Putting on a climbing shoe shouldn’t be a mild form of torture
Slip on a pair of Butora climbing shoes and never cringe at the thought of getting ready to climb
To find out more behind how Butora got its start and what’s in store for the future, Josh interviews Butora Co-Owner, Bradley Hilbert
More about the episode...
Josh sits down with Butora Co-Owner Bradley Hilbert. Bradley was bitten by the travel bug long before he was bitten by the climbing bug once he moved to South Korea. It would be halfway around the world when he would meet up with his partners and the founder of what is now known as Butora. In this episode of the ReddyYeti Podcast we follow along as Brad shares his journey with us and gives us a play-by-play of one of the most revolutionary and comfortable climbing shoes we’ve seen in awhile.
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More about Butora
What is Butora all about?
“I think we all like to think that what we do is introduce people to climbing in a really fun way. With the shoe company we’re able to hopefully get them in the most comfortable shoe that meets their performance needs…”
What is so unique about the climbing shoes Butora offers?
“One of the main things is innovation. Climbing comfort in innovation. We’re able to work with the manufacturer and designer directly so there isn’t many steps between us being on the road and talking to the climbers which we are on constantly…”
How did you get involved with Butora?
“That’s a long funny story. I was actually living in South Korea between 6 or 7 years...we all met through a refurbashing project that was in south Korea. We were replacing bolts and replacing anchors of the crags of South Korea through Korea on the Rocks Initiatives. Which is a non-profit that our President Bryan Hylenski started, he actually got me into climbing…”
How long was it until you got connected to the founder?
“He actually brought us the first iteration of the shoe, the endeavor. There were quite a few things we didn’t care for about the shoe. At this time we were not interested in doing this. I actually wasn’t involved at this point, I was back in the United States…”
Did you grow up climbing?
“No, I’m a Kentucky basketball kid. I can remember my grandpa giving me a basketball when I was five, telling me “this is what you’re going to do”… That was me for twenty something years…then I traveled to Europe and caught the traveling bug, then I moved to Korea and caught the climbing bug…”
What about the climbing shoe, made it the most comfortable shoe you’ve ever put on?
“Let’s blame it on my foot… In ten years of climb I’ve gone through four different companies and it just hurt. When I put on an acro for the first time it didn’t hurt…when it didn’t it made me realize the different quality and construction that’s built to the contour of someone’s foot…”
What was the process of getting Butora started in the states?
“Actually there was someone who tried to bring the shoe into the country about three or four months before us and he was not successful…What we’ve learned about bringing any product into the United States is it takes a lot of work before hand…”
How did demoing give you such a leg up?
“Just being relentless and working. We all set up the business for six month before Bryan came back into the United States. When he came back he didn’t even come back to Colorado where he had a home. He actually flew all the way to North Carolina to see me where we started a 30 day road trip across the country…in 30 days we did 40 demos across the country”
Would you say most of your success was committing to doing countless demos?
“I think that was most of it, getting out and doing demos. The people that we’ve brought on have been more account managers. More reps that travel the company, that’s where we’ve grown the most of our employees. As a result of their sales and the growth of the shoe then demand for the shoe went up…”
How are you guys involved in sustainability?
“We use organic hemp lining in all of our shoes which is a sustainable product. That product is actually more for the structural integrity of the shoe because it prevents the shoe from stinking or stretch…That’s a really important idea that I think is even more important than sustainability, that sustainable practices are also profitable…”
What has been some of the hardest parts about building your business?
“Deciding when to add people, deciding when the growth is too much to handle. I think I speak for my partners as well, we all want to do everything ourselves. There’s a certain part of that ego that tells you it’s time and it’s hard for any of us to decide it…”
What would you say is some of your greatest fears and how do you manage it?
“Customer service as you get bigger. We want to be personal with people. We want to build a community with our climbing company. It’s as much as introducing a new climber to climbing and shoe that works for them as it is about selling climbing shoes…”
What have been some of the biggest mistakes that you’ve made?
“It’s hard for me to pinpoint mistakes because I just see mistakes as challenges or obstacles that we just work through together. I don’t tend to dwell on mistakes for long. If something happens that’s not ideal we just fix it…”
What advice would you give to someone that wanted to start a business?
“It’s funny that people say don’t start a business with your friends or family. Be careful of the people you start a business with. I started this business with Bryan and Matt because I knew they were good people. They’re people I can trust and they’re people that can be steadfast in a sea of chaos…the stress of business is like the stress of being on point, climbing. We all trust each other because we’ve all been on point, dealing with physical situations…”
Where do you see your company headed into the future?
“We’re constantly coming out with new products. The rental market, we’ve done some really innovative things with that that we think is changing the industry. Most of the things we’re doing- it’s been great because we just started doing this new creative thing and then other people started doing it as well…”
What’s the best part about running Butora?
“The best part about being involved with the company is the people work with. My role in the future, hopefully, is more of an actual director of marketing where I have people that I’m working with that I can teach all the things that I’ve learned. I think it’s important for people that are leading other people to think of themselves as teachers and not bosses…”