First up, please tell us who you are and what you do.
Hi! My name is Rene Gauthier. I’m father to my son Hiro and to a company called ecologyst. I’m also my wife’s biggest cheerleader as she builds a vegan seafood company called: Save Da Sea. I also love doing anything outside - surfing, hiking, skiing, et cetera.
What is ecologyst’s vision?
To build the clothing brand that mother nature would want us to have. In other words, we intend to build and continually evolve the most sustainable clothing brand this planet has ever seen.
Where did you get the idea to start the company from?
I started a company called Sitka in 2002. We were a West Coast sustainable outdoor brand. Or at least this is what we portrayed ourselves as. In reality, we followed the same supply chain model as the majority of brands. We made our goods 10,000km away from where we sold them, we overproduced in order to hit factory minimums and much of our clothing was made of plastic fibres (nylon, polyester, lycra…).
In 2014, we chose to align our business with our core values. We started by completely rejigging our supply chain and created some firm lines in the sand for ourselves:
Only small run productions, to ensure we meet actual demand
Build the highest quality possible and back our goods with a lifetime guarantee
Use only natural fibres that can biodegrade at end of their useful life
Make our goods as close to home as possible
As well as clothing, ecologyst is also branching out into film and media. Please tell us a bit about the connection between the two.
Where to begin. Firstly, part of our mission is to help people find their connection to nature. So we create content that inspires people to get outside and the clothing they need while outside.
Next, our story has plenty of depth and part of our role is educating others on the impact their purchasing decisions have. We’ve found film to be the most effective medium to tell our story and the stories of those in our community digitally.
Seth Godin is often quoted as saying “content marketing is the only marketing left.” We couldn’t agree more. Our customers and those that we hope to be our customers are impervious to traditional forms of advertising. So we focus our marketing efforts into high quality and authentic content.
Now, when competing for eyeballs in the realm of content marketing, you realize that you’re no longer competing with other clothing brands. You’re actually competing with other media companies. Knowing you have to create content at that level means you’re creating content at a level that can be monetized.
And voila, there’s a little of the thought behind this business move.
How important is community to your business?
They are how we exist. Without the people that demand and support what we create there would be no ecologyst.
How have you built up and developed the ecologyst community over the years?
Listening. Our real superpower is our ability to listen to our community and provide them what they are asking for from us.
This is your second campaign on FrontFundr. Why did you choose crowdfunding?
Each quarter we send out an investor update. This update used to go to a handful of peeps. In January of 2019, we started thinking about how much effort was going into this update and our desire to increase transparency with our customers. So, we decided to test sending it to our entire email list.
We had great feedback from this test and one of most common replies was: “Can I be an investor too?”. This spurred us on to seek ways for us to enable our customers to also become owners of our business. So like so much of what we do, we chose this route of financing because our customers asked for it.
How have things changed since your last campaign?
Firstly, I couldn’t be more proud of the team for accomplishing all the growth goals we set out in our plan last year. We executed a name change, opened a new flagship store in Whistler, BC, launched a new site with ecologyst.com and brought several new products to life.
And then COVID hit and we needed to adjust things quickly. Our team consolidated all our resources into the e-commerce side of our business and we saw great results from this. Over the last quarter our e-commerce channel has been doing 3x what it was doing the year before. We then stripped out all future plans of opening new stores and won’t revisit that until after a vaccine has been found.
What plans do you have for ecologyst once you complete this campaign?
We have 4 main growth goals. First is to expand the capacity of our own factory so that as we can scale we can maintain at least 30% of our production in-house. 2nd, we’ll be leaning into the marketing of our e-commerce business to further accelerate the growth there. Last year we did 450k in sales online with a marketing spend of 60k. We’re going to push that marketing spend to 200k and expect to surpass 1M in e-commerce sales this year. 3rd, and similar to last year, we have a set of new products we’ll be developing. Most of the new products on our road map are in the outerwear category. Lastly, we’ll be continuing to build out the film production side of our business.
What do you like to do when you’re not at work?
I love hanging with my family and ideally we’re doing something together outside. Surf has been top of my outdoor activity list but I’m not picky. I can get the same feeling from a simple forest walk.
Canada is the land of the outdoors, ecologyst a brand designed for enjoying it. Where’s your favourite place to combine the two, and why?
That’s top secret information. ;)
ecologyst’s campaign is now live on FrontFundr. Head over to their campaign page for more information on how you can get involved!