Starting an Outdoor Gear Business: Entrepreneurship Highs and Lows

Starting an Outdoor Gear Business with Jon Rosenberg, founder of Cold Case Gear.

Hi There! I’m Jon Rosenberg. You may have read one of my many gear reviews for Backpackers.com over the years. I’ve been in the outdoor industry for about a decade now, and I’ve come to find myself residing in the beautiful town of Pagosa Springs, Colorado.

How to Start an Outdoor Gear Business with Jon Rosenberg

Jon Rosenberg, founder of Cold Case Gear.

We sit smack dab in the middle of the San Juan Mountains and have the entire Weminuche Wilderness at our fingertips, the largest wilderness area in Colorado and three-quarters the size of Rhode Island. When I’m not working, you can find me running through the mountains with some trail runners on my feet and a smile on my face.

The West Slope Case

The Cold Case Gear West Slope Phone Case. Read our full product highlight!

Starting My Own Outdoor Gear Business

I started a business a few years ago called Cold Case Gear. When we first started, it was different than it is today, and I’ve learned a ton over the years.

Cold Case Gear makes the most rugged, indestructible, and highly insulating phone cases on the market. We use aerogel insulation in our products to keep your smartphone within its optimal temperature range no matter how cold or hot it gets outside. This means you can finally use your phone in the winter without it dying. We use a process called Radio Frequency welding to create a product with no seams, and we put an airtight closure on it to make it 100% sealed to the elements. It works incredibly well.

Cold Case Gear West Slope Case

Starting a business, just like climbing a mountain, can only be tackled one step at a time.

Entrepreneurship in the Outdoor Industry

Entrepreneurship has been an extremely satisfying road, though if you ask my wife, she’ll be the first to tell you it comes with plenty of ups and downs. I’m going to let you in on a secret. It’s hard. It’s REALLY hard.

Jon and Deidre Rosenberg

The dynamic duo!

I’m the sole founder of my business and that means that I have the distinct pleasure of doing everything the business needs. We make consumer goods and with that comes a whole host of things, and with each of those “things” comes an even bigger list of “things”.

Let’s take manufacturing as an example. This is just one of probably a dozen things you need to handle as a solo founder. Once you have finally found a factory that will work with you (Minimum Order Quantity is a dang four-letter word, let me tell you), you need to make sure they have a design or pattern for your product. This entails typically a few dozen hours of work to create a CAD design so their machines can work on it. Yeah, that’s up to you to figure out and outsource this task.

Ok, now you’ve got your CAD, but what the heck are you going to make it out of? You need to source materials! The factory might have what you need but likely will have a bit of an uncharge versus if you supply it yourself. Either way, they’re going to ask you so many questions about material specs that you very likely aren’t prepared to answer, just like I was not. Did you know that “MILS” is a measurement? Yup, not millimeters, but mils. These are microscopic measurements.

new and noteworthy gear jon rosenberg q2

Here’s Jon trying to escape the CAD drawings and MILS measurements with an outdoor excursion.

The Joy and Struggle of Starting an Outdoor Gear Business

My whole point is this. You need to be prepared and you MUST be extraordinarily driven. Possibly a little mad too.

However, if you find yourself jumping into entrepreneurship (and if you’ve got a business idea I highly recommend trying it) you’re going to find it highly rewarding, overwhelming, sometimes a bit depressing, but when that first product rolls off the production line it’s going to be such a great feeling.

jon rosenberg packrafting

Come on in, the water’s fine!

Find Support in Growing Your Business

You should know that you are not alone. Depending on what state you live in there are plenty of programs out there, through different localities and through your state, that can offer you help!

Take a look and see if there is an “Accelerator” program near you. These programs are designed for small businesses and are aimed at teaching you, the owner, everything you need to know to effectively grow and scale your company. Many offer investment as well.

Also take a look at your state chapter of the Office Of Economic Development to see if there are programs your business idea can qualify for.

Cold Case Gear has been fortunate to work with our local office and we have received some pretty wonderful incentives for rural businesses. But, again, none of this is stuff I knew when I started out.

Jon-Rosenberg-Profile-Featured-Images-3

The only way to do it is to do it.

Start Your Own Outdoor Gear Business

So go ahead, start your business, be curious, research, work your tail off, and ask for help when you need it. Heck, you can even send me a note and I’d be happy to help.

Thanks, and good luck!

To learn more about Jon and his outdoor entrepreneurship, check out his company, Cold Case Gear.


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Jon Rosenberg

Hi, I’m Jon Rosenberg! I’m a mountain runner, entrepreneur, mountain lover, and enthusiast for just about all things outdoors. I’m based in beautiful Pagosa Springs, Colorado at the foot of the incredibly rugged San Juan Mountains. You can find me running single-track trails above treeline or backpacking the Colorado Trail. Gear is my thing. I even own my own gear company!

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