It's no small feat to start a business, especially one in the small-tribe world of mountain biking. People have opinions, and they are not afraid to voice them. But through that murk of pessimism and criticism, many great brands have shone.
Now Conation Collective hasn't proven to be one of those brands yet, but there holds promise. Even the name, 'Conation,' holds promise, desire even. Maybe the volition of owner Matt Hayes will prove to be might and the apparel company, still only in its mere infancy, will prosper.
Conation Collective is a boutique apparel company based in Boulder, Colorado. Inspired from the desire of comfortable, well-looking clothes that still function, long-time mountain biker Hayes said he grew tired of wearing his Lycra to the bar following his rides in the mountains above Boulder, so he designed a line of performance-oriented mountain-bike clothes that include v-cut shirts, western-style plaid shirts and low-cut bibs that allow for easy bathroom breaks.
"The (baggy) stuff was bulky, wasn't breathable, didn't have very good range of motion," he said. "So I rode (in) my race kit."
Hayes grew up in Philly, where he worked at a mom-and-pop bike shop and raced cross-country so mountain biking is in his veins.
"Working in a bike shop in Pennsylvania was integral in making me the person I have become," he said.
He attended college at CU Boulder and studied broadcast journalism. He also raced cross-country for the school team.
But it wasn’t until several years later – after graduating college and chasing several bike-industry jobs – that he was back in Boulder designing clothes.
As of now, Conation Collective is a made-in-the-USA brand and when asked if he foresees moving overseas if, hypothetically, he becomes a large brand, Hayes responded by comparing his small-brand direction to that of an independent, custom frame builder.
"We're making very high-end pieces of clothing," he said. "We want to make something available for everyone, but it's not in our plan to dilute the product and dilute the brand to the level of those high-level production companies."
Performance is key. It goes back to the days when he would sport his Lycra race kit, sipping on beer. He wore it not because of a fashion statement, but because of the performance. After an exhaustive search, he finally found the perfect fabric for his clothing line. Two fabrics, to be specific.
Eighteen months ago he began importing a synthetic fabric from France and Merino wool from Australia.
He prides himself on being handmade-in-America, so he sought factories that could support his dream. The smaller goods (socks, etc.) are made in Denver and the more intricate goods (bibs, jerseys, etc.) are made in Los Angeles.
As with any small business, it's hard to get off the ground, so he's turned to Kickstarter to get the rest of the funds he needs.
"It has been all my money getting it started," he said. "I've had some interest from folks looking to invest, but it's difficult to judge equity because (I) didn't have much sales history."
He said Kickstarter is killing two birds with one stone: educating them about the market, as well as the obvious, raising money.
Each pledge will receive a softgood, depending on the amount donated, and should receive products by early next spring.
Hayes thinks the apparel line will hit shelves later in the season, once pledges receive their goods.
"I have a long history working for independent bike shops …(I) put myself through college working in a bike shop," he said. "We want to have (the line) in a few select physical locations and also have a web store presence."
For more information and to view his complete line, visit his his Kickstarter page: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/448114783/conation-collective