February 1, 2012

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Best in Show

Dianne Lewis

February 1, 2012

Twice a year, thousands of businesses converge on Salt Lake City for the Outdoor Retailer Show.

            The focus may be the same for every company, but the goals and the process are not. For locally based companies, the goal for the show could be anything from better brand recognition to meeting with retailers to launching a new product.

            Getting ready for the winter show, the largest industry gathering in North America, is a months-long process. Businesses work hard to meet deadlines and have information ready to sell their products. Three Utah companies and one nonprofit explain what it takes to get ready for a show that can drive sales for the next six to 12 months.


Getting Started

Kim Sorensen never thought her husband’s diet would launch a successful business, but that’s exactly what happened. After shaking up a protein drink and still finding lumps of the mix, Steve Sorensen stopped by a store to get some wire and come home to create the BlenderBottle.

            Seven years later, the company is launching its new product, the BlenderBottle SportMixer, an alternative to the classic model that’s aimed at the outdoor market. This winter was the company’s first time at Outdoor Retailer.

            Having a new product to launch makes getting ready both easier and harder, says Sorensen, BlenderBottle co-founder and COO. “It was a massive amount of work to be working on both concurrently,” she says. “On the other hand, it makes for an exciting show. It’s just a lot more fun when you’re launching a new product. Generating interest, obviously, is a lot easier when you have a new product.”

            For Dean Cummings, CEO of newly formed H2O Outdoor Gear, seemingly simple tasks like booth placement and public relations start six months before the show. Getting the samples ready to present to interested manufacturers is a solid year’s worth of work.

            Not everyone has the same amount of effort going into the run-up. For example, Gear to Grow, a Midvale-based nonprofit, didn’t have as much prep work as other organizations, says J.T. Von Lunen, co-founder of Gear to Grow. Gear to Grow collects donations from outdoor companies of samples, returns, overstock and other gear and distributes them by need and use to 80 nonprofits around the country.

            Because the company doesn’t have to prepare a product, Von Lunen says public relations is the main concern. He wants as many companies as possible to know about the group and hopefully bring items to donate.


Starting Small

Name recognition is getting better for Gear to Grow, but is still not as high as he’d like, Von Lunen says, so he uses the OR Show as an opportunity to make as many connections as possible.

            “For the last five shows, summer and winter, I’ve probably walked and met everybody at every booth and passed out my card… That is really the benefit of coming to this show. Everybody that’s in the industry is here and over time you make those connections,” he says.

            For Cummings, being a small business has a big advantage. He likes not having the same expectations large companies do. Instead he is creating his own standards.

            “We can just focus on quality. That’s our main thing. The beauty of it is we’re in a position where we can focus on building our brand behind top-quality products. And that’s really nice,” he says.

            Matt Maxfield says being a small, local business is a double-edged sword. Maxfield, director of operations and development for Ogden-based Klymit, says Utah companies will do one of two things when they hear Klymit is local: they either see it as a benefit or they dismiss the company as being “just” local or too small.


High Hopes

Companies put a lot of work into the show and hope they can achieve their goal in the end. Barry Conger, with Klymit public relations, says the goal differs depending on who is asked. The CEO would say it’s getting dealers; Conger says his goal is media coverage to get better brand recognition.

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