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Slow and Steady Growth: A Fireside Chat with Scott Robinson of First Lite

The Ketchum Innovation Center would like to thank Scott Robinson of First Lite for being our very first Fireside Chat guest. What a great event!

We are working on improving our audio and video quality, but we hope the quality of the CONTENT you’ll hear in this fireside chat overcomes some of our obstacles in terms of the technical audio/video.

For example, here are a few of the lessons Scott shares in this talk:
*Be patient (maybe not give up your daytime job in your first years as an entrepreneur)
*Create a multi-faceted team (with an emphasis on the finance side of the equation)
*Get feedback from the market as soon as you know if you have a viable product

On success:
*staying true to a niche (not trying to be everything to everyone)
*staying true a brand (authenticity)
*networking (go through your “rolodex” and look for gems
*figuring out the distribution channel (direct to consumer vs. going through retail;  they are now focusing on going direct to consumer)

On failures/lessons:

*being careful not to listen to others that say “you should go into this product/market”

Watch the talk (bear with the audio– we did our best to fix it, but we are learning ourselves as video entrepreneurs):

The theme of this talk is “Slow and steady growth”.  There are other lessons in terms of outsourcing what you don’t have in your own talent roster, getting strong on the financials early on, and staying lean.

More about Scott Robinson:  Scott has a background as a CPA and auditor for Ernst & Young as well as providing financial management and planning to small businesses and their owners for over 10 years. For the past 10 years, Scott has worked in corporate management in the areas of finance, operations, sales, strategic planning and general management. He now runs First Lite with his partner, Kenton Carruth.

About First Lite:  First Lite strives to provide the best possible apparel for the hunter who demands nothing less. We design simple products that work for the tree stand on the back forty or a nine-day expedition in the Brooks Range. We also fully understand that the passion of our customers and employees depends on the conservation of the world’s wildlife resources and the protection of our collective access to the wild places they inhabit. Therefore, First Lite is about more than simply producing awesome gear. Supporting the people and groups who protect our sporting heritage is an equally important part of who we are as an organization and a group of folks who love to hunt.

First Lite was conceived by Kenton Carruth and Scott Robinson who had long lived in Central Idaho and worked in the winter sports industry. As merino began to emerge as a premier fabric for skiing, biking and climbing, Kenton and Scott began to try wool garments on their fall hunts. The fabric kept them warm in the cold mornings, cool as the day heated up and, amazingly, kept them completely odor-free day after day. Soon Scott and Kenton were wearing merino from September to January, bow season to the end of waterfowl. However, the bright color’s preferred for other sports were less than ideal for hunting. The two longed for merino in effective camouflage, so that they could remain concealed even as they took off and put on layers across the widely varying condition of Idaho’s mountains and rivers. First Lite was born from this dilemma.

As the company grew, Scott and Kenton again drew on their background in the wider outdoors industry in order to design effective synthetic outerwear. After extensive R&D, they settled on partnering with 37.5 by Cocona. The fabric company produces a truly game changing technology that breathes better than anything on the market and also provides unparalleled protection from the elements. Additionally, 37.5 is no stranger to apparel brands and also works with notable company’s such as Adidas, Carhartt, Rabb, Billabong and Salomon. With the addition of outwear that could be put up against any in the wider outdoor industry, First Lite began producing a complete system for sportsmen who demanded the highest quality apparel for the most extreme conditions.

Why First Lite chose the Sun Valley Region as it’s headquarters: It’s hard to imagine a better place for a sportsman to live. From the backside of HQ, we often glass elk and mule deer on the south slopes above town. Employees can be into elk, pronghorn, deer, black bear and grouse minutes from the office and after work hunts in the fall are the norm. Just a bit to the south in the Snake River Plain ducks, geese and a multitude of upland birds species can be hunted on public land. Trout fishing is another big draw to the region. The Bigwood River is less than a mile from the office and the Big Lost and Salmon Rivers as well as the world-famous Silver Creek are a short drive away. In addition to fishing and hunting, First Lite’s staff takes full advantage of the area’s outdoors opportunities, skiing, hiking, trail running and mountain biking as much as possible during the off season (and often during lunch breaks).

From First Lite’s Website

Corporate Culture: We are hunters first, businesspeople second. This isn’t to say we don’t take our company seriously. Rather we constantly integrate our passion into the product we create. First Lite strives to be a fully authentic brand. In the fall, employees are encouraged to take off to go hunting. Indeed, sometimes the office seems a bit empty during the season. But we think of this as more than skipping out on work to chase elk; it is a calculated business decision. We believe that you cannot fake the real thing. The lifestyles of our employees infuse every aspect of our company, from product design to social media marketing. Thus in order to be an authentic hunting lifestyle brand, it is absolutely critical that our employees get out and hunt. A lot. Most get upwards of 40 days in each year and that’s the way it should be.

This commitment is also reflected in our physical workspace. In addition to the desks and computers of the main floor, FLHQ features an arrow fletching and bullet reloading bench, a partial mechanic garage, a fully stocked bar, four game freezers, two crowded gun safes and a shoulder mount of a particularly large chamois Scott shot last spring in New Zealand. Hunting rifles and motorbikes are often being tinkered with downstairs and our gear room is filled with waders, skis, packs, mountain bikes, decoys, a small duck boat and at least one of Kenton’s surfboards. As most employees have a dog (or three), it is rare for there to be less than five canines in the office on any given day. Though to some FLHQ might seem a bit unconventional, we couldn’t imagine an office set up any other way.

Given this setting and lifestyle, we are always happy to talk hunting with folks. If you’re in Ketchum, come by and say howdy. And don’t hesitate to call our office with your questions about our gear, guns or game. You can also check out our employee’s monthly layering guides to see what we’re wearing in the field.


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