Outdoor start-ups team up for marketing with Garage Grown Gear

New website, directory and soon-to-come e-commerce portal pitches central hub for small, independent outdoor brands.

In 2010, Colorado native Amy Hatch moved from Alaska to the periphery of Jackson, Wyo., and was caught off guard: Packrafting was still widely undiscovered in the Lower 48. She knew it was only a matter of time before its popularity took off.

Within a year, Hatch introduced Jackson Hole Packraft & Packraft Rentals Anywhere, a packraft rental business that provides packable rafts via local retail stores and ships them throughout the contiguous U.S. and Canada. Hatch runs the company headquarters — which recorded a record growth last year with rentals that quadrupled from 2012 to 2013 — straight from a bench in her garage.

With success in tow, her experience of owning an independent business has inspired the entrepreneur to launch Garage Grown Gear, an online magazine, directory, and soon-to-be e-commerce site to aid the growth of grassroots companies in the outdoor industry.

Hatch said start-ups frequently struggle to get a foothold with reaching consumers or building brand awareness, despite having some of the strongest and most innovative product designs.

“Often garage grown companies are so focused on making awesome outdoor equipment, clothing, or nutrition that they put less attention on marketing and selling their products. That’s where we believe we can help these companies,” she said.

Using a three-prong approach, Garage Grown Gear connects companies with buyers. The online magazine showcases company profiles, reviews, and backstories about the product design. The directory helps customers to search for, find, and support homegrown businesses. The e-commerce store, which is set to launch later this year, will directly connect consumers to the products that they’ve been researching and uncovering on the site.

“We feel the best way to connect companies to customers, and customers to companies, is with a “buy now” button directly on our website. This helps to lessen the number of clicks someone needs to make to find the gear they want and need,” Hatch said.

Garage Grown Gear accumulates revenue through all three spurs: The online magazine is supported via advertising, the directory includes paid featured listings, and the e-commerce store will provide earnings through a retail markup.

It’s not all pay to play. Hatch said her central mission is to feature companies regardless of whether or not those businesses choose to purchase ad space, a featured listing, or sell e-commerce goods. Garage Grown Gear promises to objectively inspect the companies’ authenticity and field-tests the gear.

Similar attempts are being made elsewhere on the web to shine the light on smaller, independent outdoor brands. In 2013, Nemo launched its Collective site, supporting and selling “complementary” outdoor brands alongside its own.

Companies can submit their profile to Garage Gear Grown’s directory for a free listing, or, for an annual fee can opt for a featured listing, which includes benefits such as an expanded profile and exposure on the website’s homepage.

About a dozen brands, such as Hyperlite Mountain Gear, Farm to Feet and Kate’s Real Food, were on board for last week’s launch.

Garage Grown Gear’s categories include everything from hard goods and lifestyle pieces to edibles or accessories. The common thread throughout the companies is that they create progressive, dependable, and high-end gear and often demonstrate environmental ethics through local production. Is it mandatory that they operate out of a garage or basement? No — but they generally start that way.

“Often the companies we work with are small and operating out of a garage, basement, or formerly abandoned warehouse,” Hatch said. “As long as companies are staying true to their organic roots and producing high-quality products, then we want to be part of spurring and celebrating their growing success.”

--Morgan Tilton