I've noticed that our best and most creative ideas come while we are out of the office.
There are three parts to my daily work that, while different, push toward the same goal. I simultaneously work on future projects, collaborate with our team, and dive into the day-to-day. The trick is juggling all three aspects while having each one of them enhance the other. I want to help our team internally by keeping everyone organized and on the same page. I want all of the office team, reps, and production crew to have a thorough understanding of the company and our values. I'm pretty sure it drives the team crazy that I want to be involved, to some degree, with every aspect of the business. It's not that I don't trust or work well with them. Instead, it's that I want to bring resources to the projects they are working on.
The So iLL office functions like the human body. The brain needs the heart and the heart needs the lungs. We can all help each other if we communicate internally. After all, customer service is tied to marketing which is tied to product development. The office environment can also be compared to a chain of interconnected parts that gets stronger as it gets longer. Each part must be connected, remain tough, and share its space with the next one. I spend a lot of time trying to connect the parts and even more time with each important person who manages a different aspect of the business (marketing, customer service, sourcing, shipping, accounting, and others). Sometimes I'm successful at doing this. Other times, I fail and the team has to pick me back up in order to start connecting better again.
Herein lies the problem. Among these three day-to-day activities, how do I step away and find time to be inspired? This is something that I have been struggling with for years. In college, I filled 3 notebooks with ideas and goals for So iLL. At the beginning, we didn't even know what the business would be called, but we felt a passion inside and began to create something bigger than ourselves. We thought about our long-term goals, short-term goals, and everything in between. This was our vision for the brand, and it outlined our trajectory to create some of the best climbing products on the planet. This beginning phase was my time to find vision. It was just me, my notebook, and a pen. This was before the bustling day-to-day, constant traveling, and long hours needed to keep the brand alive.
Over the last few years, I have had to learn to let go and get away. Letting go is really hard for climbers, and it is also hard for me as a business owner. Letting go means getting away from work, finding the perfect balance, and giving myself time to become inspired. At times, I actually fight it. At other times, I simply need it. Once a year, after the trade shows in SLC and Germany, I simply shut down for a few days. I let go, travel for leisure, and spend time with my family. During these special times, I am able to refresh and my best ideas hit me. Over the last Summer, after having a few days off, I started to think more about the brand, what we are trying to do, how we are helping people, and how we are enhancing their climbing and outdoor experience.
At first, I thought it would be an easy answer. I sat down with a notebook once again which turned into numerous hours of simply trying to start the process. I read many "About Us" pages from brands that I look up to and admire. I even talked to a few people about how they saw the brand. I spent time at our gym in Saint Louis and thought that it might provide me with answers. It turned out that this was much harder than I expected. From Summer through Christmas, explaining what drives us was constantly on my mind and at the tip of my tongue, but getting it out seemed impossible. Summarizing the last 13 years in a few short paragraphs seemed impossible. I want things to be simple and explaining what So iLL is and what we are doing seemed like it should be.
Over Christmas break, I sat down once again, dug deep, and tried to understand the drive inside of us to keep moving forward. At this time, I realized that I needed help. I talked to my friend Sarah at Rhino Hyde Productions for hours and hours about what we are actually doing and our vision for the brand and the climbing community. She was able to help me talk about So iLL and explain what was on my heart. I also had conversations with other friends like Chelsea Perry in Nashville who understands me as a person and understands our goals and vision. Our friends got us talking, and I am thankful for the connections I have with both of them. I am beyond thankful that they pulled the obvious out of me. It's this constant motivation from within that I can hardly explain. I just can't stop and really do wake up everyday ready to take on the challenges ahead.
It finally hit me. There is a simple statement that sums up the last 13 years of our adventure. It explains who you are and also reminds us of who we are:
It doesn't matter what we are working on, what type of job we have, or what type of situations we are going through, we constantly have to take hold and keep moving forward. The more I thought about taking hold, I realized that these two simple words sums up the brand, our history, our community, and our future.
Let’s take hold together.
So iLL was created a decade ago to forge new paths for indoor climbers. We moved the industry out of the dreary, cold warehouse walls and into the sizzle of unchartered terrains.
The So iLL adventure leaps across borders and expands into more than 20 countries worldwide. Join us in our expedition to alleviate the bland and further enhance your climbing experience.
It’s time for breakthrough.
The dream began twelve years ago for my brother and I on the musty porch of an old college house. Throughout our meager beginning with dial-up Internet and calling cards, we knew it was time to take hold of the impossible and starve our doubts to death.
Though the complexity of our methods has escalated since pouring holds on that porch, our passion remains the same. We exist to empower, protect, and inspire you on the journey. We will continue to explore the world of high design and responsible production to help constantly improve your experience indoors and out.
The journey is always difficult, but we believe challenge precedes breakthrough.
We care about our environment, and we care about you. We commit to keeping you safe and stylish in your exploration. In the land of So iLL, we see only the potential. Here, ordinary people do extraordinary things. Like you, we will never take the easy way out. Let’s explore together and take hold of what lies ahead.