Ep 3.1 Transcript
Lisa: Hey everybody, Lisa Slagle here, owner of Wheelie Creative, a creative agency for people who thrive outside. Welcome to season 3 of Outside by Design! This year we are shifting it up a little bit and really really focusing on creative women in the outdoor industry because there are just so many badass women out there that we want to celebrate. We're also doing something new this time in season 3 that I think you guys are going to love: the average chair lift ride in the country is 9 minutes. So this podcast is based on chairlift laps. So you'll have a nine-minute chunk of awesome and then a commercial and then another nine minutes of awesome content and then a commercial, so you can ride your chair lift, shred, ride your chairlift, shred, and it's going to be awesome for all those marketing managers and freelancers out there who get to snowboard all the time. So enjoy that because I certainly do.
Today is a very special day because it's episode 1 of season 3. And we are kicking off season 3 by talking to Stephanie Nitsch, founder of Pallas Snowboards and content writer extraordinaire. So I'm very excited to have Stephanie here today. She's talking to us from inside a cabin way up Big Cottonwood Canyon in Utah and I am talking to her out of my office in Whitefish, Montana. So Stephanie I cover all kinds of topics from product development in the snowboard industry to how to setup your website to be more inclusive to women and what keeps us creatively inspired. So tune in, enjoy and I'll let Stephanie take it away.
Lisa: Hey Steph, welcome to the podcast! Tell me where you are.
Stephanie: Well, I am in Big Cottonwood Canyon in the Wasatch mountains of Utah this morning. I've been staying up in a cabin in the woods for the season so far and I’m basing myself out of here between trips and adventures this winter and it's a fun little home base as I get back into my Utah Roots after being in Canada for a couple of years.
Lisa: Sounds amazing. So you own Pallas snowboards, which is a really really awesome snowboard company handbuilding boards and making all your own boards. So yeah, tell us tell our listeners about what you're doing, where you've been, where you're going.
Stephanie: Yeah, we started Pallas back in fall of 2013 when we started putting together some ideas for a women's company. I linked up with an acquaintance, now my business partner, Alistair Horne of Chimera Snowboards. And we started prototyping and piecing together some ideas based on mutual interests that we both had to get into women's backcountry snowboards. And after we launched to the public in 2014, we've been navigating our way through a really interesting time to be in woman's hard goods and women’s sporting equipment.
But it's been super exciting, we came out with some new shapes and some new top sheet designs this year that are just so exciting. We've kind of stepped away from what we've done artistically in the past the last few seasons and to something that's really colorful and vibrant and really representative of the idea that we want to bring into Pallas and the creativity that snowboarding enables and fosters and trying to push some new innovation with regards to board shapes for women's sports. I mean that's a huge thing with snowboarding right now is kind of reinvesting in the aesthetics and the shapes of boards, but it's interesting. You're not really seeing that a ton in women's snowboarding. So it's cool to take a step into that direction and see the response that we're getting in everything that we're doing.
So yeah, as we move into this winter we're putting our efforts into on-snow demos and splitboard festivals and traveling around just trying to spread the brand awareness of Pallas and doing so on a very grassroots budget. As a very small independent company, we're quite strapped for our, I guess, marketing at Pallas and we're looking for all sorts of just fun grassroots ways to get people out on our snowboards. Which is you know, you look at the the history of snowboarding and its roots in skateboarding and it's always been about that fun, eclectic, independent style of doing things your own way and we're having fun doing it that way. Albeit some challenges just as a business owner and doing the small business stuff. It's always exciting.
Lisa: Yeah. Earlier you said, you know, it’s an interesting time for women's hard goods. And yeah, what do you mean by that? Go ahead and expand on that.
Stephanie: Well, honestly there’s not a lot of women spearheading women's hard good products. There's Coalition Snow, there's Pallas. Not many other companies are coming to mind. I mean, you know, there's Burton and Roxy has always pioneered those women's movements and I use the word movements loosely, but they've definitely helped bring a lot of women’s expertise into the limelight and they've got a great following and support to get that message out there. But I think you see it in every sporting category cross the industry, whether it's the outdoor industry or more traditional sports, that women's equipment is developing into something better than it has been in, well, forever. And it's fascinating. It's great to see that R&D being invested into the progression of women's equipment.
But I see a lot of that happening in the soft goods side of things. Really in the hard goods category, specifically in snowboarding, is lacking considerably. You know, you look at many hard goods that are offered from every brand and they have you know, their one or two token women’s snowboards or splitboards for that matter or snowboard boots across their lineup. And I think the R&D behind a lot of those technologies still have a ways to go.
Stephanie: I was shopping for a hard shell jacket yesterday online and I spent probably about two hours trying to find anything that is specific to the application that I needed it for. I'm looking for a good splitboard touring jacket with specific features: big, you know front pockets to stuff my skins, that fits a little bit longer, that has decent color blocking to it or just good colors in general, and has some like Goretex style waterproofing and not you know, some 10K or 20K waterproofing stuff. I want like, the technical product. And I was just blown away. I really couldn't find anything that I was looking for. And as I was reading the descriptions and the technical specs of all these products I was kind of turned off. I saw a lot of, “you can wear it anywhere for anything, for all mountain, for you know, it'll take you from the slopes to the streets.”
And I just kind of laugh because this is where the shrink it and pink it mentality kind of comes into play and maybe this is the evolution of the shrink it and pink it attitude. Where we're given a very ubiquitous products that can be used in all applications when in reality, you know, women are very capable of honing in on a specific skill and need a very specific product to do what they want to do. And I think the options there for women are pretty limited, still, despite the efforts that have been made to really ramp up women's marketing and R&D and equipment. I hope that it starts to gain traction there to get some more technical products out into the digital retail landscape.
Lisa: Yeah, like with the rise of athleisure it seems like there is kind of a lot of crossover in this new interest in going on a bike ride but then still wearing your same exact shirt to the bar or whatever. I think that has its place, but it's like, when you really want something that's going to be durable and that, you know, that you can use on a giant day in the backcountry, I think it's unrealistic to expect to want to wear that to a nightclub too. Because it's going to be all cold and you just want to change, you're going to want to go home and shower and change, you know.
Stephanie: You’re gonna, like, stink. Yeah, I love wearing some of my crossover layers, you know out to a coffee shop or a bar or something and that's great. I do sometimes do that. More often than not, you know, those clothes are also like washing a big coat. Yeah, I don't know. I mean, I think there's a big interest in having good-looking base layers and mid layers, you know, we're definitely starting to see that with soft goods companies really revamping what a base layer should look like it can look like. But you know, it's okay to have specific clothing for specific applications. I wouldn't want to wear a prom dress to a bar… that wass a really bad analogy. But yeah, I think you get it like yeah, let's keep things specific and and really ramp up the performance of what that piece of equipment can do and and by doing so, now that can help people go further.
Lisa: Well, that sounds like a good time to take a commercial break and let you process all that info. So let's kick it off to our sponsors.
Ad Break: Calling all lady photographers who want to add more skills to their wheelhouse. Want to learn how to understand your in-camera light meter in flat light? Or learn when to up the ante with frames per second versus when to dial it back when you're shooting action? Well, luckily for you, you can come to Wheelhouse Workshops. The first one is in Snowbird, Utah, March 23rd through 25th. It's one day of on-snow shotography, skills and workshop training with professional photographers Re Wickstrom and Abby Cooper. Let them explain all their tips and tricks and that’s followed by a day of post-production the most effective ways to use Lightroom and file management, followed by an industry panel focusing on the business of creativity and an art show with your best prints. Less than 20% of action sports photographers are female and we are ready to do something about it. To register, go to wheelhouseworkshops.com. It's only open to the first 20 ladies who sign up.
Lisa: One area I find that I wish there was women-specific gear is in snowmobiling, because even like the actual snowmobile itself is not ergonomically setting me up for success. Like my freaking small little Trump hands can't hold the throttle and the handlebar at the same time so I had to buy a finger throttle try to flip that around, that didn't work. So now I'm like riding with a finger throttle because I can't I like can't grip the bars and throttle at the same time. So, I mean just little things like that where it's like, yeah, I should be able to snowmobile with both hands.
Stephanie: That’s a very reasonable request.
Stephanie: I think... I don't know. I don't know what to think. I don't know what's going on with some R&D sometimes but, I mean, you know, those kind of little nuances and details trickle into almost every part of women's product and women's retail. I was actually, while I was shopping around for this jacket yesterday, I went to a couple of retailers’ specific websites and picked up on the navigation bar on these specific websites and I realized how many websites put their men's category before their women's category the shopping navigation tab. And it was really interesting. It brought up some questions about the gender equality discussion and made me think how far we have to go before putting women on an equal playing field as men, as humans.
And as I was asking this question about what is it, why is it that men's categories always come before women's categories and I stumbled across this website that actually did the total opposite. It did exactly what my little subconscious train of thought was thinking about. They put the women's category before the men's category in the shopping tab and some of their written communications were putting women before men and I thought that was really cool. And something that is so subtle. It’s so simple but it sends out a really strong message.
Like how many times have you heard someone talk about men and women in that particular order - like 10 things men and women do differently. I now pronounce you husband and wife. Men are from Mars, women are from Venus, you know, and you go to any online retailer and you see men's category first, women's category second. These are really subtle but powerful cues that I think put a hierarchy on gender. And while we're so focused right now on this conversation about women's marketing and women's product and getting more women into the sport and really supporting empowering women in their personal and professional lives. We forget that some of the more powerful catalysts for gender inequality actually stems from very unconscious behaviors and patterns. You know, I don't think this necessarily needs to add more fodder to this pretty tense gender discussion happening in our society these days, but if we are trying to champion for change, we have to start impacting our unconscious decisions. Where we're not even thinking about what we're doing or saying it just has to become so natural because that's where like some of our most stubborn habits and ideas live. And if we really want to change women's inclusion in outdoor industry or any industry for that matter, we need to start really looking at our unconscious thoughts and unconscious patterns. And so going back to this UX on websites and little micro lines of copy. I mean, it's just stuff like that that has such an impact and could be a much bigger catalyst to put gender on an equal playing field and stop having these very tense conversations that create a huge dichotomy between men and women. Or women and men, I should say, there's a case in point.
Lisa: Exactly. Yeah. That's, that's a great point. And it's yeah, it's this very super vicious cycle where a lot of brands are like, yeah, we just don't see the numbers. We don't have that many offerings for women because there aren't very many women involved and you're like, yeah, there aren't very many women involved because there's no offerings for them and it's just like, oh man, how are we going to break that cycle? You know, what can we do as individuals to help break that cycle and what, you know, what can you do with Pallas especially as a business owner?
Stephanie: Absolutely. That's a huge question. I mean, I think that is like a fact, it's not a question. It's a huge problem to fall into routine and complacency. That, personally speaking, routine complacency is the creativity killer and I need creativity to drive Pallas, run a freelance writing business and for all the other side gigs i pick up in my life. I thrive on creativity.
Everything that we as humans create - if you're stuck in a routine, if you're stuck in complacency, you're never going to evolve, you're never going to progress. So as we develop new products, as Pallas develops new products, as Burton, as Mammut, whoever, like the need to get out of the routine and to shirk stereotypes is really critical. It's really, really important right now that innovation spreads itself through every facet of business. If we start getting out of our routine and changing things up it it disrupts an industry in like the best possible way.
Lisa: Yeah, and the thing I think about with creativity quite a bit as the owner of a creative agency and a creative director and all these like funny little like, you know, putting a label on creativity. But really the thing about creativity itself is that it comes from conflict. Like there has to be a problem in order for you to think about something in a new way and solve it so there has to be a conflict to have activity and so I think it's okay. I think it's okay that we're in this position where we're like, all right, let's do something about this and you're, you know, with Pallas you're like, okay, we don't have a lot of great snowboards out there. Let's do something about it. And now you're getting creative.
Stephanie: Absolutely and you totally nailed it right there. The innovation and new ideas stem from a problem that exists in the world and it could be a very small problem but it's problem and it can be done better. Or it could be done differently and different can be better. Different doesn't need to have a label. It's just serving a different demographic in a different way and that's really exciting and I love that. I love that we're in this era of creativity and innovation and there's unlimited resources out there to do whatever the hell you want to do in your life, in your business, in your who knows. Just lock onto something and take that idea and do it differently. So much of the business that we've seen in our consumer lives have just built on, well one company is doing something and well I can get rich off of the knockoff product. So I'm just going to make a cheap version of that and sell it like hotcakes.
But when you're actually addressing a deeper problem or a deeper question, I think you have the ability to resonate with a lot more of your customers and develop a much stronger brand loyalty and brand engagement when you are there to meet the needs of people and to meet the needs of your specific people.
Lisa: And with that we'll kick it off to our last commercial break.
Ad Break: Do you ever feel like marketing is just gross? Like it's a word that you never want to say or hear or certainly something your company doesn't do? Then you should check out Wheelie Creative: a new school creative agency for people who thrive outside. Over at Wheelie they'll take good care of you without being all scummy and marketing and agency-like... they know what they're doing. It's not their first rodeo and they're also really fun to work with. I have to admit, I'm kind of partial because it's a company that I own but I'm also paying my employees to edit this podcast right now. So you get a commercial about it. wheeliecreative.com. We promise it’s fun. And now back to the podcast.
Lisa: Okay, so step you started Pallas to help women have more options for splitboarding and snowboarding. Has it evolved and have you evolved and has the industry evolved - is the industry ready for a non-women’s specific splitboard and snowboard brand or what? What are your thoughts on that and the evolution of the industry as well as your brand?
Stephanie: Well, that's a very relevant question right now. It's something that we are asking ourselves at Pallas. Now, this winter, as we as we grow as we learn more about our market fit and our customers, we're asking ourselves: is women-specific something that we want to really focus on? And the answer is yes. It's a convoluted yes. We will always be a women's snowboard and splitboard company. That is absolutely critical in my personal commitment to Pallas, and my personal interest in snowboarding and the outdoor industry. I think it's a very powerful mark of leadership to help mold the industry in their support of women and the development of really great high performance women’s equipment and that's what we're always going to go. We are we are focused on building high performance women’s snowboards.
But as these gender discussions are unfolding throughout society, throughout culture, in every industry and everything. It's a very sensitive subject and I've been following and reading some articles lately that Outside Magazine has been posting and promoting on their social channels and comment section, you know, the damn comment section always gets you, right? These comments are disheartening that at the very least. I mean, it seems like no matter how much I try to integrate woman's message into the bigger picture that there's a lot of backlash from one end of the spectrum or the other. And I think that we're starting to see some fatigue happening surrounding this dialogue.
And it's something that I'm very attuned to as we grow Pallas. As we continue building boards and figure out what marketing works best for us. And as we start to attract more women we’re simultaneously growing our following of men and it's really fascinating to look at the breakdown on the Pallas Snowboards Instagram page. We have more male followers than female followers and it's really interesting. I think there's a lot of data and information to pull from those numbers and a lot of interpretations we can use to help kind of pinpoint and funnel our marketing initiatives and our brand direction. But it's really bringing up this question of women-specific products and we’re women specific brand.
Because of the heart of it, supporting and elevating women is all about inclusion not exclusion. So by designing anything women-specific are we actually diluting the very message that we're supporting? It's it's a huge question. I think we need to be very conscious of and you know, like I said, we've gained a lot of male followers and supporters behind what we do and we've had quite a few guys interested in riding our boards - either just as a customer or as an ambassador. It's really cool. It's really powerful to see guys wanting to support a woman's brand. When they know it’s women’s specific.
But you know, we don't we don't design our snowboards for a card-carrying woman. We designed and redesigned women’s specially designed snowboards for those people - for humans. They just happened to be well-suited for the riding style of women. Yes, that does mean a little bit softer on the flex, but it's more of a strategic stiffness in our boards or strategic softness in our boards. We have little elements just to help pitch riders back on their back foot to keep them on top of the snow, because from dozens of years of snowboarding or more, all my women friends have a really hard time getting their weight on their back foot riding powder.
So, you know, we take these little nuances and subtle details and build them into our boards and that's how we design our snowboards - from the ground up. And we don't have the R&D budget to get really scientific behind what we're doing and why were doing it but we use real life anecdotes and real life situations to build these boards. But these are problems and issues that that men have too - it's not just a woman's problem that your back leg gets tired riding pow. And so we've built that into our boards. We've taken a different approach to our designs into our marketing and where we put, I think, community and compassion as some of our kind of brand pillars and use that to drive our connection with consumers and customers and followers and supporters and it's amazing. Or is it really that amazing? I don't know. Compassion, believe it or not, is not gender specific and emotions are not gender-specific. And and I think that humans regardless of your gender, whether you’re man, woman, non-binary, whatever, however you identify yourself, we’re human beings with this innate desire to explore. To quench our curiosity. To just have fun. You know, that's why we build boards, to go have fun. We love the mountains. We want to have fun in the mountains and we want to build amazing products to facilitate that.
Lisa: Thanks so much for being here today Stephanie and thanks for the good conversation about creativity and snowboarding and for taking time out of your day, not shredding pow, and talking to me instead. So I hope everybody found some good value in this podcast and got to enjoy with Stephanie and to say you can follow Stephanie over on Instagram @eatmypow. Go to StephanieNitsch.com. You can follow Pallas snowboards on Instagram @Pallassnowboards.
Thanks for tuning in and catch us next time when we have Victoria Hunt, the women's business manager from Specialized Bikes. See you next time.
Outside By Design
A business podcast for people who love the outdoor industry.