lars and Silas green mountain free ride go on the free ride world tour and sure enough, Lars and S are winning events. And then even last year, the fly, the the free ride world tour champion, Isaac Freeland is a, is a fly low athlete.

(35:32): And, and so that the idea of the fly low team, it is super important. It's just that we want to have, I wanna have the best skiers, like the two best skiers at any ski hill, whether they're known or sponsored or making a bunch of money or not. I don't care, but I want to have that core roots crew. And so I talked about the powder horse, well now the powder horse, you know, like they don't make movies anymore, but unfortunately nohow is, you know, like who was one of the powder horse, he's our athlete manager and helps with marketing in all different sorts of phases. And, you know, I defer to him, but he's running a crew of 120 athletes. And there's probably, there's probably 20 that we call our, our national team or our international team with like Darren ROS and Isaac Freeland.

(36:26): And then there's our ambassadors, which is just a crew of people that maybe used to be on the team or on the way up. And you know, like they're doing filming, they're making content. And then we have, what's called the roots team where, you know, like, you know, where that's, where we get to have people that are, you know, moving on, maybe, you know, like it's the chicken airs brothers who don't want to go on the free world tour anymore because they're entrepreneurs and they have cast they're, you know, like their free ride binding system. So they still get to involved with fly low without, you know, like any strings attached or maybe it's a 16 year old outta Aspen, you know, bohi, who's crushing it. And he's the next guy. And we're gonna try to keep up with him. But if we do our jobs, right, if Noah and I do our jobs, right, bohi will be, you know, like getting offers.

(37:19): We from larger companies that we can't compete with north face is a publicly traded is owned by a publicly traded company. They're in the billions Arteris is 500 million is owned by a $4 billion company. Patagonia, all held Patagonia, privately held doing so many good things over a billion in sales. We don't, we're not trying to, we are competing with them in our own little niche. But when it comes to athletes, like if an athlete of ours comes along and says, Hey, I got picked up by the north face. I high five 'em, you know, like, and I say, that's awesome. I wish we could keep up. We can't keep up, like, go talk to my friend, khaki over at the north face, who used to be a fly low athlete for, you know, like a year before she followed that same track. And it's, you know, you never burn a bridge. You never know what it's gonna come around, but, but these like rips are how fly low established are credibility. So they're every bit is important to building the brand as those retailers and Greg and me,

(38:27): Honestly, for, for all you just said, that's why I would even say you guys were and still are kind of ahead of your time cuz you, you know, the importance of, you know, it's, it's really not just jackets. It's not just bibs. It's, it's not just the gear. There's, there's a lot more to it. You know, and actually respecting and building and cultivating that culture is something that does make the difference. You know, cuz you have the people who will stand by what your not just like, you know your, but what you're doing, it's it goes deeper than that. It's adding something to the sport and it is a sport and there is culture within sports, you know, at the end of the day, I don't think it ever really can just be selling gear. It's a cliche like in, along with like, you know, the, the thousands of other cliches out there, but you are selling an experience and you know, to do or care about this thing is like kind of being part of a

(39:19): Tribe because I mean the older I get, the more I realize cliches are pretty much fact it's, it's crazy, but you know, the, and, and that's the thing is that like it's a tribe, it's a community. Like if you, if you roll in to a ski hill and you see someone with a fly low sticker, you know, like it's kind of like, and I never really got to appreciate this as I had curly hair, but you know, all those long hairs in college, like they just kind of gave himself nod. They were part of that crew. It was, it was a choice that they made and now, you know, fly low is it's a dead, you know, like if you see someone wearing fly low, they have prioritized a general type of living. And you know, like, and, and we did the kind of interview back to my buddy, Jeff Wagman that, that, you know, like that helps us with marketing.

(40:14): He did an interview with a bunch of fly customers. And one of the common threads that he found was that, you know, most of them, like in the 95% range they have the ability to take the day off of work whenever they want. They have flexible schedules that allow them to go skiing and chase powder in the morning. And they can work at night, their priority, isn't over having a huge house and a vacation house, but they do want to have enough money and financial security so that they can drop everything and go to their VA and go skiing for a week. And, and that's not asking too much. That's not saying I need to be so rich that I'm gonna ski in Aspen. And in fact, I love going to Aspen. And when I go to Aspen most fly low people, you'll find them at Aspen Highlands boot packing the bowl because it's, you know, like it's about this whole, the community, you know, like needs to get outside.

(41:18): It needs to stretch. Our legs needs the fresh air so that not because we hate our work. We love what we do for work, because that's a priority too, is loving what you do. And another, whether it's a cliche or just something, my, my father always said, he said, he called me Harry. He said, Harry, my boy, you have to work. If you love what you do, you're lucky. And it's like, those were the greatest words of wisdom ever because in life I was always focused on, you know, doing what I loved. And if I didn't love it, you finished the contract. I got plan a, a, B and C, I'll go over to plan B and, and try my luck there. I'm not gonna burn a bridge when I get out of the first deal and I'm gonna try the next one out. And until it fits and you know, I'm just, you know, I've been in a pinch me state since I started getting paid by this company in 2010. And, and I just can't believe it worked out, you know, and I, and I will be humble and hungry as my buddy Chris bloom says, and I will keep on fighting the fight and trying to make the gear better every year. And trying to inspire people to get outside and, you know, like, and do what we've done. Love what you do. Get outside, go ski in.

(42:39): Good. Yeah. You got a good thing going, I mean, especially now for all the good parts about fly low, what has been the hardest part about starting a business and just starting fly low? There's been a lot of different challenges the uncertainty kind of personnel, you know, trying to keep everybody happy, trying to monitor when people are getting burnt out. Most recently it was the departure of my co-founder and good buddy, Greg, who left the company coming 12 months now. And we talked about it. We've been talking about it for, for two or three years and and as awesome as, you know, like, or not awesome, but as smooth and respectful as we've tried to be with each other you know, it was, it's, it's hard. It was hard for us. But we're still friends. The company's still good. He's still an investor, you know? And so that just kind of, you know, drives me to, to work even harder and protect his investment. But it was hard. And then, you know, like, you know, before that, I mean.

(44:00): I think that the thing that I always tell new entrepreneurs is the hardest thing is that your brain is always going and that there's always something more that you can do. And so you think that you should be doing it, but the reality is, you know, just focus some what you're doing and do it well. Don't spread yourself too thin and don't feel compelled to grow something super fast overnight. You need to have a good foundation. And going back to the companies that didn't survive this pandemic, I would argue they didn't survive because they didn't have good financial foundations. They were going for top line sales and they weren't respectful of, you know, like of having a company that was well rounded and that could support itself. So, you know, take your time.

(44:54): What are some of the biggest mistakes or the biggest mistake you've made a longer career? I mean, you gotta, you gotta check your wire transfers. You know, we fired, we fired off $60,000 to a bank account, Georgia, Atlanta, Georgia and we had gotten hacked and that bank account was not, was not our factory bank account. So I mean, that's just kind of a, yeah. And like in the end, it, it is what it is and we absorbed it and, and the factory absorb at the factory actually was the one that had gotten hacked. But I, you know, like, I think, I don't know, that's not the most answer, but I, I feel like, and actually, you know, like, you know, Jake Burton passed away recently. And I, I, you know, of course I'm a student of how I built this podcast. And so listening to Jake say that, you know, like that Burton had made every mistake and that they hopefully only made those mistakes once. And so I, you know, I, I kind of feel like we've made, we've made at every mistake I've had, you know, I've had, I didn't check factory sources and I had fabric laminate. And that's probably the, the, for me specifically for the brand specifically, that can be the worst thing when the product doesn't live up to what people want it to live up to, and it falls apart. So we've made so many mistakes, but we'll work on it

(46:36): With that, with all the talk about mistakes. You've, you've given a lot of really valuable nuggets of information already. So this might be kind of redundant even to ask, but what advice would you give someone that wants to start a business? My, my cousin second cousin, who's a lot younger than me hand Goldstein is in Boston right now, and she's starting a brand called Ette with her college friends and she's going through trials and tribulations and success. And I think the best thing that I had told her in our last conversation a couple weeks ago was don't stop going outside. And, and, and ex you'll like go outside and clear your head and exercise, you know, like, yeah, there's a little bit of a vanity aspect to it as well. But, you know, like when things get stressful, don't respond to that email. Don't hit, send don't call and fire off and be that restaurant manager that I, you know, like that I know who, you know, like who comes in and there's a problem. You just try to change, you know, change, what's going on to try to solve the problem right then. And there, you have to look at a bigger picture and the best way to do that in life, whether it's in a relationship or in business is to put your running shoes on or your mountain bike shoes and go meditate in motion, get outside. And that's just, it's just the, you know, like important thing to be able to find a balance in life is there's work, there's play and there's exercise. And the exercise is what kind of smooths it all out.

(48:22): Yeah. That, I wish you would've told me that in the beginning, when we started, I, I ended up gaining 50 pounds when you started your business from like, Yeah. I've like just kind of come off of it not too long ago. And it was like a slow burn, but like with the stress and like, you know, navigating the depression of like all the, like the hardships of like, you know, being stressed and all that, it, it was, it was not a pretty picture that is highly underrated, vice, even with all the different, you know, nuggets of information you gave that, that last bit, I mean, personal, that was like, you know, every time I got assigned a paper in college or navigating, you know, like college girlfriend, it was like it DED to your heart or your gut. And it just like put your running shoes on and go bang out five miles. And by the end I would have a draft and a thesis for a paper. I would've come to the conclusion that the worst thing that can happen is she says no. And, you know, like, and life goes on. So keep running,

(49:30): Dan, thanks so much for coming on. I, for, I guess, for anyone who wants to find out more about fly low, or I guess just keep in touch, where's the best place for them to go. I mean, fly load, gear.com is where we tell our story. There's a big tab in the right top right hand corner of every webpage that says dealer locator, use it, go support your independent dealer you know, never hesitate to reach out to filo and ask me a question. Actually I still, I still, I still answer the Facebook messages that come through because our, you know, I try to do my part and our customer service crew via, and Abigail are so busy at the warehouse and they'll get back to you. But if you wanna give 'em a break, just shoot, shoot a Facebook message and give me a week and I'll respond to it.

(50:23): Oh, awesome. Dan, thanks so much for coming on. It's been an absolute pleasure. Thanks for having me. If you enjoyed today's podcast episode, then we would be incredibly appreciative. If you could log on iTunes and leave us a quick review, this really helps us get noticed by other podcast listeners like yourself. And if you know anyone that would benefit from this episode, then please share it along. Well, that wraps up this episode of the ready podcast. We'll catch you guys next week.

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