Tae Kim grew up in Anchorage, Alaska, where, he says, “your crazy uncle teaches you how to go camping.” (His crazy uncle really did teach him how to go camping.) But in the lower 48, he found the concept of “the outdoors” much less accessible to people. Looking at most outdoor gear company offerings, you’d think the only way to go outside is to go huck a cliff, or climb a mountain, to take on a major expedition.
After a six-year stint as design director at The North Face, Kim co-founded Alite Designs in 2008. Specializing in packs, tents and camping accessories, San Francisco-based Alite targets young, hip, urban consumers who want to spend more time outside but don’t really know how to get out there.
“Tents are a huge hurdle for people to go out and buy,” he says, and what’s the point in buying a tent if you’re not sure you’ll use it more than once? “Our whole mission is to get people outside, especially young people. We want to make sure they’re not scared or inadequately equipped. A lot of these people grew up in suburbia and moved to the city and never really spent time outside,” he says.