Coup is one of the most down to earth people you'll ever meet. Without any hesitation, we reached out to Coup to talk to him over Skype and get the latest scoop. My Trail only started in early 2015 but they already have 36 styles of apparel in-store and on their website. They also just opened up a store on Boulder's famous Pearl Street to use as a store and distribution center. With learnings from his previous venture GoLite, Coup is doing all the right things this time.
Grab a cup of tea (or something else if it's late where you are). And let's chat with Coup at My Trail. You can jump around the questions using the timestamps in the description box on Youtube.
Read the full transcript of the interview below:
Can you introduce yourself and tell us what you do at My Trail?
Hi, my name's Demetri Coupounas. I founded My Trail, and I'm the CEO. I just go by Coup most of the time. I do a lot of almost everything, although, we've got a few great people that have joined us now. And so, I don't do everything anymore.
Take us back just briefly, for everybody who invested. Maybe give a short timeline of My Trail, the business, since it all got started?
My Trail started early in 2015. Back then, it was an idea, of course, like all businesses start, but it was a more concrete idea with a lot more flesh on the bones than a lot of typical startups. I had started with my family and ran a business called GoLite based here in Boulder, Colorado, since 1998. That was the global leader in light and ultralight outdoor gear. What My Trail is doing is taking the very best of the designs and the best of the performance of GoLite and, doing that, but mistakes that GoLite had made, we’re not going to do that.
We basically went up to all of our customers whose emails we had at that point, and said “Hey, we want to start this business, My Trail. We want to bring back your favorite products. We want to never do the products you didn't really care very much about. We want to open small stores, because our small stores made money at GoLite, and the larger stores didn't. What do you think?”
The response was really good. We had a lot of folks come in early on, and then we had other people say, "We're interested, but let's see some products first." Other people said, "Okay, well, we're interested, but let's wait till we actually see a website up and are selling." Other people wanted to see a store open up. Each stage, every 5-6 months, we've hit a major milestone, and then more and more people convert from being mildly interested to actually joining up and investing. And basically all of our 250+ investors are customers.
What's been happening with My Trail?
Early on, we started with just a business plan and all the products, all the product designs, and we told everybody, "Look, when we hit this first $200,000 milestone, we're gonna be able to bring in this set of equipment that sells well online only, and open up the web." We did that back in April-May of 2016. Then, a few months later, we were able to bring in down jackets for the fall of 2016. We added last year the four most popular down jackets and hooded jackets and parkas from GoLite, and that was the start of our apparel collection.
Now, we didn't have any spring apparel last year at all. When Wefunder started up and we could do Title III crowdfunding raises across state lines, we were very excited and got started with you guys right at the start.
The first wave of people that invested through Wefunder in our first round enabled us to bring in 18 styles this spring of spring-summer apparel. Trail running and hiking tops and bottoms, waterproof breathable Stormshells, tops and bottoms, terrific hyperlight and ultralight shirts and shorts. Now, we really have a full year-long line.
We had another raise with Wefunder, our second round. We were able to bring in enough capital to launch 14 styles of down jackets and parkas and hooded jackets, and that's for this fall. Our line, this year, in apparel, has gone from zero spring-summer styles to 18, and from four in the fall to 18. We really have a much, much better, full offering this year.
So, you've used this funding to fill out your inventory that was close to nothing, and now you have 36 apparel styles? Is that what I heard? Something for all the seasons?
Yep. Basically, every bit of investment goes straight into production. Then, the more that we bring in, the more terrific styles we can bring out. None of these are just somebody's idea of what people might want. These are all styles that GoLite had that are all updated and improved at the margins where we can, but we already know their sales history, we already know how they sell at various price points, we already know not only how many people are interested in them but, in many cases, their names and addresses and email addresses. So, we're really just mapping a store count and an inventory level and a group of styles against the demand that we have from customers, and a supply that we're able to bring out from both sales to customers, and investment from investors, and, again, those are largely overlapping groups of people.
How's the response been, so far? I mean, from customers that were GoLite fans, that are My Trail fans. Anecdotally, at least, how are people responding to the new brand and everything about it?
Well, most of it's good. When you're dealing with any large numbers, you get the full spectrum. There are people who love what we're doing. There are other people who don't know why we didn't bring out their favorite sweater first. We're not only not bringing that first one up, we're not bringing that up ever, because they didn't sell very well. Other people don't know why we wouldn't start with vests the very first season. We do have a couple of down vests coming out this fall, but vests sell about 10% the level that comparable jacket sells, so, you don't do them right at the start. Then, in response, the brand has been interesting, too. Some people really, really like the GoLite brand and, so, you know, "I don't like the My Trail brand as well." "You know, the GoLite brand was so great." It's really interesting for me, because I started GoLite, and so I saw the adoption all the way along and, frankly, some of the chatter that I hear now reminds me of 20 years ago. It's interesting, because I've heard all the same things about the GoLite brand back then. The brand really is what you make of it with the products and the experiences that people have with it. Now, other people are exactly the opposite. They really like the way the brand looks, sounds, feels. It's a very crisp, modern take on things. Some of that is just generational. You know, people that do GoLite for years and years and years were very attached to it, and lots of new customers that come across My Trail like it just the way that it is.
For those who don't know Boulder very well, can you talk about the new store, where it is, and what's going on?
Pearl Street is the heart of the walking mall shopping district in Boulder. When tourists come to Boulder, that's where they go. When your friends and family visit you in Boulder, that's where you take them. If you have a store on the Pearl Street walking mall, then people who come to Boulder once in their life will see you. People that come to Boulder once a year will see you. Everybody that lives in Boulder, or in the neighboring towns surrounding Boulder, like Longmont, where I am, they'll come see you two maybe three times a year, when they bring their out of town visitors, when they're down for the festival, when they drop by after the Bolder Boulder, or other various events. You're seeing them all, too.
If you have a terrific following in town and you open a store that has great, ample parking, you may see some of those most loyal customers a lot more often, maybe two or three times as much, but you'll never see the person that's visiting. That's why we're like, "Oh, that Boulder location." At GoLite, the number one store was the website, and the number two store in sales and profitability was the Boulder store on Pearl Street. We're just two blocks away from that one. We're at one end of the mall, where that was at the other end, and one of the stores is about 60% the size and it looks very similar. Some people have walked in and think that they're in the same store, because they both happen to have a big, brick, historical face on the right side as you walk in. For some people, it's a little deja vu, but it is a different space, it's smaller.
We use it as the headquarters and the distribution center, as well as the store right now, because everything that we sell fits nicely in the thousand square feet in the front. We have our website and our distribution center in the back, about 1025 square feet. Overtime, as the line grows and sales in Boulder grow, we'll move that back operation out to a more traditional, inexpensive distribution center a few miles away from the heart of Boulder on that walking mall.
Yeah, why not utilize the same space? So, what's next? I mean, you're raising a new round and you're continuing to expand, because it's going well. What are the plans for the future? How much do you need to fund it all?
We got a few important work strings going on all the time. There are lots and lots of customers who want the next wave of products. This season, we brought out a good number of our absolutely most popular products, but there's waves after that that are popular, too, just not as popular. People want those products.
The reason we haven't brought them out yet is a combination of allocating capital to its absolute highest use on the most popular things first, and also, there are minimums that you need to produce for a product. We don't make things one at a time; we make 800 and 1200 at a time of a style, typically. Some of the products that we sell, we sell quantities like that in just one store on Pearl Street and the website. Others take a higher number of stores. We know where the next most popular store locations would be for us, too. Up in Silverthorne, in Summit County, in the heart of Sea Country.
In three of the other front-running towns that were very strong for us: Denver, and Fort Collins, and Colorado Springs. Over the next year and a half, we want to open stores in those locations as we bring in the next waves of products. For instance, the 14 styles of down that we have this fall, we want to be selling that online and in our Pearl Street store, but also at another store, sometime this winter. Then, next year, as we bring in some of our ultralight Windshells, as we bring in six new packs, as we bring in Pyramid Shelters, and base layers, and Soft Shells, then all of that will benefit from a few more stores in the places in the front range, where it's most in demand.
Which products are selling best? Do you have anything you can show us? Or, tell us about some of the best-selling stuff?
First, anybody that wants to see the whole line ought to go to our website, Mytrailco.com.
There are shelters, packs and umbrellas that are great in the desert as well as for rain. There's also a full complement of apparel. The sales are very much balanced right across the whole product group, and that's expected. We made what we knew would sell and the proportions that it would sell, because we have the data set. We're not shooting in the dark here.
Overtime, that creates a good opportunity, as you bring in another round and another round of products you've sold through the previous rounds in fairly good proportions. The most popular products of all are a couple of shelters, packs, and down jackets. Just as an example, I'll grab a jacket that we're bringing out this coming year. This is a prototype of something that was called the Bitterroot at GoLite. It's 850 down, the very lightest fabrics that you can contain that down with, and it was a really popular item. It's those down jackets that really sell far and away the best in the fall.
They actually sell surprisingly well in the spring and the summer, too, because most people forget that most real mountaineering is done in the spring and summer. In the winter, it's usually too cold and too dangerous, and there's not enough light to make it fun to go to some of the places that people go in the spring and the summer.
Most brands don't sell a whole lot of down in the spring and summer, mainly because they're managing their floors and they're thinking like a very traditional business, and so they clearance those products and get rid of them. We think about it very differently. Our customer base is authentic. All of our men and women, older folks, younger folks, everybody in between, they really get out and use this stuff outdoors, and have fun with it. All year long, they're using down jackets, just in different environments. All year long, for that matter, they're using shorts and short-sleeved shirts. Some of the things that you go trail-running with in the summer, you wear in the gym right in the dead of winter. Let alone the fact that you can wear shorts around here much of the year.
Tell us about this investor base? How has your investor base been helping your business, and what’s been the interaction between My Trail and all these people that have invested in your success?
They help in a number of ways. First and most important, and most obvious and most direct, is the money. The money that these people invested is exactly what allowed us to produce all this product, and get up off the ground and get started selling. It's obvious, but it still needs to be stated up front. On top of that, we get a couple of real good benefits, besides, from the customer base. All the customers that invested, they have something to say now and then about the products that they'd like to see, how they'd like to see things run, where they'd like to see open up, where they don't want to see open up. Lots and lots of entrepreneurs can tell stories about people with all kinds of advice that makes no sense if you actually knew the details of what we face day to day. This base of investors actually knows what we're doing very, very well, because they were customers of GoLite beforehand. They understand very well what's gonna work, what's not gonna work, and so I get very insightful comments from them. I don't have those stories to tell that some other entrepreneurs tell about their investors driving them crazy. I love my investors, and every now and then, I get really good redirection and insight and tips from them, and we get to incorporate those fairly quickly. The other thing that they do is straight word of mouth. They buy a lot of product, themselves. They get 20% discounts everyday on already great prices as part of their investment, but they also spread the word a lot. They tell other people about us, and that's very, very helpful, too.
If you're talking to those investors that haven't been participating as much as others, or the whole group in general, what else can they do to just help My Trail be as successful as possible?
Even more spreading the word would be terrific, because early sales really have such a profound effect, long-term. Everything that goes right in these early seasons begins a growth path that opens up a wedge that just does so much long-term. Every friend that they can turn on, everybody they can send our way in these early seasons, that's so important. For instance, when it's holiday shopping time, we very much set up an environment that makes it very easy to do one stop holiday shopping at our place, and we encourage just about all of our investors to, for the most part, do that.
Obviously, you're gonna have special gifts for special people at certain phases of their lives that we can't take care of, but, people that are outdoorsy, which is virtually all of our investing customers, if you want to take care of a bunch of friends, it's the holidays, come and get them a fantastic $229 jacket that's only $119 everyday at our place, and with your discount, you're under $100. What we find is it works well for people, regardless of who they're getting the gifts for. Some of their friends think they love them twice as much as they do, and other friends know that their cool connection that's invested in a Boulder outdoor company, and it's all good.
If you were to tell them the best way to talk about My Trail, if you were to give your investors the best way to describe your business and why it's so different, what would you say?
We make light, high performance, authentic outdoor gear. We take great pride in making it affordable for people. This isn't an ego trip; we don't want to pose and say we have the finest, most technical things in the market, and we're proud of the fact that very few people can afford it. It's quite the opposite. We want to democratize the outdoors. We want to take the highest performance fabrics and other materials, put them together in terrific products. Then, we have this business model that sells it direct to people, and saves that huge margin that goes into retailer. Frankly, it's just the same model as the investment model, that we're raising capital directly from our customers to invest, and so we're able to deliver a whole lot more to people, so you get a great product at a great price. That's really the story.
Before we sign off, anything you want to say directly to investors?
Well, actually, more than anything, I want to say directly to you is, I thank Wefunder very much for being innovators and finding us. You've come along at just the right time for lots of companies. Us, included. You're enabling something for us. You're enabling people to invest from 49 other states, let alone outside the country, instead of just inside of Colorado, like we were before, and that's putting us together with an awful lot of our most passionate customers, and that's an invaluable service to us and to them. So, thank you.
What percentage of your investors are outside the Boulder/Denver area? Where are all these people?
Oh, yeah, I know where all of them are. Although, I don't have the exact figures memorized. There's about half in Colorado, there's about half outside of Colorado. Just a few that are outside the country. Those that are in Colorado are certainly concentrated in the greater Boulder area and the greater Denver area. Denver's where there is more people than anywhere else, and more money than anywhere else in Colorado. Boulder, of course, is our neighborhood and our backyard, but they're spread. The rest of the Coloradans are spread all over, not just the front range, but also the western slope, which is where the mountains are, and beyond the mountains.
Outside of Colorado, it's a wonderful, very broad mix. It's easy to think, okay, where do people think in terms of cutting edge and capital and outdoors? Oh, it must all be coming from California. Plenty of it is, but it's not just California. It's from a lot of good outdoor playgrounds throughout the west and the east and, as I said, some beyond our borders that are from the darnedest places. Some of it's really surprising.
Message to investors
I thank all of our investors very much. 360 investors and counting are what put us in business, and what built all the products that we have, and built the customer base that we have and allowed us to open a flagship on Pearl. I thank you all very much for getting us where we are now. We're very excited to take more steps each season as we go forward. Thank you.
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