Every year at Outdoor Retailer, I write a story about the people behind our favorite gear. (Last year, I interviewed the owners of small companies with innovative product ideas.) This season, I focused on the women who design, own, and run some of my favorite brands. Here are six of many whom you should know.
Nicole Bassett: Co-Founder, The Renewal Workshop
Nicole Basset spent 12 years helping companies like Patagonia and Prana become more environmentally and socially responsible before going on her own to found The Renewal Workshop. The company takes unsellable returns and excess clothing inventory from outdoor brands and retailers, washes and repairs the kit in a factory in Cascade Locks, Oregon, and then sells everything directly to consumers. The process greatly extends the life of jackets, shirts, pants, and other items that otherwise would add to the clutter in local landfills.
Andrea Shresta: Co-Founder, Luminaid
Andrea Shresta and Luminaid co-founder Anna Stork were graduate students at Columbia’s architecture school when the Haiti earthquake hit in 2010. “Like everyone else, we were watching the news and feeling really helpless. We asked ourselves, ‘What can we as designers really do to help people who are suffering after such an enormous disaster?’” The answer they came up with? Small inflatable solar lights to replace toxic kerosene lanterns and fire-causing candles. To date, they’ve distributed approximately 25,000 lights in Haiti and 50 other countries.
Allyson Leang: Founder, The Ski Lab
If you want to build your own skis but don’t know where to start, hit up Allison Leang. She founded the The Ski Lab, a company that ships you all the raw materials you need to build a set of planks, and then, online or over the phone, walks you through the process of crafting the perfect pair. Leang has built her own skis since 2004 and makes the process approachable and easier than you might imagine.
Kelly Watters: Co-Founder, Western Rise
Kelly Watters knows how to get after it. She was a ski guide in Vail and is an avid fly-fisher. To make kit she could wear during all her pursuits—up on the hill, down in the river, but also out for beer—she and her husband founded Western Rise, now based in Telluride, Colorado. The company designs plenty of men’s clothing and focuses on women’s gear that’s functional and forward-thinking.
Haley Robison: CEO, Kammok
I love Kammok’s hammocks and other products. Haley Robison is a big part of why they’re so good. This 30-year-old Texan (the company is based in Austin) has a background in outdoor education, plus an MBA from Stanford. She’s helped Kammok create a strong balance between product development and business savvy. “I feel like we are on the brink of something really big,” says Robison.
Cheri Sanguinetti: Apparel Director, Cotopaxi
Cheri Sanguinetti grew up on a farm in Linden, California, before moving to San Francisco to study industrial design, product design, and development. “I was influenced by my mom at a young age because she is a fashionista, but also by my dad, being a fourth-generation farmer, also salt of the earth. I had this good mix,” Sanguinetti says. In 2013, after working for companies like Dakine for nine years, she took her no-nonsense-meets-fashion vision to Cotopaxi. The result? Sanguinetti has created a whole line of playful, ethically sourced, and highly functional products.