Brand Close-Up: So iLL
So iLL is a climbing company built on high quality holds and climbing accessories. After seeing a need to bring fashionable footwear into modern, urban climbing, So iLL has redesigned the climbing shoe to be fun and functional. Their successful Kickstarter raised over $100,000 to develop the shoe, of which So iLL created four models: The Runner, The Street, the Bowler, and the Kick. Each model features not only a bright vibrant color palette, but also the high performance ability to match. Along with the aesthetic, So iLL makes use of Dark Matter Rubber, originally used by Navy SEALS for high-performance non-slip grip.
Featured Item: The Runner
Built for overhung indoor and outdoor climbing, the medium-stiff Runner is built for power and precision with a downturned sole and pointed toe. Meant for all shapes of feet, the Runner comes in a standard and low-volume variation, with a three-point closure system for precise fit, and comfortable synthetic material which ensures comfort and performance.
Interview With Founder Daniel Chancellor
Gearographer: What are the goals that So iLL wants to achieve?
Daniel Chancellor: We simply want to create products that help our climbing community succeed. Keeping climbers fashionable, and encouraging them on their journey, is a focus as we design high-end products.
We are not trying to create the next lightest cam or better handling rope. Instead, we deliver highly designed clothing, footwear and training products. Things that our crew can use, wear, and be proud of.
Gearographer: What advantage does So iLL have over its more established brands?
DC: We opened our first flagship retail location and climbing gym in Saint Louis, MO a few years ago. At Climb So iLL , we are deeply connected with our community there. We have been able to learn the needs of urban rock climbers, and deliver them both an experience, and products, that make sense. We have been able to test our products on the walls and in the shop before bringing them to a larger demographic.
Gearographer: How do you market your brand without a large advertising budget?
DC: We are nimble and quick, and we make almost everything in house. So iLL doesn’t have an ad agency, all of our media comes from three guys in house, and our video partners in St, Louis and Southern Illinois. Evan packs boxes in the warehouse, and does our product shots as well. Ryan answers the phone and puts in orders, and he also takes all of our lifestyle images. These guys are amazing and I’m super proud of our team.
Gearographer: How do you inspire your users not only to purchase your product, but also to venture out and use it?
DC: The communities that we cater to and connect with are rock climbers learning “the ropes” inside the gym setting. Our products are used to support them at the climbing gym and are designed to transition outdoors as well. Our encouragement also comes in the form of inspirational media aimed to help people to Take Hold.
Gearographer: How can does So iLL make gear more affordable without sacrificing quality?
DC: Years of design, planning, and relationships have helped. We don’t have huge budgets or massive rep agencies, or a massive office. In fact, we just moved out of my basement and into a loft apartment (finally!). We have always been DIY and have always understood staying on a budget and doing the best that we possibly can. Our product design and manufacturing is no different; keep it high end and as affordable as possible.
With that being said, we have learned that there is a point of too inexpensive also, and we absolutely will not sacrifice quality to make that happen. Products are generally worth what you pay for them.
Gearographer: How can the company appeal to casual outdoor enthusiasts as well as niche users?
DC: I think we have stepped into some larger ponds with footwear and clothing. These are the products we have aimed to bring to market for many years. Our lifestyle products can be used by all outdoor enthusiasts, but it stars within our niche. Our hearts are with the urban climbers around the country, and the communities in which they exist. The sport is growing exponentially, but the fire seems to start here. We are OK with servicing a small niche user group. It’s just cool.
Gearographer: How does the company maintain environmental ethics?
DC: As a very small company, our footprint is very small compared to most brands in the outdoor industry. My brother and I started the Beta Fund (.org) aimed at protecting outdoor resources in the Midwest. The environment is very important, but we as a company tend to focus on people. We want to help people. Kevin Jorgeson and I are working on a project to bring the sport of rock climbing to inner city groups all over the country. We also help feed people in Saint Louis by supporting local organizations with funds to do so. We really do care about people. After all, this business is not creating products for us, it’s about creating products for others and helping them succeed.
Gearographer: What is the best way for consumers to interact with the company?
DC: People can call us, we answer! You can email me: firstname.lastname@example.org or use #soill #takehold on social media.
Gearographer: Why do you think indie outdoor brands are becoming much more common now?
DC: I think there is a new wave of climbers and outdoor enthusiasts making their way into the sport. It’s a very exciting time. With this next generation is going to come a lot of new brands and new ideas. It will be interesting to see where the industry goes and I hope we can be responsible as we move forward.
Gearographer: What is your company planning in the next year?
DC: We are going to continue designing and producing high quality, innovative and fashionable products for rock climbers. We are going to continue encouraging others to stay positive and to take hold.
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