By Eric Peterson | Dec 02, 2013
Employees: about 10
Summiting Mt. Sneffels near Ouray in 1991, brothers Seth and Dirk Anderson encountered cold morning air, hot afternoon sun, and snow above 14,000 feet. "The weather changed all day," says Seth, now 39 and Loki's CEO. "We thought it'd be cool to have less stuff to make you ready for changing weather."
This less-is-more philosophy has guided Seth and Dirk's innovative designs since he founded Loki Gear in 1997. The first, a hat that converts to a neck gaiter and a facemask, remains one of the brand's top sellers, but the catalog runs the gamut from mitts to outerwear.
But the key remains innovative, multi-purpose functionality. Mitts pull down to reveal five-fingered fleece gloves, jackets convert to backpacks, and glove liners are iPhone-friendly.
Out in late 2013, the Stinger jacket features the signature Loki mitt and a light insulated layer that converts to a daypack. "You can actually fit your shell and some water and a little more," says Seth. "You can actually climb a fourteener with little more than a jacket, water, snacks, a utility knife, and duct tape. You don't even have to carry a daypack."
"We've re-corralled here," says Seth."I've got a new suite of designs that harks back to the original vision of the company -- less stuff that makes you ready."
Seth has re-corralled personally after an avalanche buried him in 30 feet of snow in 2010, leaving him in serious condition. He was back at work soon thereafter, but says the experience gave him perspective -- and a sense of moderation.
Loki opened its first retail store in downtown Grand Junction at 445 Colorado Ave. Seth also is working on a strategy to bring some of his manufacturing back to the Western Slope. He's talking to several prospective partners with hopes of re-shoring a few jobs in an industry where the overwhelming majority of manufacturing takes place in Asia, including Loki's.
"We want to promote made in the U.S.A.," he says. "We're going to double down."
The new Loki store is a key part of the strategy. "It's not that we want all of the money," says Seth. "We'd sell through a retailer, but they'd have to double the price."
He's quick to note that outerwear titan Marmot was founded in Grand Junction in 1974. "They made great stuff right here, and there are still a fair amount of talented sewers in the area because of it," says Seth. "I'm trying to simplify in order to make the U.S.A. manufacturing work. It's got to be very quick and simple, but sophisticated."
Adds Seth: "I think we're onto something: one thing that can be used in multiple ways."
Challenges: Innovation recognition. "Getting customers to see the unique and myriad 'Loki' advantages our products offer to customers when they look so low-key," says Anderson.
Opportunities: "We have opportunities to grow in the college licensing market, broaden outdoor retail channels like hook and bullet markets and grow our strength in outdoor and workwear solutions for colder climates like Alaska and Antarctica," says Anderson.
Needs: Access to capital, says Anderson. "We need to find a long-term solution from a capital-planning phase we will finalize in the next few years."