A few years ago, Dave and I were sitting in the back of the room during the keynote presentation at the Climbing Wall Association. I remember thinking about how much of an honor it was for someone to share their experiences and knowledge with so many professionals in our industry. Little did I know, a few short years later, Dave and I would be giving the keynote presentation to a room of 500 attendees from all over the world.
When Bill called and asked us to speak at the event, it meant a whole lot to me. At first, I was unsure if we had enough experiences to share about product/gym design and the on-going operations. After speaking with Dave, however, we realized the multitude of our challenges and experiences and that maybe we did have something special to share. From the product division of our company to opening our gym, there have been so many struggles, ridiculous stories, and groundbreaking experiences that we knew could both entertain and help our community if shared at the conference.
During the very first conversations with the CWA, Bill made it very clear that he didn’t want the presentation to be a giant advertising campaign for So iLL. We agreed, and in typical fashion, decided to make it a completely OVER THE TOP marketing stunt. First, we made a giant custom inflatable Iron Palm training board. It took months of 3D file creation, custom color approvals, and air mailing across the planet to arrive just in time for the event. The outcome was a thing of beauty. Eight feet wide and four feet tall, the inflatable could not be missed from the back of the room. Next, we hired the Colorado University dance girls to dance to a remix of Katy Perry's ROAR during Dave’s keynote. Then, we spent time designing a custom button down shirt printed with huge sales advertisements for Dave to wear during his presentation. And to top it off, we laid out advertisements to randomly pop up as slides during the presentation. Our hope was that it would be entertaining and also that Bill would not kick us out. The famous one (Dave’s idea) was a picture of a beautiful little dog. It said “Buy Our Holds Or This Puppy Gets Hurt".
As with most shows we attend, preparing for the CWA takes an entire year. This show is one of the first (of many) leading up to the Fall 2014 release of new products. We love it. Every new sew product, hold, wood board, and accessory has been meticulously designed, packaged, and prepared. The samples are shown at several shows throughout the year and then are ready in the Fall for online and retail availability. The tradeshow truss booth that we use for that show is one of 4 different tradeshow booths we have in storage all over the world. I realize this sounds excessive for such a small brand, but to service all of our tradeshows, it’s simply a necessity. There are too many shows back to back during Spring and Fall to ship the freight quickly enough between them. The CWA kicks off as the second show of each year and gives us a lot of energy. This one was no different.
Upon landing in Denver and gathering our freight, I got a call from Hannah that she had gone in for surgery unexpectedly. We called Drew and asked if we could set up our booth very quickly, which was already a day early. We arrive two to three days in advance to all of our shows in order to prep the booth, the products, and the team for releasing the lines. Thankfully, Drew let us in a day early and we set up the booth in record time. Our Summer OR booths normally take a solid 2 days to set up and get prepared. We set up for the CWA this year in 3 hours though. It was intense. There was a larger team with us during this visit because we were showing the upcoming capabilities of our new application, Climb Report. Ian Anderson was also with Dave and I as the retail buyer and operations partner of our gym in St. Louis, Climb So iLL.
Over the last year, Dave and I have been working on Climb Report with a group of software developers and designers who are considered to be some of the best in the world. This project has stretched us beyond what I thought was possible and has taught me valuable lessons about an industry that has always fascinated me. Climb Report is a reporting software and fitness tracking application for gym owners and climbers everywhere. We are thrilled to continue beta testing this product over the summer and throughout the Fall at our gym. It is a global application that can work at any climbing gym worldwide.
For those of you who made it to the CWA, I really hope you enjoyed the atmosphere at the booth. We put our hearts into the products, and the booth space, to make it an enjoyable and memorable experience. Besides putting a lot of effort online, we realize there are only a few times that we get to see everyone each year. The CWA is one of them, and it’s really important for us to make you feel welcome and encouraged while speaking with us. We put a lot of effort into our brand and want it to feel alive and well, always.
With me leaving so quickly, Dave had to step up with only an evening to look at my portion of the speech. He is resilient. He ended up presenting my portion of the presentation, along with his. It was nice to see the video recap and watch him deliver both aspects of the keynote. Jason Kehl filmed the keynote and delivered us some raw footage. It’s up on our Vimeo page. No matter what line of work you are in, or art you create, our hope is that we are an encouragement to you on your journey. I know it’s long and raw footage, but it tells our story and tells it well. Writing the presentation was interesting for me. There were countless trips to get coffee and numerous brainstorm and planning sessions with Dave. We wanted to share our experiences and struggles of both building So iLL and Climb So iLL. Both endeavors have had so many challenges, and the reward is not always monetary on your journey. For us, it has been about creating something really special; we are creating the future.
My goal with this blog entry and others is to share what is happening with Dave and I throughout our adventure. I don’t want this information to be an advertising piece or a promotional push. It’s for those of you who are interested and those who may care. It will be great for me to have an outlet to talk about our business and what happens when no one is watching. More to come.