True to form, Give’r has a new product, the Frontier Mittens, and it’s starting a Kickstarter. But the path from idea to crowdfunding can be as trying as bushwhacking through an overgrown forest trail.
“Our first mitten prototype was five years ago,” co-founder Bubba Albrecht said. “We’ve put a lot of energy in the last two years. This is the sixth version of the prototype.”
Albrecht said development of the mittens started with a “duct tape and Super Glue” version that allowed him and the product designers to hone the shape and style. Once they identified the basic profile, they set to work thrashing each version to test performance.
For instance, Albrecht might have taken an early prototype ice fishing, dipping the mittens into the water to see if water infiltrated them or his fingers froze.
“That’s one of the best parts of living where we do,” Albrecht said. “Testing prototypes you get a feel for what works well and what doesn’t.”
Albrecht and the Give’r team settled on a construction that is similar to the company’s 4-Season Gloves, which have four layers of materials. The new mittens will have insulation, a heatshield layer (akin to a space blanket), a waterproof membrane and a leather outer layer. Pictures on the company’s website show the new mittens aim to meet the same warmth and waterproofing standards as the 4-Season Gloves.
Give’r has a consistent strategy when developing new products. Unlike companies that fall under a more traditional model — saving money or finding investors to cover the costs of research and development — Give’r relies on customers to fund the production of new products.
Though crowdfunding is not a common strategy, it has helped some outdoor companies grow their product lines by using existing customers.
“Automatically, you have a pre-established community,” Lloyd Vogel of Garage Grown Gear, a company that supports outdoor gear producers, previously told the News&Guide. “If you are able to figure out what the formula is and who to connect with before you launch, it’s a no-brainer to return to it.”
Just as Give’r is launching its first mittens, its gloves are finding their way into new stores across the nation. The company has teamed up with REI, one of the country’s biggest outdoor equipment retailers.
Albrecht said roughly 15 REI stores are carrying the 4-Season Gloves and the Classic Gloves. You might not be able to find them in Phoenix, but the gloves are on racks in cold-weather places from Minnesota to Alaska.
“They’ve done a great job of baby-stepping the rollout,” Albrecht said.
Since the mittens are just coming out this winter, they won’t be on shelves at REI. Instead they will be found through Kickstarter at first. The crowdfunding campaign will start Oct. 8 at Give-r.com/mittens. Albrecht said the company wants 500 to 800 backers and hopes to distribute the mittens before winter kicks into high gear.
Those who sign up on the first day will receive 40% off the eventual list price. There will be a limited quantity at that rate, then other tiers will have lower discounts, though Customer Relations Director Graham Trainor said the prices weren’t set as of Monday.
Being able to initiate a Kickstarter, Albrecht said, means the gloves have been thoroughly roughed up and are ready for retail.
“We do go to an extreme sometimes,” he said. “I wouldn’t dunk my hands into an ice fishing hole repeatedly, but we do that test to that extreme so customers are confident.”