Intentionality and growth in cottage companies
Jan 25, 2023 at 2:04 pm #3771412Matthew / BPLModerator
I just saw this video from Ron at Mountain Laurel Designs. I admire the intentional decision of a business owner to keep their business at a level of production that is sustainable for themselves and their company.
Another example of this interview with the founder/owner of Melanzana.
Other interesting examples are Yama Mountain Gear and Nunatak. Both Gen and Jan build products in batches and then offer them for sale as they are completed.
Borah Gear seems to want to keep their business at a particular size and has made the choice to remove products from their line… (I sure do wish I had purchased one of their puffies back when they still offered them, that looked like a great solution)
I think it is interesting to see so many companies within this space making similar decisions.Jan 26, 2023 at 6:40 am #3771457Eric BlancheBPL Member
@eblancheLocale: Northeast US
I like it. Keeps the mentality together. Its tough to not chase the dollar.
Not expanding product lines also keeps things focused.Jan 26, 2023 at 7:23 am #3771458JCHBPL Member
Owning your own business can often mean that you are running a business and not doing what the business was created to do. I look at those mentioned as craftsmen (in the most reverent sense of the word) and perhaps even artisans. Interested in making a good living yes, but not at the expense of no longer doing what they love and doing it as well as they can.
All the more reason to support these types of companies whenever possible.Jan 26, 2023 at 8:18 am #3771462W I S N E R !Spectator
I am increasingly looking at gear from people that produce it right here. Increasingly hard (if not impossible) to find for entire gearlists, but quite doable with the Big 3 across all seasons. Not making many purchases these days, all my bases are covered, but I did consider this with a recent pack and shelter.
As an artist I appreciate seeing owners that are still invested in the craft as opposed to becoming purely a businessperson.Jan 26, 2023 at 2:04 pm #3771483Chris KBPL Member
Now if only there was a cottage company who could make a pad (that’s not 1/8” ccf). Maybe I’m wrong but that’s about the only missing piece.Jan 26, 2023 at 3:46 pm #3771501Jon SolomonBPL Member
A small cottage company named Kooka Bay made down air mats for a short time.
If anything, Nunatak and MLD are even cooler today than when they first started out.Jan 26, 2023 at 5:28 pm #3771512Monte MastersonBPL Member
@septimiusLocale: Southern Indiana
Most cottage companies have whittled their lineups down to include just the designs which have stood the test of time. For example, Borahgear only offers 4 different bivys and 2 flat solo tarps. MLD has a leaner lineup now with 5 mids, 5 tarps, 5 packs, 5 bivys and quilts. I suppose it’s best to just find out what ultralighters want and then concentrate on those things which have proven to be most in demand year after year, the classics, the signature creations which give a cottage company its brand identity. When you’re small you have to simplify production and make the whole process more repetitious in order to efficiently utilize your small labor force.
Invariably quality control slips when a company gets too big, no way around it. Without a daily hands-on with what’s being produced and being able to consistently inspect all gear headed out the door, quality will no doubt suffer.
Yet some mass production facilities put out far better backpacking gear than others. Companies like 3F UL Gear crank out pretty good gear for the money really.Feb 9, 2023 at 3:42 pm #3772831Brad WBPL Member
I like Borahgear and respect their decision to stay small. At the same time it’s a major turn off to have wait times that they have had for a couple of years now, with no signs of improving.Feb 9, 2023 at 10:59 pm #3772848BlackHatGuySpectator
@sleepingLocale: The Cascades
While probably no longer considered a cottage company by most here, I’ll be a big fan of Tarptent until I’m no longer backpacking. I think Henry continues to innovate, still puts out a very high quality product, and has always been top notch in customer service (to me anyway).
I did most of my shelter buying and trying a number of years ago. I’ve owned most of MLD’s offerings at one time or another (and liked them all, and had top notch customer service from Ron as well). I’ve owned a few of Zpacks’ shelters when Joe was still relatively new in the business and used a Duplex for a few years as my favorite shelter. And I’ve owned probably most of Henry’s shelters as well (from five years ago or so, none of the newer ones except the Aeonand DR Li, the DR is now my favorite shelter and the only backpacking one I own).
Like y’all, I very much appreciate the smaller businesses/cottage companies and prefer to do business with such companies most of the time, but unlike too many businesses who grow too big and too fast, I believe Henry has grown well without losing sight of his customers or his love of creating.Feb 10, 2023 at 12:01 pm #3772865Matthew / BPLModerator
That rings true for me. I agree with all of that.
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