Ash Aslam: What was the motivation for the crew behind creating Stio?
Stephen Sullivan: I realized that brands in the outdoor market fell into one of two camps: either super technical or super lifestyle focused and I knew we could do both. I felt that there was an unmet need in the market for a brand that truly addressed the totality of the mountain lifestyle from the backcountry epic to the everyday, and since we live that lifestyle every day, that we could address it. After a long run with the first brand I created, I also realized that I wanted to focus purely on the consumer, hence our direct-to-consumer brand. This new model and challenge was super appealing to me.
AA: What do you find separates you from the competitors in your industry and who do you see as your competition?
SS: I think we separate ourselves by just being ourselves and simply trying to engage our customers in our mountain lifestyle, and that true form of authenticity is really resonating. We also have made a focus of building unique lifestyle apparel out of technical fabrications, so clothing you can wear every day that really performs in the mountain world. We also have a very unique position as a purely direct-to-consumer brand in the outdoor market.
That being said, we face major competition in a robust, highly distributed market, as we compete against both the technical brands and the lifestyle brands. The usual suspects like outdoor heavyweights, Patagonia and Arcteryx, are key competitors, but we also look at direct-to-consumer brands such as Aether and Outlier.
AA: What is your favorite current product and what made everyone so passionate about it?
SS: I’m lucky to get to wear all of our clothes, but I’m currently in love our Skycrest Snap Shirt and my wife is obsessed with our Sweetwater Hoodie. Both pieces just absolutely resonate the technical-meets-mountain lifestyle vibe that we are all about. I’m also nuts about our new Shot 7 Jacket, which I tested all last winter and can’t wait to get out skiing in that again.
AA: Who is your perfect customer?
SS: Men, Women and Kids who enjoy the outdoors/mountains, care about having an active and healthy lifestyle, and love outdoor apparel! We obviously pay attention to our consumer demographics and with a somewhat aging industry, have been happily surprised at the younger demographics we are building—the next generation of outdoors lovers.
AA: What are the next big products that Stio is focusing on?
SS: We have a bunch of product development in the hopper. The next big thing for us after an initial soft launch this holiday is a new bag/pack program we are working on—super clean, highly functional, really cool program…all coming soon!
AA: Where is the next city that Stio wants to create a major presence?
SS: I love San Francisco and California in general and we came very close to opening Stio Mountain Studio #2 there but just couldn’t find the right real estate. We are still looking in San Francisco as well as several other major cities and some larger “mountain town” type locations.
AA: What is the best way to learn about new Stio products?
SS: Visit our Stio Mountain Studios in Jackson or Chicago, go to our website www.stio.com, or sign up for our catalog mailing list.
AA: If you could partner with any existing outdoor brand, what it would it be and why?
SS: I am friends with the owners/founders of Big Agnes, an outdoor tent and sleeping bag company, and I’d love to do something with them. I also love the new mountain bike apparel brand Kitsbow and think it would be fun to do a co-lab of some sort with them.
AA: What are the team's favorite outdoor activities?
SS: Being based in Jackson, the team here are all skiers, riders, climbers, mountain bikers, SUPers, trail runners, kayakers, fly fishermen, road riders, and we love playing hockey at the Wilson rink. You name the outdoor activity and someone in our office is into it.
AA: Do you have some favorite trails or hikes in Jackson Hole?
SS: Super loaded question as there are so many, but I still love almost any trail, paddle, or climb in Grand Teton National Park, the place that was the inspiration for me moving to Jackson over 25 years ago. In particular, every time I hit the Lupine Meadows trailhead and hike into Garnet Canyon, I get that old pang of anticipation, of adventure and feel like I’m immersing myself in the mountains. I took my oldest son up the Middle Teton this summer and was overjoyed to watch him go through that experience. That’s what it is really all about—passing the daily adventure of the mountain lifestyle to the next generation.