Episode 135: Alder Apparel Co-Founders Mikayla Wujec + Naomi Blackman on Redefining Outdoorsy


What kind of outdoor clothing do women actually want?

Alder Apparel founders Mikayla Wujec and Naomi Blackman set out to discover just that. Mikayla and Naomi cover nature-inspired design, size inclusivity, encouraging employee autonomy, and more in this jam-packed episode. Tune in for tons of insights and a special promo code at the end!

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Descript






 

Episode Transcript


Naomi: We wanted to break free from the kind of traditional outdoor branding and create something that was a little more playful and colorful and real and included a lot of women, just, you know, having fun and enjoying the outdoors together.


[music & show intro]


Iris: Hello and welcome to another episode of Outside By Design! My name is Iris, I co-host the show alongside our interviewer extraordinaire, Lisa Slagle, and as always, the show is brought to you by WHEELIE, a modern creative agency and production company specializing in the outdoor industry.


This week Lisa had the pleasure of sitting down with two incredible entrepreneurs - the women behind Alder Apparel, Mikayla Wujec and Naomi Blackman. Mikayla and Naomi bring a TON of expertise to this episode, so I better not see you hitting the skip button. Listen all the way to the end for a special promo code. They talk about how they ended up in business together, how they seek to achieve size inclusivity by doing more than just offering more sizes, designing from a nature-inspired perspective, and how Alder aims to redefine outdoorsiness. This episode has insights for every outdoor industry creative out there, so let’s dive in.


[music]



Naomi: I'm Naomi Blackman. I'm one of the co-founders of Alder Apparel.


Mikayla: Hi, I'm Mikayla Wujec. I'm the other co-founder of Alder Apparel.


Lisa: Thank you so much for being on the podcast today. I'm really, really excited to talk to you about your journey through entrepreneurship and your design philosophy and whatever else we get into. So it's going to be good.


Naomi: Yeah. Thank you for having us.


Mikayla: Happy to be here.


Lisa: The first question we ask everyone is to describe where you are and what you're looking at.


Naomi: [laughs] Well, we're both in Toronto, Ontario, in Canada. I'm currently sitting in my… kitchen. This is not a living room. And so right now I am unfortunately staring at some dishes that I need to do, but to my right a much nicer scene, some double doors into the outdoors. And here it's a beautiful sunny day in Toronto. We’re at the potential beginning of spring. So it's a really beautiful day outside today and that's, you know, getting spirits up for sure.


Mikayla: Absolutely. And I'm also in Toronto, I'm sitting in my home office, which is part library, part seed-starting bonanza, I’m starting all my garden seeds to the left of me. So I've got some small tomato and basil sprouts and a big lemon tree beside me, which was my favorite Christmas gift I've ever received.


Lisa: Yeah, you’re… we have video on and your plant game is amazing. I've been staring at it like, wow.


Mikayla: [laughs] Thank you. Truly my lemon tree is my prized possession. There's four lemons.


Lisa: Oh, that's amazing. So I'm curious how you ended up owning a company together and what's your story as humans and as entrepreneurs and business partners, how'd you get here?


Mikayla: Yeah, absolutely. So this is Mikayla. I really never expected to be running a clothing business. Absolutely. My background is in environmental science and biology, I studied fish genetics, very specifically, in university, which really led me on a pathway to doing a lot of outdoor conservation work, and, you know, scientific field work as well.


I was really lucky to work as a National Geographic Explorer for the last six or seven years. So doing a lot of outdoor research, primarily in the South Pacific, but you know, in other pockets of the globe as well, doing a lot of SCUBA research, which was truly amazing and an incredible opportunity. And, you know, one of the pain points that I found myself having on these trips was just frustration with outdoor apparel options for women. You know, I felt really frustrated that I mostly had to wear leggings [laughs] or weird low-rise swishy pants that were not fashionable in any sort of way. And I really just started thinking about, you know, from a product perspective, what would I like to see in my wardrobe that, you know, enabled me to enact my fashion ability a little bit better, but that was also a little bit more versatile so I can use it as I was traveling and researching and working.


So then I thought to myself, you know, “who is the smartest woman I know? And who is somebody who works in apparel?” And that is Naomi Blackman. I'll let her tell you about her background.


Naomi: Yeah. Thank you, Mikayla. Yeah, Mikayla and I have actually known each other since we were about 13 years old. We went to elementary school here in Toronto, so it was nice to kind of reconnect over this idea 10 years later. And, you know, my life was a lot less cool than McKayla's at the time, but I had spent the last 10 years or so working in marketing, primarily working on a bunch of different apparel brands up here in Canada, like Joe Fresh and Hudson's Bay, and was part of the team that brought TopShop and TopMan into Canada.


So I was working in apparel for a long time and definitely understood Mikayla's frustrations with the product. But the more we started talking about it, the more we realized that, you know, it wasn't just a product issue that women were facing with outdoor apparel, but also just a brand and a connection to this idea of ‘outdoorsy.’ You know, Mikayla and I started talking about it right away and she's obviously quite an outdoorsy individual and I spend a lot of time, you know, hiking. I love to snowboard. I love to climb. But I'm also a Toronto born and raised city dweller, love fashion. I'm definitely a city person. And so, you know, both of us realized that we don't necessarily identify with the term outdoorsy, in its, you know, traditional form.


And we recognized that the more women we spoke to, the more we heard that echoed back to us, that, you know, they would say, oh yeah, yeah, I love to do this and that. And I have trouble with finding outdoor apparel, but, you know, I don't really consider myself outdoorsy. And we really wanted to question why a lot of women we were speaking to didn't identify with the term.


And we started to realize that, you know, it was because of the way that a lot of brands present the idea of being outdoorsy. And, you know, that's all well and good, but we just realized that there was an opportunity to represent a diverse range of ways to be outdoorsy and who could be considered outdoorsy as well. So we decided to launch Alder.


Lisa: Wow. Well, first of all, you two are awesome and I love this dynamic and like, yeah, it's super cool. So I guess my first question then is what was it like in your first starting phases and how did you grow this company and what, yeah. What did you learn?


Mikayla: Yeah. I mean, we really started with the product idea first and foremost, you know, sustainability is really core to our brand and to, you know, our considerations and, you know, being an apparel business, it's really important that we're making things that are, A, you know, things that people need and B, you know, really using, you know, the best materials and kind of processes.


So for us, we thought to validate, okay, what do women actually want, what are they looking for to, you know, fill their outdoor wardrobe? So we got real data nerdy. We were all over Reddit groups, Facebook forums, you know, doing surveys, asking people, “Hey, what do you need in your wardrobe?” And 92% of the women that we spoke with said pants. They said pants are a nightmare to find in the outdoor industry. So we thought, “amazing. We will make the best pants ever.” And so that really guided - you know, from a product perspective - where we really invested a lot of our time and our initial sort of energy. And that led us to do a Kickstarter, which we launched in the tail end of 2019 for our first product, the Open Air Pant, which has a truly tremendous amount of pockets, and, you know, it kind of burgeoned from there in terms of building the brand, I'll let Naomi speak to, you know, sort of the creative development piece on that side.


Naomi: Yeah, for sure. And just before I speak to that, I do want to say, you know, Mikayla’s background is also as a LEED certified sustainability consultant. So we really had… I count myself quite lucky to have had her from the get-go just, you know, that insight and that knowledge and that ability to build a company from the ground up with, you know, sustainability practices that aren't necessarily just focused on the environment, but are more holistic in nature. It was something that, you know, was an absolute benefit to us to have. And I count myself quite lucky.


Mikayla: Thank you, friend. Get you a cofounder that boosts you up. [laughs]


Naomi: [laughs] But yeah, the second thing we did, definitely, you know, marketing and branding is something that is deep in my bones and Mikayla is a natural born marketer and brander as well. So, you know, immediately wanted to think about what does Alder look like, sound like, feel like, and developed our brand from there. And, you know, just speaking to that idea of representing a different kind of outdoorsy. We wanted to break free from the kind of traditional outdoor branding and create something that was a little more playful and colorful and real and included a lot of women, just, you know, having fun and enjoying the outdoors together. So, developed the brand from there. And then we were off to the races in terms of launching the products.


Lisa: I always say that your brand is… your brand is what people say about your business when you're not in the room to explain it. And so like, what do you hope people say about your brand that you've curated and built even if you're not there?


Naomi: Yeah. I love that. I think on my end - and I think Mikayla would agree - I think what I would love to have our customers say about us is just “they're the brand that makes me feel like I belong in the outdoors. It makes me feel welcomed and it makes me feel like I can go out and enjoy everything in the outdoors without feeling like I'm not welcomed.”


Mikayla: Yeah, absolutely. Totally agree. And I think, you know, to that point, having people say, “oh, there's something there for me.” Right? I think that's a huge goal of ours in the outdoor industry in particular, our commitment to size inclusivity is one way that we're trying to, you know, expand the definition of really, you know, who is, you know, considered outdoorsy. So that would be amazing, to, you know, know that people feel that they can get something from us.


Lisa: Along those lines, what does size inclusivity look like to you right now as a brand?


Mikayla: Yeah. Great question. You know, I think we can always do better. We started our initial offering with a size range from extra small to 4X and then improved that from extra small to 6X. So that's our current offering now.


You know, for us, our goal really is to have something for everybody and we recognize that, you know, sizing in that way, sort of extra small, small, 2X. 4X model leaves a lot to be desired in terms of things like inseam lengths, fits, different body shapes, you know, gender neutral clothing. So we think that there's still a lot of room for expansion in that way.


But size inclusivity really means to us considering all the different, beautiful shapes bodies come in and designing clothes appropriately. So, you know, everybody has an option to enjoy the outdoors.


Naomi: Yeah. And I think one other thing I would add is just, it was really important to us to make sure that, you know, we weren't creating something separate for a certain size range or a certain inseam or a certain body type. We wanted to make sure that, you know, what we were creating was designed to be a great fit across multiple different body types and to offer the same, you know, colors and the same options across our entire size range. It’s a pretty horrific practice in the apparel industry to relegate plus sizes in particular to, you know, just black or just this or just that. And we just didn't, we didn't subscribe to that ideal and to that standard. And we didn't think that that was the way that things should be. So, you know, making sure that we had price parity and color parity and style parity across all of our size range was something that was really important.


Lisa: And what has been the feedback? Have you built community around this? And, yeah, I guess, how did it go?


Mikayla: Yeah, absolutely. I think, you know, there's two things to consider. The first is, you know, the community and the feedback that we've had, you know, from our plus size community. And you know, we've had just wonderful reviews and messages, you know, sharing that we are actually getting fit really right. And we attribute that to our grading system. So the way that we actually design and develop products looks a little bit different than, you know, sort of your traditional apparel model, where you will, you know, start from a size medium, and then kind of grade out from there. We have, you know, multiple sizes that we grade on. We've heard a lot of really great feedback, particularly in our bottoms and in our raincoats. You know, raincoats and outerwear… oh man, the outdoor industry needs to catch up. There's not a lot of options out there, you know, outside of an extra large or 2X. Again, there's more that we can be doing, but we take, you know, the feedback really seriously from our community.


And we alluded to this in our earlier conversation before we began chatting, but we do something called… what we like to call iterative product design with our community. So, you know, we actually ask our customers throughout our design process, what do they want to see? So we'll send surveys each quarter out to our whole community, you know, share things like tech packs, like designs, and sort of pose questions like, “Hey, do you want to see a high rise, a mid rise? Where do you want zippers? What do you feel about these colorways?” So we're actually collecting real data from our customers on what they want to see enacted in our designs. So that's been a really fantastic tool to get that design piece right. You know, specifically with our plus size customers, but with the entire Alder community.


And then I think, you know, another important thing to consider outside of, you know, of course designing for plus size customers is also the importance of having size inclusivity to our brand and our community overall. So in those surveys, we also ask, you know, how important is it to you to buy from a size inclusive brand and, you know, over 75% of our customers say it is very important, the most important to them to actually, you know, be participating in economies who support size inclusivity. So, you know, that to us is something that we pay really close attention to as well.


Lisa: And how does nature influence your design process since you are bridging this gap in the outdoor industry?


Mikayla: Oh man, this is the best question ever. [laughs] I wrote my undergrad thesis paper on biomimicry, which, you know, is taking biological processes, being inspired by biological processes, into design.


So, I mean, I think we think about it in a lot of different ways. You know, the name Alder hearkens to a type of tree, it's from the Birch family. And Alder trees have a really amazing relationship with the soil that, you know, they're rooted in. They, you know, have a similar process to nitrogen fixing where they'll actually enrich the soil around them and encourage new species to grow, you know, around the Alder tree trunk.


And for us, we thought that was so much inspiration for how we want to be as a brand and how we want to grow community by, you know, really enriching the world around us. So, at a high philosophical level, Alder was, you know, the intention to try to enrich the community around us, but, you know, from other processes just in more of the material space, we’re, you know, continually impressed by some of the innovation that's happening, you know, using textiles like pineapples or mushrooms as alternatives for leather, we think is so interesting. And then also really looking at, you know, how different systems, you know, kind of build strength in their own biological realms, you know, whether that's through certain weaving or structuring patterns, and, you know, how can we bring that into fabrication on our end. So, I mean, I can go on and on. So let me know if there's a certain question there, stop me or I’ll steer this whole thing away.


Lisa: You two are geniuses, aren't you?


[Mikayla and Naomi laugh]


Naomi: No, no, no. Far from it.


Mikayla: No, no. We're extremely excitable about where we’ve found ourselves in life right now. I think, you know, both Naomi and I feel so lucky to be able to do this and to have each other as supports to kind of, you know, build a business together. It's… it's hard out there for women business owners. Let me tell you. So we feel very fortunate to be operating, you know, together where we can draw on confidence and support and all the other elements you need to be successful in business from each other. So, yeah, we're, we're very lucky and hardworking. Yeah. [laughs]


Naomi: That's definitely been one of the biggest joys, you know, obviously reconnecting from our early days friendship over Alder and being able to build something together. I mean, we have very different, but very complimentary skill sets for sure. And it just happens to work out so well for this specific business that we didn't necessarily think we'd be in, but are extremely lucky to be in.


Lisa: How does that friendship enhance entrepreneurship? Like, does it make it harder or does it make it easier? Because there seems to be a lightness here with each other, that… I mean, I talked to a lot of founders and you just seem like you're having a lot of fun.


[Mikayla and Naomi laugh]


Naomi: Well, that's good. Yeah. I think one of the biggest things that, you know, Mikayla and I chatted about from the get-go - and I mean, I will say it did take us a little bit of ironing out to get here, but it was just - you know, what kind of company do we want to build and what kind of relationship do we want to have through this?


I mean, I think we've heard so many horror stories or just, you know, challenging stories about founders, co-founders splitting apart or having trouble working together long-term. And I think the biggest thing for us was just to start from a place of true, true respect for one another and understanding that, you know, no matter what comes our way, we’re going to be open and transparent with each other and kind of work through things and, you know, make sure that we're on the same page with each other and just continue to have that conversation flow open. Which was, you know, a decision we had from the beginning and has just been, you know, something that has been very, very helpful in keeping everything on track.


I mean, I think it's so easy to get caught up, especially as you start to get more stressed and involved in the business, but it's always been something that we've wanted to make sure we keep, keep each other informed about how we're feeling. We do, you know, a monthly founders walk or we just go and talk about, you know, how are things going? How are you feeling? How's your mental health, how's everything going? So, it's just been all about communication and continued respect with one another. And I think, you know, being friends before was definitely helpful for that, but I think you can establish that kind of relationship with anyone you're founding a business with. And I would highly encourage it.


Mikayla: Absolutely. The one thing I’d add to that, you know, is just, you know, it's a big jump, right, to start a business and to walk away from, you know, a career or a sure bet position. And so, you know, one of the things that we really wanted to iron out was what is going to keep us going? And identifying, you know, what area of growing a business or having a business is the most compelling to us. So, you know, for me that was product, product development. And, you know, for Naomi that's, you know, creative and marketing. And we really identified, like, we want to have ownership over those areas and that's going to be a tool to drive us towards happiness and, you know, self-fulfillment in kind of operating your own business.


So we've been really clear and supportive of one another to kind of say, “Hey, take ownership over that area” and divided and conquered areas of our business. So we're each kind of servicing the needs that we have identified that we'll have in order to kind of stay happy in this role, which I think has been definitely, really important.


Lisa: I think the amount of intentionality that you're bringing to this is so beautiful.


Mikayla: Thank you.


Lisa: And is that something that… have you been able to, like creatively… I'm a creative director, so it can be hard. Like, you have something in your mind and then you try to build it or you try to draw it or make it, and then there's restraints on fabric or shipping or all these things that are outside of your control. Have you been able to kind of go into your actual product design with that level of intentionality as well and come up with kind of like what you'd imagined?


Naomi: Yeah. That's a great… that's a great point and definitely something, you know, that's been the biggest, I think, learning curve for us. I mean, I won't speak for McKayla, but I do think, you know…


Mikayla: Speak for me.


Naomi: [laughs] Both of us, you know, have a lot of ideas and less operational experience, especially when it comes to apparel. So that was definitely the biggest learning curve around production, around shipping timelines, especially during the pandemic. And so, you know, that's been definitely the biggest learning curve, but also kind of, for me, one of the more interesting learning curves, because it's something I was never exposed to in the past.


I mean, slightly from working in the industry, but having kind of that deep knowledge of, you know, financial models and operational models and production models is something that's like a very challenging topic to learn, but also so interesting to bring on that new knowledge.


And then also I'll just say like the people we surround ourselves with, we've been so lucky with employees and partners who all have just such amazing expertise and a willingness to share knowledge that, you know, we've been very fortunate to surround ourselves with the right people, which is really the key to any company's success, I think.


Mikayla: Absolutely. And I think, you know, both Naomi and I try to leave, you know, ego at the door, especially in that kind of creative process. Right? There's so many things that you're going to absolutely kill and destroy. And so, you know, really starting from a place of blue sky thinking for a lot of elements of our business is, you know, I think a really sort of fun way that we continue to, you know, keep sort of that like lightness and joy into different areas of business.


And I think also, you know, just because we don't necessarily come from this background and for me for product design in particular, you know, when I came into this with no process, [laughs] no traditional process at all. Right? And, you know, I think in some ways that has served us, you know, for good and in other ways, you know, not so good.


But you know, regardless, it remains that we've kind of built our own processes Which has been really quite joyful, you know, in terms of how we build products, it looks quite different, e're realizing more and more, from how many other apparel businesses build their products. And we think that so much of the success that we've seen, you know, love from our community in terms of how our products fit and, you know, getting community feedback and inputs into it, has really been a real differentiator and, and frankly, a really fun way to go about designing and dreaming and creating. So that… that's been cool.


Naomi: Yeah. And I'll just add one more thing that I think it is definitely a positive that Mikayla kind of came into it with no preconceived notions of how things were done in apparel and also a strong curiosity and a slight Taurus stubbornness, because, you know, I think I definitely was held back by how I'd seen certain things happen in the apparel industry. And Mikayla would, you know… there are some processes that are processes for a very good reason and some processes that are just there because that's what everyone's been doing for the last 10, 20, 50 years. So having Mikayla's fresh eyes there and, you know, curiosity to be like, “well, why should we do it that way? Why don't we try this?,” was actually extremely helpful and, and great for us.


Mikayla: Also, going to therapy. [laughs]


Naomi: Yeah.


Mikayla: Just in general. [laughs] Very helpful in every aspect of life.


Lisa: I agree. Do you have employees?


Mikayla: We do. Yep.


Naomi: Yeah. We have a few full-time and some part-time and sort of freelance as well.


Lisa: Amazing. And how is that journey, because it's like, I have employees as well, and it's one thing to be an entrepreneur or a business owner, and then it's another thing to be an employer. And I never had any formal training for that. So how has that journey been as well? And how do you divide and conquer… I don't know if it's conquer. How do you divide and nourish? How do you divide and nourish that I guess?


Naomi: I think that's actually been one of the bigger joys for us. I mean, personally, I really love working with people. I think Mikayla really does as well. And, you know, I think to Mikayla’s earlier point about leaving your ego at the door, I think that's been very helpful in bringing on team members. You know, we've brought on some really great people who have a lot of expertise and, you know, we’re not trying to be up here, pretending that we know the answers to everything. It's just a matter of collaboration and, you know, a general vision and leadership for the company. But we want to make sure that we're giving our employees a lot of autonomy. And so, you know, letting that ego go and giving that autonomy at this early stage is something, I think, that has been really helpful for us.


And you know, I think… we didn't necessarily, I mean, I had people-managed in former roles, but we didn't necessarily have “boss” formal training. But I think what we both had was informal training in what we didn't want to be as bosses, or didn't want to be in workplaces overall, you know, workplace culture is something that we considered very, very early on because we wanted to kind of break away from that traditional corporate, Monday to Friday 9-to-5 mentality. From the get go before the pandemic, we were thinking, you know, we're going to have work from anywhere policy. We're going to have, you know, flexible work hours. We have something we call Recreating Fridays. We don't, we have three day weekends. So four days work week, Fridays are for getting outside and enjoying your life. And just some of these perks, we just wanted to make sure we built into our business from the beginning, because we knew that creating a happy workplace and a happy environment is great for people and great for the company overall.


Lisa: That's cool. We are also closed on Fridays and I don't really know how people work five days a week.


Naomi: I don’t know they do it either.


Mikayla: I just, I mean, like, from a human perspective, of course it makes sense. But also from a data perspective, you know, we're seeing the results come out now that a four-day work week is so much better, you know, for balancing your life, for mental health, for your community for so many things, right. We really subscribe to the belief that like, you're not put on this earth to work. Right? You're put on this earth to live.


So yeah, the four-day work week piece has been really amazing and I think from a startup business perspective, you know something that we have gotten a little bit of pushback just from people who, you know, kind of maintain the mindset, that to be running a startup, you should be grinding 90 hours a week and, you know, sleeping two hours a day, whatever that math is. And we frankly just think that that's bullshit, right? There's… growth for growth's sake is not a good, you know, mindset to subscribe to. And, you know, really building a balanced sort of workforce who, you know, loves what they do, but also lives their life is much more.


Naomi: We're both very inspired by Let My People Go Surfing.


Mikayla: Yes, absolutely.


Naomi: Must read book.


Lisa: I was talking to one of my friends last night about the phrase, “If you're not growing, you're dying.” That's like a traditional capitalist kind of mindset. And I was like, I just don't ascribe to that. And so how do you kind of, like, balance your ideas for future products and kind of this growth mindset that's so healthy with the actual tactical growing of a business? That's a very hard question.


Mikayla: [laughs] I think, I mean, yes, like philosophically, I think what Naomi and I are aligned on is really… exactly. We share your sentiments towards that statement. You know, there's a lot of important work that can happen when you're resting and when you're relaxing. And I even shudder to call it work, you know, there's, there's so much value in resting and, you know, in all the states between dying and growing, and we really thought that that's an important space to make for ourselves and for our team and our employees. You know, I've been thinking a lot about that this spring, actually in general, right. In the spring time, end of winter, it looks like everything's dead or dying, but there's so much activity that's happening in the soil or, you know, replenishing different processes, you know, plants and trees and species are getting ready to flourish in the summer. And you know, without that moment of winter and spring, you would never get to summer and it's equally as important in the entire season as anything else.


So, you know, really giving kind of credence to just the patterns of life that we live is going to be important for growth anyways. So that's something I think that we're philosophically aligned on and, you know, Naomi and I have also thought a lot about how are we going to run the business from, you know, an operator perspective, right? The idea is not that we will have to be part of every decision, part of every growth plan. The idea is to create a team of people, you know, who we can divide and kind of redistribute different kinds of tasks and it's components of the business to. Right? So we can take moments to step away. Naomi could go away for a month.


I could go away for a month, our team can go away for a month. Right? There's, you know, enough people playing in our entire ecosystem that we can sort of balance different elements of growth. So it's not all concentrated in, you know, insane moments of capitalism. [laughs]


Naomi: Yeah. That's perfectly said. And I, I think something that, you know, honestly, we do need - or at least I need - re encouraging and reminders of too, ‘cause it is very easy, um, operationally to slip into that mindset of like, “okay, now we’ve got to get this done. Now we gotta get this done” and let some of those values and thoughts around rest and taking time away. It does get challenging sometimes to remember to preserve that. So I think that's also where having two of us is helpful. You know, we're both kind of there to, you know, remind each other, you know, it is okay to step away. It is okay to take a break. It is okay to reset and I think that's been, you know, very valuable as well.


Mikayla: Yeah. And I think, you know, tactically, like from a business perspective, we really think about what our goals are for the year and work back from that. It's really easy as Naomi said to kind of get stuck in, you know, the operational loop and saying yes to everything, but really finding clarity on, okay, what are our main goals for the year? And then what do we need to do to, you know, bring those to fruition is a really powerful way to stay on track and you can sacrifice a lot of other noise in pursuit of those particular goals.


Lisa: Ooh, what is, what's an example of that?


Mikayla: Hmm, great question. I think maybe like a product is a good example of that, you know, having specific goals around product launches for the year. You know, we always have goals about how many products we want to launch and what categories we want to expand into, and it's quite easy to get, you know, taken sort of off of that track, whether it's with new products that could be, you know, reactive to things or trends we're seeing in the market or, you know, feedback from our community on something they did or didn't like.


So, you know, really having that process in place to enact our goals, to take those things into consideration has been really helpful. But also honestly, in adjusting our goals, which kind of goes against what I just said, but, you know, making sure that we're always kind of checking in on those different components.


Lisa: That seems healthy, like that feels balanced and still progressive.


Mikayla: Sometimes it is. We try to do it. But definitely sometimes we do get swept up and are like, “oh my gosh, how did we get here?” We've got a thousand things on our to do list. B ut yes, philosophically, we definitely try to… right, like, it's so easy to say yes to everything, especially when you're like excited and looking forward to what you're growing. And like, if you love what you do. So it is important to, you know, have some sort of goalposts in your vision.


Lisa: Love that. And, I guess, what's coming up in your spring launch? You have some products coming out in May.


Mikayla: Oh, my goodness. We are so excited for this spring launch. So up until this point, we've had about seven products and our philosophy has really been around designing sort of that capsule collection, like a piece that every woman would need to enjoy the outdoors. So, you know, we have a raincoat and shorts and a dress and, you know, tops and stuff. So kind of that like full wardrobe. But what we really, really heard from our community was that they want us to do more bottoms, more shorts, more pants, and really start playing into kind of more of the dress and skort area.


So we're really excited that we're launching two new pairs of shorts this year. We're launching a new Get Dirty Dress and a skort. And what's most exciting about those pieces is that they'll be waterproof. So they'll be able to join you on sort of outdoor water adventures, which, you know, our community is really enjoying, we're hearing. And you know, one cool element about our product design process that we've mentioned is we ask our community, what colors do you want? Like, what colors do you want to see these pieces in? So we've got some really beautiful shades coming out. They're always what we don't expect. You think everyone's going to say black. Nope, our community loves green, obsessed with green. So we've got some just gorgeous new colorways, like rich purples and blues and banana yellows and greens that are going to exist across our entire collection. So. Really, really excited to be bringing this to life.


Naomi: Yeah, it's funny. We didn't even really realize this until we checked back at all of the names of our different colors, but we looked back and realized that more often than not, we name our colors based on food. And I think that really speaks to Mikayla and I. There's always a snack somewhere around whenever we're doing any work. [laughs]


So we've got banana, we've got eggplant, all that fun stuff.


Mikayla: Merlot for the beverage, yeah. [laughs]


Lisa: Cool. Is there anything I haven't asked you that you think our outdoor community would like to know?


Naomi: I think just, from the entrepreneurial side of things, I think, you know, the outdoor industry really does need some more diverse founders, whether that's women, whether that's different ethnicities, different perspectives. I think, you know, the outdoor industry is really, you know, begging for some diverse perspectives and we know very well from our own beginnings that it can be a little bit terrifying and a lot of, you know, different questions to get started. But I think, you know, if you have an idea, if you have something in mind that you think would be great for the market to kind of just get out there and get going and get started. As soon as you get started, everything starts to click into place, or at least be chaotically around you as you're figuring out one thing after the next.


And, you know, I, I know I speak for Mikayla here when we say that we've had such an amazing time just reaching out to different people in the industry to kind of pick their brains or talk to them about, you know, their expertise in a specific area or ask questions. And we're always, you know, interested in paying it forward and continuing to share the knowledge.


So I think, you know, if anyone out there is thinking of an idea and looking for that extra push, here's your extra push, go do it.


Mikayla: There you go. And reach out to us. And, you know, I think also, one thing that we like to talk about is, you know, ways, you know, we can all kind of promote inclusivity in the outdoor industry as well, you know, from a size inclusivity perspective. I believe it was Sam Ortiz from Big Girls Climb and Jenny Bruso of Unlikely Hikers, you know, who really recommended, you know, some simple things that we can all do to make sure that different activity providers and clothing brands are being inclusive from a size perspective.


So, you know, if you're going kayaking, say, you know, call up your kayaking provider and just kind of say, you know, “what sizes do you service in your business?” If you're going rock climbing, you know, make a call before you go and say, “Hey, like what harnesses do you have in stock?” If they only go up to extra large, say, like, “why is that? Maybe we'll go someplace else.” And, you know, similarly, looking at the different brands that you support, who's in leadership? Who runs that company? Who's in those C-suite positions? Who’s making decisions about what kind of products are being created and, you know, kind of empower yourself to make decisions based on what you find there. So there's many, many other ways. There's lots of great resources out there, but those are a few kind of just simple tips for, you know, ways that we can all really try to promote some great inclusivity.


Lisa: Amazing. Well, thank you so much for your time today. And my last question is where can people follow you?


Mikayla: Yes, you can follow us on Instagram at @alderapparel, we’re newly on TikTok, forgive us as we try to navigate that environment. And you can reach us on our website www.alderapparel.com.



[music]



Iris: Thank you so much for tuning in to Outside by Design. Alder has provided a special promo code for listeners: 15% off their site with the code OutbyDesign15. Please use it and get yourself some amazing outdoor clothing!


This show is produced by WHEELIE - a creative agency that specializes in helping brands articulate & amplify how they use business for positive impact in the world. You can find us at our website, wheeliecreative.com.


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With that, I'm Iris. Thanks for being here!


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