September 20, 2022

Erem Boots founder Noah Swartz is making products using only materials with proven paths back to nature [EP 347]

Show Notes

Rick Saez
Erem Boots founder Noah Swartz is making products using only materials with proven paths back to nature [EP 347]

Noah Swartz from Erem Boots joins me. Noah and the passionate Erem team of gear junkies, activists, and desert rats are motivated every day to produce the best, most environmentally sustainable desert footwear possible. They are also committed to planting one million Prickly Pear cactus, which have huge potential in the fight against climate change. 

Brought to you this month by Grammarly

Show Notes

Did you work in the family business at all the Timberland business?

My dad sold Timberland when I was in high school. And he sold it before I was a full-time working age. But I think probably a lot of kids can relate to this, when your parents are really passionate about what they do or they work a really intense job, whatever it is, it definitely can find its way back home. Even if the parent tries really hard maybe to leave it at the office. And from a really early age, I just remember dinnertime conversation was very frequently about the family business.

Did you consider other product categories or footwear just in your DNA and you went right to footwear?

We definitely did consider other product categories and we still consider other product categories. But by the same token, footwear was, I think a really logical place for us to start for two reasons. The first is from a need standpoint. Nothing will ruin your experience in the outdoors quite like a tiny little blister on your pinky toe. Which is kind of remarkable.

So in terms of like, where was the most acute need we thought from a performance standpoint, we think now it starts with footwear. And so that was kind of number one, which is we set out to build this brand inspired by the desert and to build products that could live up to the extremes of the desert.

So they could outperform everywhere else, starting at the place where we saw the biggest market need for that performance, where you wouldn’t have, hiking, boot delamination three hours in right? Where you could actually have, boots that could protect you against extremely aggressive terain that can truly breathe in real temperature swings.

And then, the second piece. if you can match your strengths with the perceived market needs, we think that’s a place to win and concentrate. And so definitely having, at the table, we’ve got, oh gosh, I don’t even know, like a hundred plus years of combined footwear experience. And being able to bring that to bear even as a small company was something that we thought would position us well.

You focused on desert landscapes right out of the gate. Was that because of the need? Or something that you focused on the need and the opportunity, or do you just love the desert?

It’s a perfect combination of both. So I grew up in the Northeast but for the past decade, I’ve spent time in deserts or semi-desert environments. And I just fell in love with it. And so what really kind of prompted me to start the business is two and a half years ago, my wife and I were in Southwest Utah, and we were having a pretty fun time on the trail. One day we woke up and it was, below freezing. It was snowing and by the middle of the afternoon, it was pretty hot and sunny. And we had wanted to be in Southwest Utah that time of year. But our gear just wasn’t really built for that type of temperature fluctuation and for going from cold and wet to hot and dry.

And so here we were surrounded by the most beautiful red rock on earth like just, it’s like a place of like universal human soulfulness. But I developed this pretty nasty set of blisters. And so, limping off the trail that day, kind of just was talking about with my wife, which it just didn’t make sense. Here we are, it’s one of the most beautiful places on earth and we just were not familiar with any gear or any brands or products that really were kind of made to handle these types of challenges. And so that to me was kind of what really sparked it

And tell us about the name, tell listeners about that. How’d you settle on that?

So Erem comes from two things. The first is the Greek word for desert Eremos, cuz we were inspired by and born in the desert. I had that kind of epiphany in Southwest Utah. But the other piece is it’s an acronym. So a stands for exceptional, responsible, enduring, and motivated. E R E M. Right? And that’s our product, promise that’s our brand philosophy, as a brand, we’re really about three things.

The first is to deliver best-in-class performance for the outdoors inspired by the desert. The second piece is to raise the sustainability bar for the outdoors. And the third is to identify solutions, to solve some of our planet’s biggest challenges. And Exceptional, Responsible, Enduring, and Motivated to me gets it.

Which functional area of the brand do you feel the strongest connection to?

As a small company, CEO stands for chief everything officer. Right? But to your question, where do I feel the strongest connection to the place. Whatever allows you to get outside the most is probably with decreasing regularity these days, unfortunately. And so, if that means I get to be the product tester, sign me up. If that means I have to go make a sales call because I get to take someone for a hike or whatever, definitely sign me up. That’s the executive privilege that I like to be able to play, get me out outdoors as much as I can.

I think other than that, the piece that I’m also really drawn to, I love the brand building piece of like actually going out and talking to people. I love talking to people about their product needs. I love talking to people about how the outdoors resonates with them and how that can inform how we kind of think about our messaging. And, I love talking to people in our community about the change that we’re trying to make, from a bio circular standpoint, from what we’re doing with planting cactus pears, right? So the piece around building brand community around issues that I really care about.

Do you have any suggestions or advice for folks looking to take their product or company idea to market?

The one thing that comes to mind is socialize it. And what I mean by that is I think there’s a little bit of this like kind of illusion, which is like, don’t share good ideas with other people, cuz I don’t know, some people will steal the idea or whatever it is and I think it’s really hard to go from an idea to a business.

I wouldn’t be too worried about folks stealing the idea, but you know, even more powerfully than that. Again, I’m a really big fan of it takes village. And so go get feedback on the idea first and foremost. Like you can get feedback from everybody and, most ideas need refining of some kind.

So start there, just start talking about the idea with a lot of people and. See if it’s resonating. And then the other piece about socializing, it is you get to you, you kind of form advocates and allies and kind of wisdom networks that way too, which , you’ll talk to somebody who, you think has knows nothing about whatever it is you’re talking about.

And then they’ll say, well, Hey, by the way, my cousin or this buddy of mine, whatever it is, they’ve got this friend that works at this company and then all of a sudden you realize, well now maybe I found somebody that actually knows how to do this thing. I don’t know how to do.

I’m a huge fan of that’s the quickest way, do a shortcut, I mean, just talk to somebody that knows a little bit more about something than you do. That can pay dividends many times over. So I guess my advice would be, find your community of, people that are trying to do similar things, find your community of people that, Know, something about what it is that you’re kind of passionate about and trying to do. Cuz I found that’s been useful to me every single time. I’ve been kind of smart enough to try and tap into that.

What is your favorite outdoor gear purchase? Under a hundred dollars.

Erem water bottle

Sun Bum Sunscreen

Do you have a couple of  favorite books?

Cadillac Desert

For the past few months I’ve been reading anything I can get my hands on by this author Ivan Doig.

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