From the Inaugural issue of Women Who Rock the Rockies in 2015.
by Aaron Imber
It’s easy to feel hopeless in our current economy. It seems like there are more PHD waitresses than ever. Yet the outdoor industry has a habit of fostering pockets of innovation and success.
Icelantic, a ski brand produced right here in Denver Colorado, is a shining example. Icelantic managed to develop a sustainable brand during hard times through innovation, artistry, self-reflection, and friendship. They don’t listen to the naysayers.
I spoke with Icelantic’s CEO, Annelise Loevlie to ask her about her experience with schooling, success, and the industry. Annelise has known Icelantic’s founder, Ben Anderson, since they were 10 years old. She’s been with the company since its start in 2005.
The main impression I took away from the conversation was Annelise’s honest and open attitude. She proves that even in a down economy, adaptability, hard work, and a willing spirit can still go a long way.
MT: How do you feel about (secondary) schooling? How did school (college) affect your life?
AL: Well it’s interesting because, you know Ben, my business partner, only went to a year and a half of school. My dad didn’t ever go to school, and I have a bunch of friends who are in the same situation.
I think school’s really good for some people, especially if you don’t know exactly what you’re going to do. I think it’s a nice exposure to all sorts of different things. And it’s an amazing social opportunity to meet people. And I mean especially going into the outdoor industry and snowsports industry, UVM, where I went to school, is like a mecca for people in the snowsports industry. But that was not my plan. It just happened to be that tons of people in our industry went to UVM.
But no, I don’t think it’s for everyone, that’s my short answer. I definitely think that it’s changing a lot.
MT: At what moment in your career, have you felt most successful?
AL: I have little moments all the time, I would say right now, because we’re going through some major transitions at the business just to make it more sustainable. But I’ve had a lot of little successes where I’m realizing how much I’ve learned over the years in terms of business, and systems thinking, and stuff like that.
MT: What is Icelantic doing to move towards sustainability?
AL: All of our wood is sustainably harvested. So every single tree that we cut down for the cores in our skis is sustainably harvested and grown. Obviously all of our skis are made in Colorado. And we ship all of our skis out of Never Summer too. So our transportation footprint is more minimal in terms of environmental sustainability.
All of our clothes are also made in the states. All of our soft goods are made in Chicago at a place called Stock Manufacturing, who shares the same values we do. Then all of our hats are made at Knickerbocker in Brooklyn, New York, which is a similar company too.
But then there’s a lot to do with financial sustainability and social sustainability that I’m working on right now. Because this industry is really tough to break into if you’re a small company, and overall its just… it’s broken. You know it’s an old industry doing things the same way that they’ve been done for fifty, sixty years. Which are now not very sustainable, it just doesn’t make sense you know, like companies are selling their products below cost, overproduction and over saturation of product into the market. It’s just really unhealthy. I could get into that for three days.
Some of the things were doing in terms of financial sustainability to contribute to the overall sustainability of the industry are producing to demand, not overproducing, and not selling our product out at closeouts, working with supply partners and shops that understand our values and appreciate them.
I think there is a lot involved in the word sustainability.
MT: What’s going to happen to retail?
AL: I sit on the board for SIA (Snowsports Industry of America) so that’s always a topic. I think that basic Darwinian evolution is going to happen. The strong will survive and the weak will die. Honestly that’s already what’s happening because retail is evolving and it’s becoming modern, if you look at Evo.com or Backountry.com some of these online retailers that are just kind of killing it, even Amazon.
So I think that specialty retailers are either going to adapt or die, but its interesting with skis, and hard goods, and boots, and backpacks. You have to fit those. People either have to come in and get them serviced, or get them fit. So I do think the retailers that stick around, and are smart, and adapt are going to become more service oriented.
And then I think that these new modern retailers will continue to succeed.
MT: I like to steal this one from Tim Ferris. What does the first hour of your day look like?
AL: I always drink a huge glass of warm lemon water. Then I take my new puppy out, take him walking, and we walk around, and we check out trees, and the weather. Then I do my morning exercises, make a smoothie, and I try to always read something. I really cherish my morning. It’s my favorite part of the day.
Aaron Imber is editor-in-chief for MagpieGearReview.com where you can check out a longer interview with Annelise Loevlie.
Photo Credits: Ian Forman
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