The ReddyYeti Podcast EP: 16 Fortress Clothing - Hybrid Hoodie. Comfortable from -5F to 70F - Founder Dale Lewis Sharing His Story

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Fortress Clothing

Tough conditions cutting your day short and keeping you inside?

Ditch the hobo threads and pick up clothing with REAL protection

To find out more behind how Fortress Clothing got its start and what’s in store for the future, Josh interviews Fortress Clothing founder, Dale Lewis

More about the episode...
 

Josh sits down with Dale Lewis the founder of Fortress Clothing. Fortress Clothing, based out of Mt. Pleasant, Utah, was started as a way to provide people working in extreme conditions to last longer in harsh elements. When Dale Lewis found that his son needed to take absurdly frequent breaks from work to maintain his body heat while working in North Dakota, he got to work. After finding the proper materials and multiple prototypes he had found a design that lived up to the task while basing the design off a sweatshirt that he’s used for years without fail. Now Fortress delivers comfort and style to individuals in harsh working environments, anyone looking for the perfect bug-out gear, and recreators who want to stay outside longer and more comfortably.

 

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SHOW NOTES: 
 

  • What does Fortress Clothing do and what do you offer?

    • “As we started doing business in the industrial niche it was funny because we would just say hey we’re going to keep you warm and it was too good to be true…you can actually be sopping wet, wearing our clothing, and still be warm...”

  • How did you get into this business?

    • “My son was working in the oil fields of North Dakota and he would work minutes and then literally go in the cab of his semi, and warm up for 15 minutes. As a business owner when he was describing this to me I was like ‘man if you can resolve that problem, if you can find a solution that eliminate your downtime, you’d have a great business…”

  • What did you do before you started Fortress Clothing?

    • “...I have a degree out of the University of Utah in marketing and went into wholesale sales distribution. So I was working with companies like Nabisco Candy and Frito Lay... I think I learned more about how to not run a business working for those companies…they’re things in corporate america where they tend to trip themselves up...”

  • What exactly is the hybrid hoodie?

    • “Our regular line is very functional. I mean you consider that we can keep somebody comfortable… We have this great function but very little fashion...the industrial line is built to be a mid layer garment…”

    • I just have a favorite hoodie, I’ve probably had this hoodie for 20 years...and I thought, ‘What if you could take our technology that kicked butt, and merge it or just cross breed it with the comfort of this hoodie’…”

  • What is the technology behind your product that makes it so much better?

    • We take the insulation, which retains body heat but, because of its architectural structure it’s an engineered polymer that is open cell. It’s hydrophobic it doesn’t grab on to water… What’s interesting is the law of thermodynamics dictates that in real life conditions when you’re outside, you are the source of heat and by the law of physics, moisture moves away from heat…”

  • Why hasn’t any other brands adopted this technology for their products?

    • “I can’t tell you that but I can tell you this, when we first started we weren’t going to manufacture, we wanted to be a component brands in other manufactures. We went and met with some of the big big names in both work wear and recreation wear…”

  • What the prototyping process for developing Fortress Clothing?

    • You want to get a prototype as quickly together as you can, take it to somebody you view as your top opportunity customer and then have them give you feedback. Don’t even sell it to them, just nail the product. We did that, we put together some prototypes and took it to Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, of all places…”

  • What pushed you to do an ice plunge to promote your product?

    • “...We couldn’t get our point across and we were beating our head against the wall. Literally in one of those brainstorming sessions, we were pissed off that no one's taking our product and we thought ‘what if we just jump in the ice, it’s the dead of winter’...We drilled through 4 feet of ice the very first time, and it was -11 degrees with wind chill…”

  • Have you had any mentors throughout your journey of building Fortress Clothing?

    • “I grew up in a blue collar family and my dad, he worked. There was no quiting anything… I think it’s that, if you can’t quit then you find a way to make it work. And that’s actually where we’re at right now…”

  • How did you manage to have such a successful kickstarter?

    • “I think telling the right story. We joined hands with a good marketing company that helped us get to the kickstarter marketing niche…”

  • What is the commitment Fortress Clothing has to sustainable manufacturing?

    • “We do all of our customer trim for our industrial line, in America. As we grow we have contracts in place so we can have canadian made for a lot of our customers in Canada”

  • What would you say is the culture that exists around Fortress?

    • “We’re customer-centric and if someone says ‘can you do this?’ we translate that to them saying they want to give us money and support us if you can solve their needs...we look at it that way, kind of a partnership…”

  • What kind of activities do you personally take part in?

    • “I’m a jack of all trades master of none...but you know mountain biking big time, hunting, camping…we live on about 500 acres, we got some cattle, we’ve got a pretty nice place to both raise a family and have a business…”

  • What would you say is the hardest part about starting and building your business?

    • “Identify what niche to go after, then keeping the blinders on. It’s tough because you want to go after the low hanging fruit so you stay in business but you also want to go after the bigger market niches…”

  • What is your biggest fear with Fortress and how do you manage it?

    • I think maybe ego. It may sound weird but we really have something so different, so disruptive, we could be the biggest thing. But we need to be humble, be good to the customer, and make good long term decisions…

  • What advice you give someone that wanted to start a business in the outdoor sport industry?

    • “I really do like the term fail fast...The key to it is identifying your customer base, developing a prototype and product, and asking people ‘would you buy this?’...”

  • Where do you see the business headed into the future?

    • “This year, I think, is our hockey stick year, in that we’ll be at the outdoor retailer show. The things that we have planned for that should draw some real attention…”

    • “The five year plan is the diversification into different niches and nailing each niche…”

  • What is the best part about running Fortress Clothing

    • “I love the people that their lives are changed from our product. Technical climbers who climb in regular gear and monitor their perspiration...now wearing fortress they don’t have to do that, they can just go…”

    • “On a personal level I love to see the employee development, the people who work for us learn to do hard things…”

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