Hey! Hi! First off, thanks for being here from the very start. That makes you an automatic SAOLA VIP for life…which we realize doesn’t mean much right now, but hopefully someday that title will give you major street cred.
It’s just about go-time, so we wanted to take this opportunity to fill you in on what’s happened over the last year, and where we are with the brand development. But first...
A little background
It was about a year and a half ago that SAOLA evolved from brand conception to holy-shit-we’re-doing-this status. The idea of SAOLA had been on Guillaume’s mind for some time. If you found yourself sharing a few too many drinks with him anytime between ‘13-‘15, you may already know this.
But in 2015, one of those blessing-in-disguise life events occurred, and he knew it was time to go for it. After ten years of calling Boulder, CO home, he left his job in the outdoor industry, packed up the family, and moved back to his native France to start the next chapter. Viva!
The early days
Come to find out, readjusting to life in a country you haven’t lived in for most of your adult life is really hard. Probably harder than starting a company. So maybe doing both at the same time was a bit ambitious (insert nervous laugh). Nonetheless, between all the moving and settling in, Guillaume started to build. Finalizing the concept, thinking through design and production options, and bringing together a small team – it started feeling real. It was also around this time he realized that there is literally no Mexican food in France, and he was now on his own for fish tacos and margaritas. Those were the darkest days.
Design + development
The design process has been a constant work in progress, and early lessons in adaptability were aplenty. Fortunately, we’re no strangers to plan B’s…Or C’s…okay or D’s. We’ve built our careers on backup plans. Researching materials and manufacturing partners has been either super exciting or extremely frustrating depending on which day you ask. But with every prototype we received back, we started getting closer to what we imagined. And sometimes, when we managed to forget that the well-being of our families depended on the success of this brand launch, it was even fun! No seriously, the design process has actually been super fun. Sure, there’s pressure, but who wouldn’t want to design their own shoes?! And we’re almost there. After nine months of R&D, we’ll be heading to the factory this month to (for the love of God hopefully) approve the final run!
The launch? Oh yeah…that little thing (gulp). The initial launch will be on Kickstarter this May. Mark your calendars with exclamation points, fireworks, and happy emojis to be one of the first to own a pair of sustainable kicks that kick back! More info to follow. Beyond that, SAOLAs will be available at retail and on our website in spring of next year.
Outdoor Sports Valley Incubator
Based in Annecy France, Outdoor Sports Valley (OSV) is the professional association for businesses in France’s outdoor industry. So when SAOLA was the first business accepted into their newly launched incubator last summer, it was like the first sign of industry approval, and a huge motivational boost. They like us! They really like us! Besides providing us with the assurance that we were on to something, SAOLA has received invaluable business development support like office space, financial and operational counsel, network introductions, and media exposure and will continue to receive support through SAOLA’s launch. Thank you OSV community!
To many start-ups in the retail space, this is the most complicated area – warehousing, shipping, IT – all the back-end details that as a consumer, you don’t see. There are a lot of critical processes that need to be worked out to ensure products get to where they need to be in a timely manner. What works in our favor is that everyone on the SAOLA team has experience with international brands, so we’re not starting from scratch. In fact, all those years working for small to medium sized companies, where NOBODY was above warehouse duty, are actually paying off.
This seems like a good time to apologize for all those years bitching about warehouse duty. Sorry.
So there you have it! We’re so excited to show you our shoes, and can’t wait for you guys to get to wear them! But what we’re most excited about is to see the result of a bunch of people working together to protect our planet. Together, we can #MAKEANIMPACT!