As part of The Players’ Impact Blog, we like to have periodic Q&A sessions with awesome people building new companies and brands. I was interested in learning more about fashion and brand development so sat down with Lou Joseph, Founder and CEO of Alps & Meters, Here we go, Lou…I’ll Q, you A…
2. Right on! Lou, what drives you? What are the big things you want to change in the industry? Why is now a good time for this?
I’m driven by a passion for the tradition of skiing and alpine sport, and a reverence for traditional methods of making. As a brand, we’re eager to share our old world values and deliver a new expression of performance sportswear, inspired by our sport’s rich history. The time is right…with significant sameness in the marketplace, luxury outerwear and fashion tailwinds at our back, and a rising consumer demand for smart products with versatility and utility. Alps & Meters is poised to take advantage of this shift.
3. What’s the Boston startup scene like?
Boston is an exciting startup environment, and while the city doesn’t have the cache of Silicon Valley or other hot epicenters of activity, there are many soft-goods companies emerging with fantastic product. It also has fantastic gravity and entrepreneurship in the areas of apparel, footwear, and fashion. Nike’s very first retail store was here, as are the Reebok and New Balance headquarters, and one of PUMA’s innovation hubs. For Alps & Meters, Boston’s proximity to the mountains of New England make it an ideal setting.
4. That’s right. I just finished Phil Knight’s Shoe Dog and never knew that about Nike. Now that you’re up and running, can you tell us about some of the early successes you are personally proud of?
Truly, Alps & Meters is most excited by the many partnerships and relationships that we have built to date; including our Management Team, investors, early stage adopters/community members, product creation partners, factories, photographers, and other creatives who have helped to shape our brand. During the 6 months of September ‘16-March ’17 Alps & Meters was able to achieve its launch season sales goals and sold out of our small batch inventory very quickly. Satisfying our customers and retail partners is our #1 priority, and we are very happy with the levels of service and attention paid to these stakeholders at each touch point with the brand.
5. For folks not in the industry, what are a few things we should know about and how are you trying to solve them?
One of the reasons I launched Alps & Meters was because of the sea of sameness that I was seeing in the mountains, from Stowe to Aspen. I realized that there was an opportunity to do something truly unique. We believe that our community shares our belief in simple, timeless, alpine traditions, and we’re blending the past and present to create sportswear that is exciting the market. Our Forged Performance product creation philosophy means that our garments blend classic construction techniques, natural materials, and contemporary technologies. This philosophy has been very well appreciated by our “Gentleman Sportsman” consumer base.
6. Since we are a group of athlete investors and entrepreneurs, who is your favorite athlete (past or present) and why?
Outside of my passion for alpine sport, I’m a soccer fan and have always been drawn to the sport for its rich history, exciting club and national tournaments, worldwide footprint, and overall culture. Before starting my soft-goods career I actually played professionally in the Netherlands for a short time. My favorite athlete is George Best, the Northern Irish soccer player. He was an artist with an iconic persona whose genius made him a hero at the Manchester United soccer club, and a celebrity on par with the Beatles. He had style, grace, grit, and a magic touch with a ball at his feet. He was a true classic and a one of a kind individual on and off the pitch.
7. That’s awesome. I hadn’t heard of George Best before! At TPI, we think the sports industry can fuel growth in startups directly or indirectly related to sports. How could you see sports impacting your business?
Like entrepreneurs, athletes possess great commitment, passion, and belief in their craft.There are many parallels between sports and start-up endeavors; each requires drive, teamwork, and an ability to continue moving forward in the face of challenges, set-backs, or competition. The understanding to be forged between athletes and entrepreneurs can be significant when considering the investments of time and energy required in sports or in business. Both can be incredibly competitive and demand maximum commitment, support, and hard work.
8. As an entrepreneur, what are your words of wisdom to athlete entrepreneurs in TPI?
As an entrepreneur, I adopt a beginner’s mentality and am constantly seeking coaching from a variety of individuals (fellow entrepreneurs, teammates, etc.) to develop the Alps & Meters venture in a manner that aligns with my near and long-term vision for the company. I’m certain that all athletes know the powerful impact that a great coach or teammate can have on their performance. It’s the same situation on the field of entrepreneurship. Seek out supporters, confidants, and advocates that can assist you with your business endeavors, and listen to their trusted advice.
9. Great advice. In one emoji, characterize your life as an entrepreneur:
10. What’s been your hardest business challenge to date?
Alps & Meters’ most difficult business challenge has been management of our cash flow; due to our thoughtful brick-by-brick brand building style, Alps & Meters has not yet adopted significant amounts of capital, and while we have been extremely efficient with our capital allocation, the ongoing growth of the venture will demand further cash support. We’re hoping that new and existing investors share our vision for the design of a high taste, global, luxury sportswear label.
11: Makes sense. Let’s close with the future: where do you see Alps & Meters in 5 years?
I’m hopeful in 5 years time that Alps & Meters will be recognized globally as a luxury alpine sportswear brand that delivers first class quality, and exceptional white glove experience to our consumers and retail partners.
Cap tip to Lou Joseph for his thoughtful and insightful answers to our questions. Please note, The Players’ Impact is not currently an investor in Alps & Meters— we are sharing their story for the “love of the game.” Check out Alps & Meters and leave a comment here!