Episode 126: Town Hall CEO Robin Hall on Creating Your Outdoor Biz Community


Robin Hall joins us on the podcast today - she's the Founder and CEO of Town Hall Outdoor Co. Robin and Lisa chat about Robin's transition from working at Smartwool to starting a sustainable kids' outdoor apparel brand. They also cover the nuances of marketing to kids and their parents, interesting consumer trends, approaching gender as a kids' apparel company, and building an outdoor business community in Steamboat Springs.


@townhallco_

@robinhallco


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Episode Transcript


Iris: Hello and welcome to another episode of Outside By Design! I’m Iris, and I’m so excited to introduce to you our guest this week. Her name is Robin Hall, she is the Co-Founder and CEO at Town Hall Outdoor Co. She sat down (virtually) with Lisa to talk about her transition from a decade of working at Smartwool to starting a sustainable kids outdoor apparel brand in a small mountain town. Robin discusses marketing to kids versus parents, current consumer trends, combining a focus on outdoors and the planet, and building a community of outdoor businesses. This is a jam packed episode, so let's get into it!




Lisa: Well, Robin, thank you so much for being here today.


Robin: Oh my gosh, Lisa. Thanks for having me. And I'm honored and excited and... yeah. What a great space to be able to share our story.


Lisa: The first question we ask everyone is where are you and what are you looking at?


Robin: Well today I am, you know, [laughs] I'm at the global headquarters for our new brand here, which is in Steamboat Springs, but I chuckle because it's actually in a little alcove just off of my living room here in downtown Steamboat. But I'm here. I'm looking at… you know, our fall visual line plan is right in front of me. Kind of off to my right. And then off to my left, I actually have our front door open to our house. And it's kind of a fun little passageway for bears and foxes and raccoons. I always have one eye out the door to see what's going on outside from a wildlife perspective. It’s pretty fun.


Lisa: That's awesome. I love Steamboat.


Robin: Oh, thank you. It's a magical place. We love it as well.


Lisa: So you've had an interesting journey in the outdoor industry, which I would love to talk to you about. But to give our listeners some context, let's start with Town Hall.


Robin: Yeah.


Lisa: And what you've got going on and why, and then maybe we'll backpedal into how you got into this.


Robin: Yeah. Yeah, for sure. So yeah, I was, you know, to weave in a little bit of my history, I was at Smartwool for 11 years, whose headquarters was in Steamboat. And... absolutely, just that brand meant everything to me. It was such a passion filled place where I learned and cut my teeth and grew, and got my eyes on everything across all edges of the business.


And when they announced on October 13th, 2018, that they were moving to Denver, our family had... there was a bit of a “oh no” moment and some tears and some fear. But then we looked at each other and said, gosh, we’ve got to stay in Steamboat. We leave this magical place. And so then the next step was born - is, what are we going to do now?


And one of our co-founders of Town Hall, Joe Solomon, he got two of us from Smartwool together and kinda said, “Gosh, you know, you guys got to do something. We got to keep the brain trust in Steamboat and keep giving back to this town” and that type of thing. So we, sure enough, after many, many sessions, the three of us put our heads together and it came together in this now famous sort of Venn diagram. We call it the Town Hall Venn diagram, where, you know, we kind of said in one circle, why are we staying here? That soul searching of what's keeping us here. And it was really community and our kids. We just want our kids to grow up in this magical mountain place. And, you know, what are we good at? And we said, well, we're pretty good at outdoor apparel. And we adore the outdoor industry and we were good at playing in that space. And then, what are we passionate about? And you know, it's the planet. It's not- how do we just not create more stuff to create more stuff? So those three things met in the middle and Town Hall was created.


So it's a... we are starting a sustainable kids outdoor apparel brand. And we couldn't be more excited. There's three of us involved and it's a pretty, pretty magical team. We’re excited.


Lisa: okay. I have a million questions.


Robin: Oh my god, please.


Lisa: So kids apparel - like, kids-specific apparel. Right?


Robin: You got it. Yep.


Lisa: So what age range or size... I don't know… how do you like, who's your demographic there?


Robin: Yeah, our demographic is ages 5 to 14. So generally kindergarten to eighth grade. You know, we didn't want to go too small just yet. The toddler space is admittedly a little bit crowded, but then also there's some safety and rules and regulations there. And we felt that we could really, really- between the three co-founders we have I think nine kids between us. And they're all in that kind of kindergarten to eighth grade realm. So we feel that that's our sweet spot for right now, who we can talk to really well. And, you know, we've been doing a lot of actually really neat consumer insights groups with the kiddos in town here in Steamboat, and just understanding how they shop, what they look for, you know, when they go out in the mountain, what's important to them, you know, what do they look for in a fashion and in a brand and that type of thing. So yeah, kindergarten to eighth grade is our sweet spot and our demographics.


Admittedly, you know, I'm new to starting a business. And it's fascinating trying to figure this all out and just, you know, I know it's 5 to 14, but on the other hand, how do I… who am I marketing to? Who am I talking to? Am I talking to the parent? Because you know, let's be true here, really the only kiddos with social media are really at the top end there, those seventh and eighth graders. So, yeah, our demographic is interesting. It's the parents and it's the kids and how are we appealing and talking to both differently. It's been really fun.


In addition, we’re really, really, really, really passionate about this notion of inclusivity and our vision is we want every kid to love outside, no matter where you are, who you are, what city/state/country you're in. Just get on outside and love that fresh air. And then you'll appreciate the planet more and it's better for you, you know, from a health perspective.


And so how do we talk to all kiddos? Which is tough, you know, you don't want to alienate anyone by saying, yeah, let's go do you know, park laps and huck three sixties on the mountain, but then you also, it's not just catching snowflakes on your tongue, you know, and in the backyard. It's, there's this aspirational notion. So we're, we're really trying to figure out how to cater our messaging and help everyone understand that, “Oh my gosh, parents, kids, everyone just come join our community and there's a home for you here.”


Lisa: That's beautiful. I think the idea of like, interviewing kids about what they want in gear would make such an adorable brand video.


Robin: [laughs] Yes. Yes. We have a lot of... I do need, wow. The list is long. I have a lot to do with that footage. You’re right.


Lisa: It's just such a cute visual. And also, like, fascinating too, right? Because that's, those are conversations that I have never had with kids.


Robin: Right, right. Yeah, it was, you'd be surprised you'd be... from the mouth of babes, right? And you know, it's been interesting as we've been traveling. We've just done a few events, three events around the state in Colorado this summer, and it's been so fascinating talking to the consumer. That's just what I love to do, my- one of my last jobs at Smartwool was Head of Retail. So I helped open stores all around North America for Smartwool. And my favorite part was just working in the store after it opened and talking to the consumer and understanding what they cared about. And it's just been so beautiful, Lisa, trying to listen to these kids and how passionate they are about the planet and sustainability and how they're just… when I say these were made, the fabric’s made from one hundred percent recycled bottles, they just are floored and go grab their parents. And “Hey mom, Hey mom.” And so it's been really, really powerful and neat to see what strikes a chord with kiddos.


Lisa: What else are you surprised that kids have been interested in from an apparel standpoint?


Robin: Their colors and fashion and the look. One thing that a lot of them said was, “we just really want to be able to see and find our friends on the mountain.” Number one. And then, and then out of the side of their mouth, they also say with a little subtle eye roll, you know, the teenagers say, “and my mom is always looking for me too. So if you can find some way to have us stand out, that'd be great.” And so we're putting these, kind of, we're calling them our signature stripes. We're putting on our arm and leg, calf zone on the jacket and pants for the ski wear. So those will hopefully help kiddos stand out on the mountain and have our apparel differentiated.


It's been neat, you know, a lot of kids too - and I want to be super cognizant to not just be interviewing kids in Steamboat because it's certainly a little microcosm - but a lot of kids also are not very brand-focused. I've been surprised. It's like, “Hey, do you see your buddy wearing this or that?” And they say, “oh, no, I don't really care. I just like if it keeps me warm and it, you know, looks nice.” And I don't know, I feel like kids are... we don't give kids enough credit to just get back to basics and, and think about what they really care about and what they need. It's been neat.


Lisa: That's cool. I think - I don't think I'm making this up, but I think in a previous conversation you had kind of mentioned how for a while women's gear was like shrink it and pink it.


Robin: Yep.


Lisa: And then that was going on kind of in kids' gear too, right?


Robin: Exactly. Yeah. Yeah, for sure. We, you know, along with that Venn diagram, then of course the next natural step is, okay, we got to vet this, is this actually going to fly.


And we really, really see some white space in this market of pure kids’ play, you know, and a lot of our fun families in town have said, are you gonna bring out adult stuff? We said, no, we're not. We're focused on kids because we want to make sure that we've got this right for them. And you know, everything down to getting our first prototype in and saying, how does your hand, you know, “Hey kiddo, how's your hand fit in this pocket?” And they go, “Ooh, I can't get the zipper down.” Or, “Ooh, the pocket's too big. And my bag of Skittles is going to fall out” or, you know, whatever it is. It's just been really cute to make sure that we are catering everything with the kid in mind and doing surveys and asking them.


So yeah, to your point. I think a lot of brands, you know... it's admittedly a tough market and I'm ears wide open and I've been leveraging my network a lot and hearing about some of the challenges around margin and, “woah, do you know what you're getting into?” and yeah, we absolutely do. And we're pretty fired up about it. We’re seeing a nice following so far. So. It’s been neat.


Lisa: That goes pretty well with the next question I was going to ask you, which is what are you noticing in the state of the industry that is making this a great catalyst for you to start this business?


Robin: Well, the state of the industry, it's... it's so heavy because you know, it's almost the state of the world and the state of the average consumer.


I guess when I look at the world and the average consumer, I think about and I see just their passion for going back to shopping local and giving back to their town and leaning into small business. We've seen it certainly a ton in Steamboat with those restaurants that have quickly pivoted to offering different types of takeout and giving out free soups to people in need and those types of things.


And just the appreciation I think that people have and the stop-and-think moments that happen before you get out your credit card now in the world are really huge. And I think that… that makes it ripe for a small business like us. We're just a passion-based business, we're in this for slow growth, Lisa. We're just here to give back to our community and help the planet. Those are our... I say, “just” not as those are easy, simple things, but those are truly why we're here. Every decision we make runs through those things. So from that perspective, I think the consumer is much more savvy when it comes to thinking before they spend and where they want to spend.


And then when it comes to the outdoor industry, I think it's just beautiful to watch these brands. We are absolutely following the coattails and footsteps of the Cotopaxis and the Pranas and the Patagonias and, and the Smartwools and all these incredible brands that are focusing on planet and sustainability and the diversity piece.


I mean, it's so true. The outdoors is open to everyone. Everyone should be able to go outside freely and enjoy and appreciate. And so how do we all work together as an industry? Which I think we're all doing, which is amazing. So it's been, I think, we are very, very, very lucky, although it's been scary, starting a business during COVID, we feel very lucky to be in this time and space. And I don't think we would have gotten here had it not been for this aligning of the stars, if you will.


Lisa: I love that. So what… I mean, obviously you have tons of experience at a larger organization. And what, what have you learned from starting your own company versus working at a large company?


Robin: Oh, man. It's so fascinating. It's so... some of it, you know, my experience at Smartwool was very, very, kind of, wide and shallow, if you will, I guess. I mean, I was a project manager. I was a strategic planner. I was finance. I was all the way to IT, but my last two roles there were Head of Retail and then Head of Sustainability. And those positions really solidified what I stood for and what I wanted to do. And you know, when I think about how it's different, it's... running your every day and being accountable to yourself as a whole ‘nother ball game. It's just been fascinating to say, wake up with a to-do list and boy that could go sideways real quick. And it's okay. And being okay with that. And holding yourself accountable, but not too accountable.


And, you know, we also, it's been really fun making this a family affair. My husband is my biggest supporter ever. And then my kids are right there with me. And so being able to bring the business home, and there's no difference between home and work anymore. And for some people that's horrible. And for me, it's actually kind of great. It's neat. We talk about the P&L at the dinner table and, you know, get the kids to vote on colors and logos and that type of thing. So it's a lot more- without totally taking over my life, it's taking over my life and it's, it's pretty neat. I love it.


And it's really powerful starting something in a small town where you just have this rally of beautiful support behind you. It's been, it's been phenomenal. So it's big and scary and fun and risky and all the feels. But at the end of the day, I could... I... you know, I tell people if I tried to do this five years earlier there’s no way I would've been ready, and five years later, I would have been too tired. So the timing was perfect. So.


Lisa: That's funny. I do think that something so magical about running a small business in a, in a mountain town. You know, like, I run WHEELIE out of Whitefish and it's phenomenal when I think about how many different people starred in our commercials or in our photo shoots or worked at the company or applied or supported it, you know? So it's, I don't know. I love... I love that community feel. It's unmatched.


Robin: It is. It is. And it's, you know, it's... at the beginning, I think the coolest thing - and Smartwool was just such a visionary in this area - I feel around just leading with purpose and values and developing that vision statement and sticking to it and infusing it in every single thing they did. I mean, there were full in-office campaigns weekly about how are we going to lean into our values and how do you incorporate those every day?


And so I think everything I learned just came together for this and it's been so simple. Just community and planet. Does this check that box? You know, “Hey, I need to hire a web developer.” Well, I could easily find someone for 20 bucks on the other side of the planet or in, you know, New York or wherever. But no, there's people in this town and I'm willing to pay a little bit more. And I'm happy to… we want to keep the business here and we want to keep this all in the family. So, yeah, you're right. The community... community is everything to us.


Lisa: That's amazing. So kind of what, what's your personal journey and what has driven you? I love the amount of intention and thought that you're bringing to your business. And I imagine that that is something you've had your whole life, but I'm curious, kind of what's your, what has been your journey?


Robin: Yeah, I guess, you know, tactically kind of where I started... I mean, I grew up in, um, the San Francisco bay area and my dad - actually, one thing that I was, as I was thinking about preparing for this, I was thinking about, gosh, it kind of goes back to my dad.


You know, he worked at Hewlett Packard back in the sixties, right out of grad school. And you know, so we were in the middle of Silicon valley, um, doing that dance. And HP was one of those first brands and companies that, I mean, they came up with The HP Way, which was all about building community and family. And I just remember the family picnics and we used to hang out with all the other families. We’d travel around the world with HP and stay with families of general managers in countries. And so there was always this notion of just togetherness and family.


And also, I think, you know, one of the things that really shaped me as a kiddo is my dad… I showed a little bit of promise, I guess, in baseball. And there came a time to decide between baseball and softball. My dad said, “oh, you play baseball if you want.” I'm like, “well I do, but it's only, you know, for the boys.” And he said, “I don't care. Let's just go down and sign you up.” And I... “really? okay!”


And so my dad just marched on down - and there was no aggression or anything - “Hey, I'm signing my daughter up for baseball” and “well, the softball signup’s over here.” “Nope, Nope. We're going to do baseball.” “Okay.” So sure enough, I played baseball with the boys. And there was, you know, from a gender inclusivity perspective, when you talk about my personal journey, it's hard for me. Because I've never... I, very seldom in my life - I feel very blessed and very aware - that I just haven't experienced a lot of that gender inequality in my work life, in, you know, playing baseball as an eight year old with a bunch of boys. Of course there was fear and discomfort and those types of things. But I just, I don't know. I don't know. I work well with men and in that space and it's been a personal journey of mine to just see to it that boy, we all have a seat at this table. And my dear friend and mentor Mark Satkiewicz who passed away last year. He was the biggest supporter of that at Smartwool. I mean, it was all about gender parody. And we all had a seat at that boardroom table and he walked the walk and it was just so natural and great. And we saw the beauty of having those different opinions at a table.


So, in any case, I digress, but when it comes to personal journey, I think it started young for me, just eyes wide open to traveling and business and, you know, just ways to build community.


And so when my husband and I - we kind of grew up together. We started dating in high school and went to college together. And then after college went and worked back in the bay area and I got a job at GAP at their headquarters doing finance. And quickly my husband and I looked at each other and said, “if we don't try something new now, we're never gonna leave the bay area.”


And so we moved to Summit County, to Breckenridge area, and I got a job at Vail Resorts and did a bunch of finance work there as well. And I, again, after a few years, realized I got to get back to seeing and touching product. So the Smartwool role popped up and, you know, Breckinridge was just this incredible… we called it the gateway drug to the mountains for us, because it was like, “oh, this is what mountain life is like, wow, this is great.” And then, you know, you drive into a Steamboat or a Whitefish or a Crested Butte, and it's like, “oh, this is where I need to be. This is my calling.” So, yeah, the planets aligned and Smartwool was it.


And I started in finance and kind of some business process design. So those types of jobs where I'm, you know, kind of infiltrating these areas of the business and saying, “how does this work? How do you do this? I'm going to document that and help make it better.” That was really neat for me, a neat way for me to kind of see all avenues of the business so that I could understand the inner workings.


So, yeah, it just went from there. And I, I kind of just moved up and around - didn't necessarily move up all the time, but moved left and right. And I got a lot of advisors, had a lot of advisors kind of telling me, gosh, just, just grow your, your breadth sometimes... growing your breadth is sometimes more important than your depth. So that was really, really neat. And transparently, you know, I always, I was always... I wouldn't call myself a ladder climber, but just a career gal. It was, what am I going to do? And I remember there was a time there where we were acquired by VF and I instantly had stars in my eyes. Like this might be our ticket overseas. Wow. Let's okay. Let's start talking to the Europe offices and let's start seeing what I can do over there. And then sure enough, after a couple more years embedding and growing roots in this town of Steamboat, I had to go to my boss and say, “I'm sorry, I don't think I can move. This is it. This is kind of my end game. So how do we make my career more fulfilling here so that I can literally retire with Smartwool? How do we move me around and get me the knowledge and insights that I want to give back to Smartwool? And how does Smartwool benefit from me?” So that was, that was my journey I was in, I was in for the long haul. And so when you got a curve ball like your brand is moving to Denver, which of course, it's three hours away and absolutely it was the right move for VF. And I understand completely. But for us as a family, it was just a glaring opportunity for us to, “huh. Wow. That was not on our radar, but here it is. And how are we going to manage it?” And Town Hall has been the beautiful by-product so we're, we're pretty darn excited.


Lisa: Wow. I, I love that you had that conversation with Smartwool, like, “Hey, I'm in it for the long haul. What can we do?” Like what a proactive and like direct way to communicate.


Robin: Yeah, yeah. Again, that brand, I can't say enough about that brand, but my bosses, my mentors there, everyone there… It wasn't, you can't even say it was an open door policy. We just didn't have doors. We all were just so... moving around with each other in this symbiotic - you know, obviously sometimes to a fault, we look at each other and go, “oh, I can’t have a tough conversation with my friend. I'm going to see them on the trails after this,” or what have you. But on the other hand, boy, the family and the passion and the ‘we're all in this together’ attitude, everyone just wanted to see everyone succeed and we wanted to see the brand succeed. So it was pretty, pretty magnificent. You're right. I do feel lucky that I was even able to have that conversation, so, yeah, it was neat. And I couldn't have gotten there without all the incredible leadership there. It was, it was awesome.


Lisa: Wow. I do… in your story, I loved your story about joining the baseball team. And it kind of made me wonder for Town Hall, since you're starting a kids clothing company, like how are you navigating stereotypes and gender inclusivity? And like, these are the boys clothes and these are the girls clothes. Like, I noticed on the website that it's not organized by gender, but it's more like tees and hoodies, hats. Kind of what's… \what's your stance there? I'm fascinated to know.


Robin: Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. Gender neutral is where we're headed. We want everyone to feel comfortable from a coloring perspective right now. So you know, we do recognize down the line, perhaps some of the girls may skew a little bit more bright pink, that type of thing. For our first, our first few seasons here, we're, we're definitely just focused on what's going to resonate with all kids.


And again, going back to those interviews and customer insights sessions, just the blues are hot. The oranges are hot. The reds, those types of things. So how do we ensure that... you're exactly right. There's not a boys section and a girls section. You just go down the line and choose whichever color and style you want.


However, we are starting to see in some of those older ages, you know, the 14 year old, your body starts to change and your hips grow a little bit more or your upper body shapes out, or the boy's arms get a little longer. So we are talking about doing some gender specific cuts and shapes in the future.


But for right now, it's, you know, we've got four styles going live in next month and they are open to everybody and anybody.


Lisa: What’s your, like, personal favorite product?


Robin: I think, you know, I think the puffy is going to be just this hero style. It's made from a hundred percent recycled down, inside, which is really neat. And then the outer fabric is recycled plastic bottles as well. So we feel like... it's, yeah, we're gearing up for, you know, those kinds of outdoor winter snow adventures when it comes to kind of the waterproof ski side of the house, but the puffy is just going to turn into... I think we're going to potentially do it as a carry over in spring and just make it that year round favorite. So I'm excited about the puffy. It's, it's going to be pretty fun.


Lisa: How fun. And how fun that you got to kind of do product testing and, I don't know, bring something new to market.


Robin: Yeah. Yeah. You know, I dunno, I've never, I've never thought of myself as a creative person, you know. And this opportunity and starting this business, I'm just like looking at myself so differently. Internalizing, wow, I guess I'm pretty creative! Even when it comes down to, you know what I mean? Like you, you think about creativity, you think about, are you an artist and what's your medium and do you paint or whatever it is. And, and for me, you know, I remember very distinctly, I don't know if you've ever done the StrengthsFinder session, you know, kind of session thing, but I remember very distinctly, my number one strength is positivity and my number two is achiever. And so I have tons of enthusiasm and I love to get stuff done.


And so I remember sitting in the room with this gal who was just this big ideator and I'm like, I just don't get along with her. And I can't work with her. And this is so challenging and what am I supposed to do? And so then we took StrengthFinders and I found out she was an ideator. Oh, my gosh, we're like yin and yang. If we teamed up and you came up with the big ideas that I can help execute them! And so it kinda changed my viewpoint of how people look at the world and what their strengths are. And it's not their fault that they're not the doer, get-thingsdone-r, or the whatever. They just see the world differently with big ideas. And so it's been really neat to talk to people in the industry and my network with the big ideas and then the tacticians and trying to think creatively and give myself some personal leeway, whether it be creatively look at the finances and how we're going to fund this thing or looking at colors and brand logo and identity. It's just been really neat to do that self exploration.


Lisa: Love that. One of my biggest beliefs about creativity is that it's called a creative process, not a creative perfect. And so like most of what you make won't work the first time or the second time or the third time or the fourth, you know, and that's why like our budgets allow for proper exploration and safe failure. And some people call it failing forward, but I'm like, I don't even care if it's forward. Like, because what you make just probably won't work and, you know, so that's, that's why I embraced the word process in the creative process. And I think it produces magic when, when, when it's like a safe place to try things and invent and explore.


Robin: Yeah. I love that. I really love that because that's a muscle I need to flex, honestly, because I am, again, I'm just, it's on my list, I check it off, and move on. And it better be right. Kind of thing. And you know, my mom's an artist and so I grew up with her kind of saying, “okay, let's sit down and paint” and I'd finish after a painting session. And I’m like, “I really don't like it.” And she’d say, “oh great. Let's start again and add more to it.” I'm like, “you can do that? I don't get that. You're not just done?” “Oh, no, you're never done with a painting. No, no, no. I'll go back to a painting from 20 years ago and add some new reds and, you know, polish this up.” And that just baffled me. So, every day is a learning. So I love that, creative process is great.


Lisa: Yeah, what - I mean, what else have you learned from… like, it's funny ‘cause you can't personally product test the product you're making because you have an adult body.


Robin: Right.


Lisa: So how, like, what have you learned there for like product testing and getting feedback from kids?


Robin: Oh man. Well, well the one thing I will say as “expert parents,” as we all are, you know - I guess I won't say expert, I’ll say seasoned parents who've seen it all - we go back to what makes parents happy? You know, like, it's when our kids aren't complaining about being wet and cold. It's when they fall off their sled and they go over a rock and their pant doesn't tear. It's when, gosh, they're growing, their legs are growing and you're like, dang it. Do I have to buy new pants next year? No, we did a grow seam so that they can grow a little bit longer, you know, one more year in them. So we took it from the parent's lens of what makes our kids successful, and how do we keep them happy outside for longer?


And then in addition, from a sustainability perspective, we… all we want is the most durable product, right? That's the product that's going to stay out of the landfill longer. So how do we build this thing that is going to stay around? And we're finally calling them hand-me-ups, so that they can be, they're just this coveted, hand-me-down or hand-me-up to the next kiddo in town and build this community of Town Hall. So it's in our best interest and the planet’s and the community's best interest to build the most durable thing we can so it doesn't fall apart.


And then, you know, on the kids’ side, just the testing has been awesome. I mean, to have our kids rip around the ski slopes and again go sledding and... one kiddo was sleeping in our puffy and he's like, it got a little too hot. I'm like, well, you're, you're sleeping in it and you're under a duvet. So yeah. You know. [laughs] But we have, you know, we have kids just being kids in our gear and it's been really, really neat. And they give you that direct feedback. Boy, it's pretty, pretty neat to hear just, “I don't like that” or, “oh, well this is rad” or whatever it is. So it's been, it's been really fun.


Lisa: That's cool. That's, that's a unique process too. And I think, I think that's awesome.


Robin: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Thank you. Thank you. To your point, you know, to my point earlier, I think also keeping eyes peeled for other kids. I mean, we want the kiddo in Chicago walking to school in the cold wearing our jacket, and then maybe they come ski in, you know, Steamboat on a winter ski trip and they can wear the same one. So how do we, how do we make sure that we're, we're building things for those kiddos as well? So, our eyes are, our eyes are wide open to all the insights.


Lisa: Yeah. And another super fun thing about youth marketing is like, kids want to be more like teenagers, so they aspire upward. And then, like, teenagers want to be a little more like adults, so they aspire upward. And then at some point there's that ledge where like, if you're selling stuff to 30 year olds, you put 25 year olds in the photos. And if you're to 50 year olds, you put 40 year olds in the photo.


Robin: Yes!


Lisa: So the scale starts to tip backwards. Yeah. And so I do think youth marketing is kind of the funnest, but you're... yeah. You have an interesting span of ages there.


Robin: Yeah. Yeah. It's interesting. You're absolutely right. And it's not lost on me. I mean, the fact that I need to sit here and talk to a 14 year old that probably doesn't want their six year old little brother wearing the same thing they are. So how do I talk to those differently and how do I, you know, how do we, how do we adapt the content and creative to everyone to just, “Hey, we're all in this together. And just, let's all, let's all rock, these rad outfits.” You know, that kind of thing. So those are all the challenges that... that keep me up at night.


Lisa: Totally. I also believe TikTok is the absolute funnest place on the internet. It's the happiest, happiest place on the internet.


Robin: Oh, It's hilarious. It is so funny. Oh man. The rabbit holes. Oh, it's trouble.


Lisa: It’s trouble. And I think, I think it's an awesome spot for Town Hall and to, to like, play. You know, ‘cause TikTok is like a place to play.


Robin: Right. Yeah. My 13 year old is all about Snapchat. Snapchat's the thing. So I'm just trying to stay current and, but also stay in our lane. And then again, like I said earlier, talk to parents also. I mean, how am I going to find... the parents are the ones that are gonna pay for this stuff. So.


It was interesting to hear kids talk about how they shop for their winter gear. You know, is it, do your parents pick out the brand and then you go on the website and look, do you walk into an REI for example, or a local ski shop? How does that all work? And certainly the answers, the responses were fascinating.


Lisa: Oh, I bet.


Robin: Yeah.


Lisa: I bet.


Robin: Yeah, kind of neat.


Lisa: Cool. Well, what is one thing I haven't asked you that you think our audience would love to hear?


Robin: Oh, gosh, you know, I think… I say the word community over and over and over again. And I don't, I don't want it to be just this catchphrase. I mean, community is... we're all social beings, right? I mean, we're all, as many of us saw during this pandemic, you know, we need other people and friends and family and those outlets really to kind of be ourselves and learn and share feelings and help each other.


And so I think community is where, you know, the main reason we started this company. You know, we live in a town of 13,000 people and a county of 26,000 people. And it's everything to us. I mean, Steamboat, if you've not been to Steamboat it's, um, it's this beautiful mix of agriculture, Western heritage, conservation, outdoor rec, tourism. And everyone's just passionate about being here. I mean, we are three and a half hours from anything. So you got to want to live here. We don't have a Target for heaven sake, you know, so life is pretty simple up here. But you know, when big companies leave town, they take these high-paying, you know, coveted jobs and volunteers and lunch orders and kids in our winter sports club away. And so we're just doing everything that we can to support this town. And its passionate and innovative folks.


You know, when I think about innovative, the other note that's really fascinating is we've got 20 plus outdoor gear brands in this town that have started here and exist here. And if you saw the news yesterday about Travis Campbell bringing Eagle Creek to Steamboat, we are pretty, pretty excited about that.


And about a year ago, our head of economic development, John Bristol, in town, brought together Yampa Valley Outdoor Rec Community. And so we, the 20 leaders, we sit around once a month and we - in true outdoor industry fashion - we sit around and we have garage beers. So we go to each kind of leaders, garage, each CEO or founder’s garage, and just sit back and have an afternoon beer and talk about what's working for your business. What's working in the valley. How do we as a collective voice, how do we support each other? Hey, Big Agnes, what did you do when you were just starting in the marketing space for awareness and, and hey Grass Sticks, how did you get that PO to REI? And hey, who do you use for an accountant? And those types of things.


So, I think community can sound scary to people or ambiguous. To me and to us in this town, I think it's just, find your people and find people you can relate to for the mental outlet, for the physical outlet and just, just to bring wholeness to self. When it comes to starting this business, we can't do it without this community.


That's why we're doing it. And if it weren't here, we wouldn't be benefiting. So we're just so proud. It's manifesting itself in beautiful ways. Also around our partnerships, we're partnering with the Northwest Boys and Girls Club and Integrated Community, which brings - you know, we have 41 countries represented in this town. Who would have thought? How do we make those people feel welcome and get those kiddos integrated best into kindergarten and those types of things.


So there's tons of resources. And you don't have to, you don't have to be in a club. You don't have to be, have your stamp on something, just find your people and give to them and they'll get back to you. And that's what we hope to embody at Town Hall.


Lisa: Oh, wow. Well, Robin, you... this was a great interview.


Robin: Oh, cool.


Lisa: I really enjoyed this. I loved learning about you and Town Hall and I'm just super excited to watch the puffy jacket come out and enjoy this journey with you.


Robin: Cool, Lisa, thanks for everything you do for this industry. And your creativity is absolutely just a joy to watch and what you've built. And I'm so impressed and just know that you're making an impact. So thank you, my friend.




Iris: Thank you so much for tuning in to Outside By Design. If you haven’t already, please subscribe to the show wherever you’re listening so you don’t miss any new episodes. If you have a moment, please leave us an iTunes review, that helps us reach more outdoor industry folks.


You can find us at wheeliecreative.com or on Instagram @wheeliecreative - those links are in the show notes as well. With that, thank you for being here, we’ll see you next week.