Being a niche brand requires an underrated trait: discipline. Discipline and focus must resound from the furthest corners of your brand to the most obvious efforts, and it must be the standard against which everything is measured.
Weather MTN founders Brad Walters and Travis Lanthier understand this. When we spoke to Brad concerning his brand’s journey, he remarked, “A previous boss of mine told us one thing and that was, ‘Keep the team tight.’ To be honest, that's exactly what we're doing.”
A two-man show, Walters and Lanthier recently moved Weather MTN back to the San Bernardino Mountains. Embracing their roots, and the brand’s original focus, has proved to be the right decision.
Up until now, a large part of the brand's success has come from local support, as well as support scattered across the US.
According to Walters, “We try to keep that local influence in our products, especially in our LA and LAKE-inspired items that we’ve been releasing for the past few summers. It’s a fun project that we can revisit annually.”
This winter will be the first time Weather MTN attempts global distribution.
Afterwards, Maneuverline presented the brand's Winter 17/18 Trail Products collection at the Interstyle Show where they introduced it to their market.
Currently, Weather MTN is carried at Active Ride Shop, Satellite Boardshop, Wake and Wheel, a local shop, and new for this year, Zumiez.
While brick and mortar is a cornerstone of their business, the brand also focuses on their direct to consumer efforts. With different retailers buying a variety of the line, the website is a place for consumers to see the full breadth of what Weather MTN offers.
TransWorld Business talked to Walters about the brand’s transition, goal for the next year, and reflections on the last four.
Interview has been edited for length and clarity.
What's new since TransWorld Business last caught up with Weather MTN in 2013?
I think that biggest change since we last talked is our move back to the San Bernardino Mountains. The brand had such a big influence from our hometown that we felt like fish out of water living anywhere else. It took some time and a lot of work but we were able to move both ourselves and the brand up to mountains. The personal moves happened a few years back with us having a warehouse in the Inland Empire by necessity but we just sealed the deal and scored a perfect warehouse and design space up near our homes in the mountains. That's easier said than done because warehousing is limited in mountain communities. It's only been four months at our new warehouse but now that we're here I really cannot imagine the brand anywhere else.
Looking through the Winter 2017 line, it seems like Weather MTN has put a real focus and emphasis on design. Can you elaborate on that at all?
Design has always been a big focus of the brand, but we have always felt like we fell a bit shy of executing the collection that we wanted. After having our best sales year to date in 2016 we took a step back to look at WeatherMTN and what we wanted the brand to actually be from a product standpoint. It felt like it had the right DNA, it was just missing some key elements.
Since we started the brand a goal of ours has been to make products that could interact with the outdoors, and we feel like this collection is a huge step towards that goal. We hope that with this new collection our customers can see more of the brand through the products than they have in the past. A lot of the thought that has gone into our shirts these past few years has been translated into the "Trail Products" for the upcoming season, giving our customers a unique mix of items that you can't find from other brands.
How has Weather MTN grown since its inception in 2011? What lessons have you learned along the way?
I would say that the biggest growth for the brand has happened internally, with our ability to get things done. We figured out how to actually make money off t-shirts without having to make a million of them, how to get buyers to take us seriously and how to meet shipping deadlines. That's the shit that they don't really tell you when you start a brand. They don't tell you about all the hard work that is required to make it more than just the "brand" who supplies free T-shirts to all the friends.
The other major lesson started when we figured out how to save some money. When we first started the brand it was pretty inexpensive because it was basically an art project. As we "grew" we saw that we really weren't making any money at all. Samples, trade shows, and production costs all seemed to be adding up in a way that just wasn't worth it. Things changed drastically when Travis taught himself to screen print in his garage. It allowed for us to grow while still making money. Years later, we still design and print everything ourselves, just on a little bit larger scale. I honestly don't think that the brand would still be here today if we had to pay out for both screen printing and design.
What are some of the goals for the brand moving into the Winter 17/18 season, and beyond?
A main focus of us for this winter is to put more emphasis on what the brand embodies through imagery, people we support, and the pursuits that we are involved with. Basically, being a bit more transparent with our customers and not just product-driven. Also, we've got a few team announcements coming soon that we really feel people will be stoked on. That will be accompanied by a team portion of our website and hopefully a few special projects with some of those guys.
Another goal of ours moving forward is to be an easy brand to work with for our retailers. As we grow to international markets and larger retailers, we really want to make sure that we can continue to work closely with them to deliver what they need. We truly feel like that is the better approach instead of just blanketing different stores with all the same product.
Looking past this winter, we want to make sure that we stay in our lane. As we move into new products and work with new stores we want to make sure that things fit with what WeatherMTN is and what it stands for. That is really our foremost goal at this point.
Have you moved, or do you plan on moving into any new categories?
Our "Trail Products" collection for Winter 2017/18 is the first time that we have a real accessories offering that we feel is useful while enjoying the outdoors. From a full collection of Neck Gaiters and Facemasks to our "All Season Snow Wax", we are confident that our step towards outdoors accessories is a correct one for the brand. We will be continuing to grow this category throughout the seasons to accompany our standard seasonal collections. The follow-up season for “Trail Products" Winter 17/18 is going to be a fun one.
We also have a few collaborations lined up for the seasons to come, which we are really excited about. It will be fun to see how these develop and what new categories we can open up with these collaborations.
How has the internal team grown over the last 6 years? Any plans for expansion?
The internal team has remained the same over the last few years. Basically, there's two of us. Travis and myself. A big shift that has happened though is that we both get to work on the brand (mostly) full-time. WeatherMTN is self funded and a lot of times that means working on stuff that has absolutely nothing to do with the brand. From fixing pay-phones to designing bachelorette party t-shirts, we have done it all in order to keep things going throughout the years. Now, things are a bit different. We are both in the same room everyday and working on what we want to. It's our job now and it feels great. Sure there's some side businesses thrown in to mix it up, both on the print and design side, but there's a WeatherMTN sign on the door and we're both there (at least) 5 days a week.
It would be rad to see some expansion come in the future but we aren't rushing it. We're talking to a few new faces for different things that we know we need help with but we aren't going crazy.
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