Till I Die
Shouldn’t your apparel be as diehard as you?
Grab some threads from Till I Die and put your passion first
To find out more behind how Till I Die got its start and what’s in store for the future, Josh interviews Till I Die founder, Ryan Orabone
More about the episode...
Josh sits down with Till I Die founder Ryan Orabone. It’s hard to stay away from something you’re passionate about and for Ryan it was only a matter of time until passion pulled him into the ski industry. With over seven years in the fashion industry in the operations side of it all Ryan began building this bold brand that boasts a vibe that’s hard not to love. After years of grinding they’re picking up steam FAST and growing hand over fist with a ton of developments coming over the horizon including expanding beyond snow sports. Tune in and get the full story from Ryan himself!
Have an opinion? We want to hear it! Join the conversation and leave a comment, check out show notes, and get all the links mentioned in this episode below.
- Check out Till I Die’s website
- More about Till I Die
- Follow Till I Die on Instagram and Facebook
- Stay up to day with Till I Die Events
- Shop for all things Till I Die
What is Till I Die all about?
“We’re a lifestyle brand of apparel and we focus on the outdoors, the active, and the apres. Our designs and the whole vibe of the business is a retro look, a vintage feel, and a diehard attitude…”
Did you always know you wanted to start a lifestyle brand in the outdoor space?
“Skiings been a big part of my life, as a lot of us in the industry would attest to...I’ve thought about, for a long time, how I can incorporate that into something I’m doing professionally. I was working a corporate gig seven years ago when I first came up with the concept of Till I Die. It just kind of felt natural to pair a business idea with a passion I had…”
What lead to that moment of “Let’s start something”?
“I had never skied before I moved to Ohio, which is kind of funny because when you think of Ohio, skiing isn’t one of the first things you think of...I had just moved from connecticut and I was the new kid in school which was tough so I joined the ski club to make friends. I remember that first day on the snow...and I was hooked…”
What makes you stand out as a lifestyle apparel brand?
“...One of the big differences with Till I Die is we’re very design focus. And what I mean when I say design focus I mean we’re not all about the name and the logo for our products. I’ll have a logo on just about everyone of our designs...but we’re more focused on the design of it. I want the passion for what people are doing whether it’s skiing, mountain biking, or surfing, to come out in the design…”
Did you have a background in design?
“I love coming up with the ideas. I’m not a computer guy in the least bit, thank god I have really talented people that work on my team with me in particular laura, who’s my graphics designer...My background, when I was in corporate was fashion but it was on the planning and merchandising. I understood inventory control and what an assortment plan is and that's helped out quite a bit…”
What processes and strategy did you use to build a profitable business?
“It was just the expertise that I had learned from my prior career. When I started it seven years ago, I didn’t know enough...The first time around we basically failed… It was leveraging what I learned from our first failure into this second round of really scaling out the business properly…”
What kind of marketing did you use in our to grow your following?
“I’ve been up at killington for the last seven years and I have a really great network of friends and supporters on the mountain and every weekend we’re all together...number one is organic growth and that is through my network of friends, and skiers and outdoor enthusiasts who I interact with on a day to day basis…”
Did you have any mentors that helped you build Till I Die?
“I haven’t had any one specific person...I look back throughout my fashion career and I look at certain people that have definitely impacted my work ethic and what I know about the business. One individual does stand out...I reported directly into him and he was someone who had this vast wealth of knowledge… I would just learn as much as I could from him, everyday… That’s where I learned about the operations side of the business and the production…”
What is your commitment to sustainability?
Sustainability is something that we talked about lately. Our products at the moment are produced domestically. We’re getting to the point for next year, where we’re growing at a rate that will allow us to move overseas. And because we’re moving overseas we’re gonna have an opportunity to work with organic products, garments that are more environmentally friendly…at this point, when you’re starting out you’re basically working within the parameters from a cost/benefit standpoint that you can afford to work with and what’s available to you locally...”
What has been some of the hardest parts about building Till I Die?
“The hardest part about the business so far was just getting people to know about the business. Getting people to look at instagram or social media is not so easy...I’ve worked tirelessly on our social accounts and it’s not impossible because it’s growing but it’s hard…”
What has your growth and trajectory looked like?
“From last year to this year, we got into eight shops last year which was a huge accomplishment...from last year to this year we’ve grown into 30 stores. That allowed us to expand our production...from this year to next year our target is 100 shops...I think that’s very achievable but, at that point we’ll be moving our products into a warehouse, so we’ll have a shipping facility that’s not only doing our warehousing for us and shipping to stores but they’ll also be taking over shipping from the ecommerce website as well... “
What has been one of your greatest fears and how do you manage it?
“My greatest fear and, this is going to sound really corny but, letting my friends down. Everyone has been such a big believer in me and what I’m doing and I don’t want to let them down. They’ve thrown an immense amount of support our way. What scares the living crap out of me is’“sh*t what id I fail’”...”
Did you bootstrap most of Till I Die?
“There’s six people who are working on Till I Die with me and all of them are friends one way or another… Sometimes we need a couple thousand bucks here and there and it’s been nice to know that if we need the money for something and I don’t have it, someone else will be able to step up with $500 bucks here or $1000 there...Everything we done we’ve self-financed and it’s amazing to think about how expensive businesses are…”
What advice would you give someone who wanted to start a business?
“Number one is make sure you have a passion for whatever you’re doing. I love skiing more than anything in the world...Two is, just know everything that you can about what you’re doing. I was lucky in that I have 11 years experience working in planning and dealing with numbers and inventory control. I was incharge of 100 million dollars worth of a business so I know what it would take…”
Where do you see Till I Die headed into the future?
“Outside of expanding our distribution, I do want to be coast to coast. More so than that I want to expand out our other product lines. We experimented with surf this past summer and we experimented with mountain biking this summer. The mountain biking stuff for whatever reason didn’t work. Surfing did...I want to continue to build or other sports…”
What’s the best part about running Till I Die?
“...I set up my office at the top of the mountain and it’s an office with a view. When I’m bored at lunch I’ll go rip a couple runs or I’m sitting there having a beer during my meetings...Why can’t you have fun while you’re working? That’s something I never understood about a lot of places that I worked at or what I see with my friends. If you’re done with your work at 3:30 in the afternoon why do you have to stay in the office until 6...go have fun, enjoy yourself. When we need to buckle down we buckle down...but being able to do what you want when you want is a lot of fun...?