Krimson Klover founder, Rhonda Swenson, has been many things throughout her life – Pro road cyclist, ski instructor, University of Colorado – Boulder alumna, Texas cowgirl, and on the other side of the mic today telling us how her grandmother taught her to knit at age nine, starting her lifelong love affair with sweaters.
Krimson Klover’s Rhonda Swenson and her love affair with sweaters [EP 306]
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Intro to the Outdoors
Rhonda grew up in a big outdoorsy family on a large ranch in Texas. She was always outside – hiking, biking, catching frogs, barrel racing. When she was 11, Rhonda was lucky enough to be invited on a ski trip and admits that “from there I was just hooked.” After that ski trip, she took every opportunity she could to go skiing. She was so hooked that she attended the University of Colorado – Boulder, worked as a ski instructor on the weekends, and moved to Vail right after graduation.
How did you get your start?
When she was nine, Rhonda’s grandmother taught her to knit, starting with simple potholders but after years of practice, her skills evolved to the point that she was knitting sweaters for boyfriends in high school. “There’s something pretty amazing about making something for someone that you love. And I always said it was proof that sweaters are love.”
When did you know you wanted to work in the outdoor industry?
While working at a sports shop right out of college, Rhonda became passionate about making a career in the outdoor industry. “I was so lucky there,” she says, “everybody in the industry comes in for clinics and teaches you all about their products.” Meeting people who were making a living in the outdoor industry inspired her to do just that.
Eventually, she became a sales rep for a woman who owned a small sweater company. Between stints working as a flight attendant, she spent weeks of time working with the company’s factories in South America, learning how the company operated from the ground up, began working as a designer, and eventually bought the company. Reflecting on the choices that led her down this path, Rhonda says “pay attention to those right. Or left turns you take in life. You never know. They just might change your life.”
How did you earn the reputation of the “sweater girl?”
Rhonda is passionate about knitting and outdoor recreation. Krimson Klover is her third brand that specializes in sweaters, so the “sweater girl” stuck. She loves that sweaters are not necessarily something that you “have to have” but the right sweater can create that impulse in a person. She believes “there’s something really wonderful about being in a business that creates [positive] impulse[s].”
Tell us about Krimson Klover. What do you do and how do you do it?
Krimson Klover is a women’s sportswear brand focused on the ski and outdoor industry that specializes in luxurious active apparel. Rhonda is the creative director and works with a group of passionate, talented women that drive the success of the brand. She admits that their teamwork is what has made the business such a success, gushing that “there’s a lot of talent here at KK.” She recognizes that focusing on what the brand excels at is what makes Krimson Klover so successful and has given them the motivation to keep growing.
Based in downtown Boulder, Colorado, the Krimson Klover office houses the creative and administrative side of the business. Their marketing team includes US and Canadian sales teams, as well as three European distributors. Production happens at factories in Vietnam, China, Indonesia, Portugal, and Bulgaria — quite a few of which are woman-owned. “I won’t work with a factory until I’ve visited,” Rhonda says about her frequent factory visits prior to the onset of Covid-19. She can’t wait to begin traveling to factories again, stating that “we really like to make sure that it’s a really good working environment”
What kinds of activities are you doing to help make the planet a better place?
Krimson Klover’s mission prioritizes women-designed activewear, responsibly manufactured with sustainable fibers, designed to make women look and feel good. “We all need to do more,” and just like most people in the outdoor industry, Krimson Klover takes the most responsible approach to what they do. “We’re not perfect yet,” Rhonda admits, “but we sure are striving to be perfect, and well, continuous improvement is the way to do it.” One of the biggest hurdles to reducing the environmental impact of the clothing industry is the amount of plastic that is used during the shipping process. “There are a lot of obstacles that get in the way of eliminating [platstic], but we’re making a lot of headway.”
What outdoor activities do you participate in?
Rhonda is an outdoor enthusiast who loves downhill and backcountry skiing as well as cycling. She tries to get outside and ride her bike at least once a day. In the winter, she rides her Peloton to stay in shape and keep her head clear.
Do you have any suggestions or advice for folks wanting to get into the outdoor business?
Rhonda recommends looking for jobs in the outdoor industry on sites like the Basecamp: Outdoor Jobs group on Facebook, where outdoor industry brands frequently post about job openings. She also advises job-seekers that “when you apply for jobs – send a note about yourself. It’ll set you up.” She loves when applicants send cover letters or personal notes along with their resumes to give her a glimpse of their personality. “It puts you at the top of the list” when she can see you as a person.
What’s your favorite piece of outdoor gear under a hundred dollars?
“Everything I do is with my dog river, who happens to get really hot during the summer.” Her favorite recent purchase is the Ruffwear cooling jacket. The vest uses a reflective outer coating and evaporative cooling technology to pull heat off of your dog and allow them to recreate more comfortably.
And is there anything else you’d like to say or add or ask of our listeners?
“Get out there and enjoy the outdoors, It’s a beautiful place we live in. So get out and enjoy it.”
Follow up with Rhonda
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