On the heels of the company's best spring ever and with spring 2010 preseasons so far tracking up in the double digits with 60 percent of the orders in, Prana's CEO Michael Crooke told SNEWS®, "This is the most exciting thing I have been a part of, by far." Heady words from a man who has been mentored by Yvon Chouinard, and has enjoyed CEO roles at the likes of Patagonia, Kelty and Pearl Izumi, to name a few.
But those who know Crooke know he speaks in superlatives only when he truly means it. And he has good reason to feel very good, glowing sales performances notwithstanding. In just seven months as the leader of Prana, he has brought in a new vice president of sales, president, director of sustainability and marketing manager.
Scott Kerslake, founder and former president of Athleta, was named president of Prana on July 16. "He is a mindful, thoughtful, classically trained executive and he knows this business," Crook said. "To be able to bring in someone of his stature, who fully understands the women's market and who I consider a friend…that's just very special for the company."
Kerslake's responsibilities, we were told, will be overseeing sales, marketing and branding of Prana. "Our strategic plan going forward is to open the aperture of the lens a bit, to let in a wider spectrum of light, without losing focus of who we are and that is a company with strong and very core anchors in both climbing and yoga," Kerslake told SNEWS. "By opening the aperture, we will seek to appeal to a slightly broader audience, an audience that relates fully to the values Prana has of being a progressive, socially responsive company."
Making mention of the word mindfulness numerous times during our interview with him, Kerslake told SNEWS that where Prana will take that concept of mindfulness is to be "mindful with an edge," meaning everything the company does will always be rooted in its core and with its core athletes who do live on the edge.
Rich Hill, who Crooke hired at Prana in January 2009, has completely reenergized the sales team as the vice president of sales, Crooke told SNEWS -- just as he did with Patagonia. Hill is supported by Matt Weber, who, Crooke said, has been promoted from within to become the sales manager for the company and, to quote Crooke, "He's on fire and just eating up all the knowledge Rich is sharing with him and taking the sales manager position to an entirely new level -- he's an animal."
Andy Marker has also joined the Prana team, also formerly of Patagonia. Marker began work for Prana as the pro and international sales manager on July 14, and immediately hopped on a plane for Germany to attend the OutDoor show in Friedrichshafen. "Andy is best in class at what he does in building brand agents for a business," said Crooke.
Realizing it's much harder to sell what you don't market effectively, Crooke also just hired Nikki Larson as Prana's new marketing manager. Larsen's background includes marketing director at Globe International and before that marketing manager at Ocean Pacific. "Larson is a yogi and perfectly fits the profile of our target market," said Crooke. "It is pretty rare you get to hire someone who IS the brand -- she's young with fresh ideas and really lives the Prana life and she has great marketing chops."
Though Crooke told us he had also hired a sustainability director, she will not join the company until Aug. 17 and still has not left the company she's with, so no name was forthcoming.
"The last seven months have been both good and bad," said Crooke. "While we had our biggest spring, we also had fall sales that were down 20 percent, and with no one able to really see when the economy will turn around, we needed, as a responsible company, to ensure we would be profitable going forward.
"That meant early on we had to say goodbye to a lot of things in our budget that we felt very strongly and passionate about, and we had to say goodbye to friends and colleagues that are no longer with us who were very skilled," added Crooke.
However, in recent months, as a result of belt tightening and restructuring, Crooke told us Prana has hired seven new designers, who, working with Pam Theodosakis, are set to explode the line with new and vibrant designs for spring 2011.
"Beaver (Theodosakis, the company's founder) has a new game and he is just hitting it out of the park," said Crooke. "This company was always very good. Now, and going forward, Prana is great and for me to be able to be a part of that…well, it is gratifying and exciting."