What’s in a Pitchfest Entrepreneur? Meet the Finalists
— Western Rise —
Behind every great idea is an inspired leader and a story—one that speaks of unique experiences, backgrounds, and paths. As Pitchfest 2018 nears, we’re diving in with our finalists to learn what drives them and what has shaped each of their journeys. We caught up with Kelly Watters, co-founder of Western Rise, to learn about her mission to design the apparel of the future through performance wardrobes that transition seamlessly from mountain to workplace.
What was the inspiration for starting your company, and how has it evolved?
We originally thought of Western Rise when we were living and guiding in Vail. There were so many outdoor activities with easy access, and we were combining them with meeting and working in town daily. We struggled to find performance gear that worked for multiple sports and transitioned seamlessly to town, and we found ourselves keeping too many changes of clothes in the car. So, we decided to create a line of sustainable, stylish, performance apparel that performs for travel, outdoors, and everyday life—enabling you to do more each day.
What is the mission and vision of your company? What does the future trajectory look like?
Our mission at Western Rise is to simplify your life and enable you to do more of what you love. We design a performance wardrobe that supports your active lifestyle while allowing you to seamlessly transition to any activity throughout your day and do more with less.
As our communities grow busier and more urban, it is increasingly important to have a few quality, staple pieces that work for everything we may do in a day; from spending time in the mountains to business travel. We think of Western Rise as the apparel of the future: Performance apparel for the modern, active person.
Why did you apply for Pitchfest, and what are you hoping to get out of your experience?
I applied because I am a reluctant CEO, and I prefer to be behind the scenes making things happen. I am trying to embrace my position as a woman in leadership while making connections and building deeper relationships with a network of strong women.
What are some of the lessons you’ve learned, thus far, in founding your company?
One of the biggest things I’ve learned is what I am capable of and how diverse my skill sets are. Increasingly, I am learning that just because I can do everything does not mean that I should be doing all of those things.
What did you not see coming, and how did you respond?
Surprises are all part of entrepreneurship—some are bigger than others, but they’re all a constant part of building a business.
One of the first surprises was how quickly the brand took off from day one and how positive the response was from the industry. In hindsight, it shouldn’t have been that exciting, but I was never a popular kid growing up, so building a brand and community that people wanted to be a part of was a really fun experience.
One of our most impactful surprises came in 2017 when one of our key suppliers downsized in the midst of spring production and didn’t tell us. Our entire spring line finally arrived in June, but that set us back considerably. The trickle-down effect of that delay was bigger than I could have planned and was really scary. Fortunately, we were able to move quickly once we realized what was happening, so we re-sourced our entire supply chain for Fall production in just two weeks. I am still impressed with how our team persevered during that trying time. Ultimately, it made the brand much stronger.
What’s your superpower? Figuring things out and making things work
Outdoor adventure of choice for daily release? Trail running and skiing, depending on the season
What book would you recommend? The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz
Your number one outdoor hack? Bananas in tin foil with peanut butter and chocolate chips, baked in the campfire
One word that you think of when we say outdoors? Green
Pitchfest 2018 will commence on July 22 in Denver, CO at the Silverton Ballroom, Embassy Suites. Register here.
Kelly brings a wealth of knowledge and experience as CEO of Western Rise. She received her masters from The University of the Arts in Philadelphia and came to Western Rise with over eight years experience in management and team building both domestically and internationally. As co-founder of Western Rise she led the team as COO for four years before her promotion to CEO. During that time she accomplished 86% Year over Year growth while being responsible for Sales, Fundraising, Finance, Customer Experience, Logistics, and more.