ORGANIC CLIMBING, USA
Josh Helke the founder of Organic Climbing, USA started climbing at the age of 5 and has been doing so ever since. He started his business in response to the influx of lower quality materials companies were using in order to compete for the lowest price. It was no longer the quality gear that he was used to or demanded for this high intensity sport that he loved. So in the summer of 2003 he made the decision to start Organic Climbing, USA. They make crash pads, gear bags, chalk bags and other accessories in the USA. They even make a climbing jean! They strive to source all of their materials from US manufacturers and small businesses.
Recycling is core to their values and most of their cutting scraps become components of other products - only the smallest of materials are not recycled into another product.
Read below what Josh had to say to American Crush. You can see more of his products at organicclimbing.com
My entire family is artists, my brother and mother are both Potters so I grew up surrounded by art. I think that building our gear is my art. When I started ORGANIC in 2004 I was living the climber dream, traveling around and climbing full time. I had some gear sponsors and was helping to develop products for a few companies in the industry. During this period outsourcing really had just hit the Outdoor industry and the gear people were selling started to go from the bomber gear I had grown up climbing on since I was 4 to a version I did not recognize and lacked the durability and character of the gear I loved, so ORGANIC started out of both my artistic outlet and also out of the necessity of durable climbing gear for our hard lifestyle.
The hardest part of launching ORGANIC climbing is work flow. Over the years we have slowly grown our production floor as we have grown as a company, the biggest crux of building the gear that we do is that it is all made custom to order to our customers color requests. Rock climbing is a seasonal sport and the best times in most of the world are Spring and Fall so we are really busy all spring and then fall through Christmas. What gets tricky is keeping the work flowing through our workshop during the slower months. We invest a ton of time and love into supporting the growth of our employees skills in our shop and they are the most valuable piece at ORGANIC. So making sure we can keep everyone employed when work slows down seasonally is our greatest crux. We aim to do contract sewing during these slower months for our orders as well as stock up on items that can be sewn ahead of time like shoulder straps, belts etc. during these months.
The best part of my job is getting to talk with so many awesome customers and hear their stories about where their gear has taken them. We have people who proposed on their pads and with the use of our chalk bags. Over 10 years we are honored to have so many repeat customers. People who first purchased our pads when they were in College and later in life are buying their babies first chalk bag from us. It is really an honor to be a part of so many peoples lives and climbing journey.
I am a total nerd about making stuff and do not even have a real office - I work off my phone at a sewing machine or on my laptop on our cutting table so I love it!
I would like to branch out of only sewing our hard goods in our workshop and open 2 new sewing lines in house; 1 for stretch fabrics so we can sew knit clothing items (shirts, Sweatshirts, fleece) and a second to run Denim and other clothing bottoms. We have sketchbook after sketchbook of awesome clothing ideas and just need to save up some funds so we can slowly keep launching these products. Having the ability to produce small runs in our own shop would help out a ton as currently we have a 1000 pc. minimum for clothing production with our partner facility, and that can be hard to save for a small company.
Visit Organic Climbing at www.organicclimbing.com
How difficult was it to keep manufacturing within the US?
"Honest for us as a custom made to order company focused 100 percent on quality it was our only option."