Salt Lake City, Utah
When GearDryer introduced its earliest products -- offering multiple ports which blow air directly into, for instance, snow boots and gloves in order to dry them -- the company envisioned a somewhat narrow customer base. Whitehouse says, "Our initial aspirations were to the ski community, snowboard community, ski teams, ski schools, lodges. But, fortunately, we've seen that there's a much wider application for our products."
As it turns out, other types of folks now use the products, as well: motorcycle racers; anglers; hockey players, surfers; and even fast food workers. "We've recently been working with Chick-fil-A, and they've taken on a bunch of our dryer units for their cold storage facilities."
Presently, GearDryer's top of the line unit has 12 ports suitable for boots or gloves–or what have you -- needing a relatively-quick drying. (It will soon be joined by a 24-port unit.) Quite often, the products are wall-mounted. But there are additional portable units serving similar functions: a brand-new five-port unit, as well as an air-blowing hangar device for sports clothing -- onto which, for instance, a snow suit or wet suit can be placed. All of GearDryer's units can be plugged into a standard wall socket, but the latter two smaller units can also be used with a 12-volt car charger for drying while on the go.
In terms of the existing competition, the company was going up against less expensive -- and cheaply made -- dryer units. "One of the biggest gripes we've had with a lot of other -- especially smaller -- drying products is that they fall apart," says Whitehouse, "and there's plastic pieces that are easy to lose." On the other end of the spectrum, pricier units sometimes require professional installation. Not so with GearDryer. "You can plug in [a GearDryer unit] and hang it -- install it -- yourself, rather than having to be some large contractor come in and do the install," says Whitehouse. Furthermore, the company doesn't charge for its shipping, which otherwise might be "exorbitant."
"None of our competitors have an adjustable port system," adds Whitehouse. "So, point being, it's not just a boot, glove, helmet dryer -- it can dry, essentially whatever you want, however you want to configure things. So, ski pants, snowboard pants, waders, etc." The company's twist-and-lock port system features adjustable attachments which enhance those different drying needs.
Ultimately, Whitehouse says the company's products help keep gear in better condition, leading to a longer product life. For instance, although GearDryer's top-end unit has adjustable heating controls, it never gets above 110 degrees Fahrenheit which "will negatively affect sensitive textiles," says Whitehouse. "So things like custom-molded footbeds for ski boots or snowboard boots -- which is extremely common -- you can deform those with too much heat."
And Whitehouse says surfers might want to consider the company's air hangar unit rather allowing suits to dry outdoors over a wall, for instance, since sunlight damages neoprene. By purchasing a GearDryer unit, he says, "you're investing in the longevity of your gear, because the sooner you dry out your gear, the less likelihood for mold and bacteria."
Making use of ambient air, the company's AirHangar product -- specifically designed for items like those we suits -- sells for $149, while its more versatile, heat-adjusting 12-port unit retails for $899. Whitehouse says the company has sold "hundreds" of units, in total, over the past five years. He adds, "We've more than doubled our production within two years." Most units are sold directly to consumers via the company's website, with additional sales coming from select dealers. The products are manufactured in China, but they've been designed by -- and for -- sports-minded folks living in Utah and beyond, says Whitehouse.
"We're a bunch of skiers, climbers, anglers, outdoor folks," says Whitehouse of he and his partners at GearDryer's parent company, West Desert Traders. "And we were really just looking for a product that was a little bit more robust and a little bit more dependable, reliable and better-constructed. Because we hadn't really found anything on the market that was really filling our needs."
In Utah, given the "strong mountain culture here" -- as well as its "strong entrepreneurial tech and outdoor kind of industry" -- Whitehouse thinks GearDryer and its products fit right in. In fact he likens the company's multi-port unit to a "standard appliance" that belongs in "most mountain homes, ski homes, or team sports homes."
Prospective customers often agree. Whitehouse says, "When we put the product in front of people, they're, like, 'Oh, this is incredible!'"
Challenges: Gaining "more visibility" for GearDryer's products. Whitehouse says the company plans on securing product endorsement, soon, from athletes in different types of sports.
Opportunities: "To get on the shelves with some of the sports and outdoor retailers here, in the next year," says Whitehouse. The brand is currently in discussions with larger big box-chains and retailers of outdoor products.
Needs: "Ramping up marketing efforts," says Whitehouse.