On Amy Hatch’s bathroom mirror there’s a sticky note that reads “Life purpose…to connect people with the outdoors.” It’s a mission she’s staying true to with her business Garage Grown Gear, a website dedicated to sourcing and telling the stories about the best up-and-coming outdoor gear on the market.
Amy loves the outdoors more than the average person. She takes weekly runs through the Tetons, camps with her family regularly, completes 100-mile trail races, partakes in adventure runs with her husband and lives for backcountry skiing. She takes her sticky note seriously.
A lifelong outdoorswoman, Amy’s first foray into selling gear online was with her business Jackson Hole Pack Rafts, renting five-pound boats that rolls up in your sleeping bag, to hikers and campers hoping to enjoy some backcountry river floating.
The packraft business lead Amy to find other like-minded outdoor gear brands. “I quickly realized that in other verticals, like ultralight backpacking and cross country skiing, there’s hundreds of different companies that are run by real people with a real story that have had that ‘wouldn’t-it-be-cool-if-moment’ where they come back to their garage, start tinkering and before long a business is born,” she says.
Amy knew the outdoor gear market was flooded with big competitors like Backcountry and REI, so she decided to use her journalism background to elevate her site. “I felt my storytelling skills could help us talk about these cool companies.” Garage Grown Gear also prides itself on finding businesses that are hidden gems and aren’t even on the radar of some of the bigger outdoor brands yet.
But before she opened a full blown online store, Amy wanted to test the waters. Garage Grown Gear first launched in March 2014 as an online magazine. “It was my minimum viable product to gauge interest from customers, but also from brands I’d hope to be working with.” It proved to be a successful model so seven months later the online store launched with twenty brands as part of their product offering.
In the ever expanding outdoor gear market, Amy keeps her pulse on up-and-comers like a true journalist would: through extensive research. She goes to Outdoor Retailer twice a year, reads outdoor blogs, combs through forums and sets up Google Alerts. She continues to use her writing chops to put up guest posts for outdoor blogs and magazines and new businesses will often contact her after spotting her byline.
In the ever expanding outdoor gear market, Amy keeps her pulse on up-and-comers like a true journalist would: through extensive research.
Amy has been a longtime lover of startups and digging into the stories behind them. “I love sites like Huckberry, Uncrate and The Grommet, but what sets us apart there is that we’re the only one focused on the outdoor industry.” Another product angle that sets Garage Grown apart are the “Startup Stories” on their product pages. “Every company we sell gets a gear review or startup story or both,” she says. In addition, she and her employees personally test each and every item. “I closely look at every brand that comes into the store, not just so I can sell it, but so I can recommend it too.”
Currently 30% of traffic to the site is organic thanks to the content they create. Every article is optimized with longtail keywords and researched to target organic searches. “But not all articles are created equal and it can be unpredictable.” Of the 160 articles published, Amy guesses it’s 5 to 10 that are doing all the work. “We’ve done the research for all of them but sometimes you can’t predict the content that give you that pop.”
Currently 30% of traffic to the site is organic thanks to the content they create.
Though Amy is doing what she loves, it isn’t all smooth sailing with one full year under her belt. “This job is full-time and then some,” says Amy. “But we’ve done a good job of setting expectations. Our phone lines are only open from 9 to 5 because we love being with our family and going outdoors as much as our customers do.”
The challenge for Garage Grown Gear is that people aren’t used to getting the information about a product from the same place they buy it. But Amy hopes to change that behavior. “We’ll never be totally unbiased with our reviews, since we only sell what we really love,” says Amy. “But we recognize that every thing in life has room for improvement and we try to point that out.”
Amy knows from experience that when customers are looking for something they need, a great story behind the product can be that trigger to buy. “It’s the icing on the cake. Someone won’t buy outdoor gear unless they need it”, she says, “but that added incentive is if there’s a real story behind it. People love that.”
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First Photo Courtesy of Amy Hatch / All Other Photos by Bradly J. Boner