Jainee Dial and Lindsey Elliott opened Wylder Goods in 2016 to create an online outdoor retail experience targeted toward adventurous women. The Salt Lake City-based business got started with the help of $54,000 from 600 backers on Kickstarter. At first, their motivation was personal: They couldn’t find a store that catered specifically to their own needs. Now, the co-founders are working toward a much deeper goal: They want to change the narrative about women in the outdoor industry and help shape the conversations we have about gender.
1. Why is there a need for a store like yours? What needs to happen to support similar businesses?
Jainee Dial: Initially, Lindsey and I wanted this to exist from a personal need. We were sick of seeing the same ugly designs, or feeling like an afterthought when we went to buy gear. Our initial motivation was personal desire. Our mission is to curate the best products. Secondary to that is the opportunity for business to be done in a different way. That involves both transparency and education. We want to be there for the citizen activist, the backyard farmer, and the weekend warrior mother who is raising four kids and wants them to be connected to the world around them. We’re interested in telling that story. If you look at our homepage, 75 percent of the brands you’ll see there are owned by women, like Wild Rye. I think that’s indicative of how we value women in our marketplace.
If we want women to have a louder voice, we have to be more represented. We have to see women in positions of leadership and power.
2. There’s often a frustrating lack of innovation in women’s gear. Brands debut new technology for men first, because that’s where they see the money. How do You solve the chicken or egg problem—better women’s gear first, or getting more women engaged with the outdoors first?
JD: It’s pretty simple: Brands need to hire women. Put them in charge of design teams. I’m not suggesting that because of gender, you should be entitled to a certain position. But the experience of being a woman differs from being a man outside. You have to have someone with experience speaking with conviction on behalf of those experiences [during the design and product development process]. I think there are a lot of fantastic feminist men out there, and we need them, too. But ultimately, you have to hire women for positions of power. And those women also have to hire women.
3. How are you seeing the conversation around gender change in this industry?
Lindsey Elliott: I think the binary male/female gender perspective —that every person is one or the other— is the civil rights frontier of our time. That’s one of the things I’m most interested in right now, as we’ve created a platform by and for women, and we want to be inclusive of all types of female gender expression. The first need we have been addressing has been the legacy of pink and paisley and flowery and this hyperfeminized vision of what it means to be a woman outside. Even in just the two and a half years we’ve been working on this, we’ve seen an evolution in product design. Now, when we visit with brands at Outdoor Retailer, it’s becoming possible to see the same color schemes in both men’s and women’s. It’s a relief. As we hear from people all over the world about what they need, we expand.
One thing I love seeing evolve in the industry, and I think what’s coming next, is more unisex designs, colors, and patterns. Snowpeak is the only one I know out there producing a truly unisex clothing line. I’d love to see more of it. We can move beyond these biases of what men want and what women want.
4. It’s a tough time for retail, and shops are struggling. Why did you decide to start online?
JD: The brick-and-mortar business model is changing. We wanted to start online first, and it seems like that’s a trend that will stick around. As technology evolves, we want to stay on top of those trends. By starting online first, we gave our customers an opportunity to read a little bit deeper about our mission and what we’re doing. There’s no substitute for a heart-to-heart you can have with an employee at a store, but people still connect with our brand. We don’t want to be online-only forever; we have a vision for creating pop-up shops in Airstreams.
5. How do you foster community as an online-only company?
JD: You have to have a constant conversation with your audience. Our homepage has a portal to content from our ambassadors and about our mission. I really don’t like the word consumer. It’s such a reductive term. It starts from a place of apathy. And I think our customers have a really heartfelt connection with us, first of all because we’re two real human beings. We’re two people who started from nothing. Neither Lindsey nor I have wealth, and we built this from the ground up with crowdfunding. That’s something a lot of women can relate to.
We, and our customers, are more aligned with the values of not just being a consumer, but being a part of something bigger. Where you spend your money matters. We’re fostering a relationship with women who understand that.