Hey everyone, welcome back to The Outdoor Biz podcast and Episode 406. Today, I’m talking with Brian Beckstead, Co-founder of Altra Footwear. After 11 years in the run and outdoor specialty retail space, Brian worked to create Altra Footwear with Golden Harper. He built a sales team as VP of Sales, pioneering the early years of Altra before becoming President. He then worked to finalize and transition of Altra from ICON Health and Fitness to the VF Corporation. Brian currently focuses on Strategic Projects and PR. He is an avid outdoorsman who enjoys problem-solving and strategizing, usually in the mountains trail running or fly fishing where he says . . . ideas thrive!
[00:02:15] Initially reluctant, Brian joined the track team in junior high and ended up enjoying it.
[00:06:20] Brian started working at The Running Store at 16, now in the industry for 25 years.
[00:08:26] Two shoe nerds experiment by putting a shoe in a toaster oven and turning it into a flat shoe. we’d always kind of been a little bit In the barefoot movement. we always like to finish our runs doing strides, you know, sprints barefoot on grass
[00:10:12] Since we took out the drop in the shoe, we needed a name for this. And so we coined the term somehow it came up with, we coined the term zero drop. That was our, that was our concept. And so that was something that, uh, with the ultra brand we still use to this day is zero drop
[19:55:09] I had the CEO of ICON, our ownership group, pulled me in one day and he said, Hey, Brian, you know, we really want to take ultra to the moon.
We want you guys to be as big as you possibly can. And he said, we are, uh, we’re looking at some investment groups, uh, for Altra. And I was like, what investment groups are you selling us? Like, well, not necessarily. Like we’re going to be meeting with some people over the next two weeks. And I ended up meeting with VF a week later, not even knowing that my company was up for sale as founder and president of the president at the time.
So it was a bit of a shock. We were not prepared for that acquisition
[00:14:29] We all had different roles, but we helped each other in every aspect of the business. Golden focused on research and development, Jeremy on website marketing, and I ran the sell side. Golden and I collaborated on designing shoes and I tested them in trail races.
[00:21:38] REI is our biggest account, specializing in Altras. Our focus is on run specialty and full service running stores. We also branch out online but primarily wholesale.
[00:24:16] Angel investor Joe Morton and the narrator’s father were influential mentors. Morton took a risk and had a positive influence, while the narrator’s dad helped in desperate times.
[00:29:31] I have a daily meditation practice that brings mental clarity and emotional balance, derived from departing a strict religion. It’s the most beneficial part of my routine.
Favorite Books: One of my favorites is Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman. It’s an absolute gem just in terms of the way the brain works. So I find that those types of things very fascinating. I read all sorts of stuff. I’m just reading one right now, Boliviar of Simon Boliviar, who’s just amazing, kind of like George Washington of South America.
[00:32:14] Favorite Piece of Outdoor Gear: The Katadyn BeFree 0.6L Water Filter is a convenient way to carry and drink water directly from natural sources like rivers and lakes while fishing or trail running. It is durable, affordable, comes in different sizes, and has an effective filtering system.
[00:34:52] Brian is active on social media and, open to feedback, loves the outdoor exercise industry.