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Seager Clothing wants to be synonymous with grit and ruggedness. Seager’s founders, Elliott Shaw, Case Anderson, and Mattson Smith, created a brand based on their love for the outdoors and toughened by the challenges they faced in building their business. In this episode, Rick Saez talks to Seager’s founders about the great outdoors. We learn how they got into outdoor activities, how their friendship gave birth to Seager, and their experiences growing their business. Tune in for more outdoor adventures and business ideas with Rick and his guests.
Upholding The Grit And Ruggedness Of The Old West With Seager Clothing Founders Elliott Shaw, Case Anderson, And Mattson Smith.
Welcome to Episode 305 with Four Wheel Campers Ambassadors and Seager Clothing Founders Elliot Shaw, Case Anderson and Mattson Smith. They founded Seager in 2015 to uphold the grit and ruggedness of the Old West through community experiences and apparel. We dig deeper into the meaning of grit, how they started the company and read a few Seager stories too.
I’m talking about the guys from Seager Clothing Company. They are sitting in their Clubhouse environment down in San Clemente, I’m up in Bishop. How’s it going?
We are doing great.
How are we doing? Nice weather down there?
It’s going to rain, funnily enough.
It was cold.
It’s 41 degrees. Chilly. It’s cold here.
It was 30 here. It was chilly.
It didn’t snow yet?
Not in Bishop. The mountains have snow. We got some a little bit and then we have more on the way. Here, in between storms, we got 50 feet of wind and it’s cold. That’s what we got.
All the trees are gold. The colors are all popping so it’s a beautiful time to be here. Let’s start with how you were introduced to the outdoors. Case, do you want to kick us off?
When I was a kid, my mom was a big beach fan. I would go to the beach a lot. Whether it was boogie boarding, body surfing, playing volleyball, hanging out on the beach, running around or making sandcastles, the beach was my first outdoor experience. Going to the beaches in Southern California is my first experience of the outdoors.
Did you migrate into camping? Did you go camping later on in life? How’d you get to the camping world?
My mom’s a teacher so we never did any elaborate holidays or elaborate trips. We camp at state parks a lot. That was something big. It was camping at San Elijo State Park or San Clemente State Park I did a lot growing up.
I did that all the time in high school. We were down there a lot and then I’d go down there surfing once I could drive. I spent a lot of time in those campgrounds as well. Mattson, how about you?
Brands crash and burn early because they went to big-box retailers too early on.
I grew up in San Diego. My grandpa was a captain of a fishing boat for his whole life. I grew up in the outdoors, fishing at times. I would work on boats through high school. My dad also was a professional surfer. I do fishing trips or surfing trips as well. As far as land goes, I was completely enamored with anything that didn’t have to do with the sea because I was around that so much. I drove out to Julian, California, which is East San Diego. I ended up getting a job out there as a bartender. It was one of those things where on the weekends, as soon as I got a car, I drove out there, get to know the people out there and go hike.
All around Julian. I was going to ask you about your grandpa’s fishing boat. Was that an offshore boat? Did you go out for tuna or what?
He has been a fisherman for many years, six-packs and commercial fishing. When I was born and growing up, he had already upgraded up to a 50-foot boat. That’s where he would live on that thing and take us out all the time.
You weren’t running around the Cuyamaca Mountains. Did you go to Palomar as well, camping out there and all that?
I was completely obsessed with it. I was out there. It’s funny. It’s a little sliver in my eyes of Mount Montana. You get to see the mountain view in my area, open, rolling hills. It’s beautiful out there.
I taught sixth-grade camp at Palomar, right out of college. I graduated college with an Outdoor Rec degree and got an internship out there and then ended up sticking on. I don’t think I was an actual teacher but I was a teacher or whatever right before you become a teacher is. It was pretty fun hiking all around the mountains and teaching pond biology and all that crazy stuff. Did you go to Cuyamaca’s Sixth Grade Camp?
I can’t remember the name. It’s outside of Julian. It was so freaking fun. That also opened my eyes to going out at nighttime and chasing around frogs and stuff. That was a lot of inspiration to being out in the wilderness and old mining town, the Western body, everything and then figuring out, bringing guns out there. The inspiration is huge.
Wide-open spaces. Elliot, how about you? How’d you get into the outdoors?
It was through my dad. My mom is not much of an outdoors person, which is fine. Not everyone is. My dad grew up in England, his dad used to take him camping all the time when he was growing up. That was their father and son bonding time. It’s a normal thing to do. My dad did the same thing. We didn’t do Boy Scouts. We did it with the Native American guides, Indian guides. I did that with my dad and my brother. I don’t even know when we started but I was a toddler. Camping trips, projects, kid camping, that sort of community. It’s like the summer camp.
It’s a YMCA thing, isn’t it?
I don’t know. I know the Boy Scouts is. I was looking into this at an older age. I was curious about it. I don’t remember but nonetheless, it was awesome. It took us to Catalina, which was sick. That was a fun one. Honestly, a lot of nearby campgrounds. It was more bonding with your family and friends and stuff out there. That was the first focused camping experience I had other than going to the beach with my family. Your parents take you to the beach and then you have free range to run around, which is so nice.
There are a lot of cool spots to camp down there and hike and stuff down there. I spent years down there. My parents moved to Carlsbad after we moved out of Fontana and then taught at Palomar and stuff. There are a lot of things to do outside that.
A lifetime of stuff to do.
On your website, you say that Seager was founded in 2015 by a group of friends inspired to uphold the grit and ruggedness of the Old West through community experiences and apparel. Let’s start with how did you meet and then how did you come up with that idea for Seager?
We’ll probably end up going on some tangents here but Case and I met in sixth grade, middle school. We grew up one neighborhood apart in sixth grade. We’re friends, obviously ever since. Mattson and I met in college. We both got recruited for volleyball down at UC San Diego. Mattson’s from La Jolla. We met there. That is the trifecta of friendship there and center of the track. We did things together.
Are you the ringleader?
I’m not the ringleader. I just round them up. Like we were saying in those initial stories of connecting with the outdoors, we all registered or embodied that energy, which a lot of people do. Some people might not act on it as much. Maybe it’s a pastime on the camp occasionally or something. Some people push it more than others. At that time early college, about our sophomore year, we got going full speed in 2014. Around that time, we were getting more excited whether that was surfing or camping or mountain biking, hiking, all of the above.
We got more excited about those activities. Obviously, we’re trying to get our homework done but it was the mountains that were calling if you will. We were trying to figure out a way to channel that, figuring out what our major was going to be, what we wanted to do after we graduated. In that creative confusion, we decided to give it a go and maybe make our own clothing company. We were excited about the action sports space. I got married.
Thank you. This reminded me of that. I wrote a note to him. I remember out of all of our friends, there was always Elliott to bounce ideas off of, wilderness-wise. If I wanted to go out to Julian or if I wanted to go talk about how I wanted to go be a trail maker in Montana or Idaho or whatever it was, he was always the one that was like, “I’m down. Let’s figure that out. Let’s go.” He’ll be outdoors, drinking and partying. We did that too.
He’s out for any adventure. “Whatever you’re doing, I’m game. Let’s do it.”
It was that spark where we’re like, “There’s not a clothing company out there that embodies outdoors or Western feel with the culture that we grew up in. There are some other companies that do it and they make the product that we long to necessarily wear or be involved with. Why don’t we try this ourselves and make products?”
How did you come on clothing? What was the clothing inspiration, as opposed to packs or bags or it could have been coffee or it could have been some alcohol?
Honestly, we started with little knowledge of how to make clothes and even how to design what to do but we knew we wanted to make things that represented ourselves and what we were desire and where we were going, what we wanted to do. In terms of clothing, we started with the t-shirt because we knew someone that had a printing press. Maybe we made two T-shirts, twenty units of each T-shirt and legitimately sold them to friends and family.
It was more than a T-shirt, clothing idea in the beginning. It also goes to the point that we didn’t have the wherewithal to start with another product. We were too young. We were trying to be college students and the easiest thing. The way to push the Western grit side was to make t-shirts. The clothing industry initially was what drew us in. We thought beyond clothing in the future, we were planning on packs and bags, things like that but that is light years ahead of what we knew we could handle at the time. We had to fake it until you make it as a clothing company, which I’m sure you’ve seen. You have to start with something. A T-shirt is the easiest.
Did you work retail? What were the jobs you had? Did you sell clothes?
We all did. I worked retail for about seven years at five different shops. Case worked at with two. Surf lessons with Thalia and then it’ll be it too as well. We all had experience there. We knew where to go, who to ask for certain things but we had zero experience making something from an idea to a product that we had never done. Their mom started a clothing company so it’s a miracle that we got it.
There’s a lot of them but not a lot of them make it. When you were doing retail, did you design anything? Did you draw anything? Were there any design ideas in your background, any of that thing when you start the apparel?
The doodles were the biggest part. We’re all pretty much the creative directors for Seager at the same time but we don’t. We come up with a concept and then we have professionals finish it up.
I see you’re doing coffee. That’s an interesting offshoot. I love coffee.
Coffee has been a fun thing for us.
Tell us a little bit about that. Is that Hidden House? Is that what it is down there somewhere?
Everyone’s excited to get out there, and everyone has that itch to go outdoors. It’s almost primal.
Hidden House is a local coffee shop in San Juan, which was pretty much 1 of the 2 places that we would always meet up at when we were talking about Seager or what was even before Seager. It’s funny going full circle for the first coffee product working within us. This feedback, it’s an on-the-go product. I thought it would make sense with road trips, camping and being outdoors but also being able to pop in a cup at your house too.
It makes good sense. What was your first product? Was it the T-shirt?
Technically that hat. We made the worst hat probably of all time. That’s our first go at it and we were very disappointed in it. We made one snapback or maybe it was a leather strap, the strap back. We made one t-shirt in a couple of colors.
What was on the hat? Was there a logo on the hat? What was on the front? Why was it so bad?
Deer’s skull. It was cheesy. There was an illustrator that we worked with. It was a tattoo artist and it was a little cliche. How can you embody a brand that you have in your mind with one hat?
What was on the T-shirt? The same thing, this deer?
We’ve learned our lesson. It was classic. It was just text. It said Seager with some other verbiage on it.
Where did the name Seager come from? How did that come about?
Long story. We originally were going to name ourselves Calico, which is a ghost town and where they get their silver.
Everyone wants to make a brand. It already had six patents or trademarks for the name of clothing companies. I don’t know if you follow basketball but James Harden posted with a Calico hat on. I remember that was about it yet. We were thinking about it. We were like, “We got to come up with. We had to make up a word.” We ended up spending a year and a half on figuring out what that would be. For a long time, we didn’t have the time to explain that. We’d just say Seagers is a ranch that our grandpas work on back in the day or something like that.
That’s a great name. Is it a combination of things like the sea as in ocean and gars, garage. I’m making stuff up, spitballing.
It’s spot on. Sea as the ocean and then the phonetics of ger is masculine.
Tell us about Seager. What products do you offer? I was on your website and it has cool stuff. Walk us through the line.
Pretty much a little bit of everything. It started with t-shirts and making snapbacks. Beanies were one of the first items we made. One of the first items we also made was a jacket. That pushed us into making more jackets. We have a lot of new jackets coming out. Coffee, a lot of the little accouterments, bottle openers, stickers, a deck of cards. It’s a little early but we are coming out with a bag line and bring a little bit of everything, things that help us on our trips. We started noticing making shirts and hats will wear Seager twice on your body and that’s a little bit awkward. Maybe you make a hoodie. Maybe you make a pair of pants. We’ve been exploring all areas, clothing and gear.
Stuff that you use functionally. It makes total sense. Where are they manufactured?
About a little bit in the USA, a little bit overseas. Mostly it’s easy to reach.
Do you have retailers? Do you only sell online? How does that work?
Both. We were probably about 60/40 off the couch there in terms of online and wholesale. The retail background, all the shops we worked at are those poor mom-and-pop shops, heritage surf shops in California. We like to keep in those accounts and not push too hard in the big box retailers, which obviously might be jumping ahead a little bit for us but nonetheless, we like to control the branding and the narrative of what we’re doing because it is a very specific niche.
We’re trying to focus online, handle that, speak directly to our customers and then work with those core retailers, big and small, to tell the same narrative that we’re pushing, people that can get behind it. It’s almost like a marketing campaign. It’s how we have always thought of it. We never thought of wholesale as a sales channel. We’ve always seen it as a marketing channel. We can get the product in the stores around other brands and around the right people.
Quality over quantity.
That’s smart. Did you get that through the retail backgrounds that you had?
All those retail stores we worked at pretty much focused on the small brands too. We almost saw it from the other side first. A lot of brands crash and burn early because they went to big-box retailers too early on. From our mentors that were a little bit older that had started upstart brands and whatnot, they always said, “Don’t rush into it.” We got lucky that online stores are crucial product businesses. To be able to pick and choose who we want to show our products to and in person is helpful but we’d like to focus online.
Who were some of those mentors?
One of our biggest mentors was Mike Lesher, the VP of Sales at Hurley, Billabong and Quiksilver. He found us early on and put us under his wing. We can call him anytime. We still talk to him to this day, not super often but when we see him, he’s always been super helpful.
How did he find you?
One of my friends growing up, her mom was in the stock market in New York back in the day. This is a crazy story. She was at Wall Street doing whatever you do over there, making money. I forgot which brand he was with at the time. Let’s just say it’s Quiksilver. They went public, which is a weird move. He said it was a bad idea but nonetheless, they went public. She, I believe, was a broker of some sort and was somehow attached to Quiksilver to help them. She was from the Southern California area as well which happened to be in New York. They became friends that way. Again, she’s a family friend. She goes, “I know this guy. It would be super helpful for you.” I was like, “Who?” She told me, “Him.” I was like, “Whoa.” He came at our launch event or a random event. He rolled up and he is a hoot and a half. I don’t even know how to put that guy. He is very entertaining. Shout out to Mike Lesher.
Good on you, Mike. Keep it up, teaching these guys. I appreciate it. You said you might get into bags, the accouterment side, accessory side, anything cooking on that side of things that you can talk about? Don’t give away any secrets.
Let’s say that you can now start camping with us a little bit. We’re in the planning stage for more camping accessories to push our lifestyle and all this stuff that we do and anyone else that wants that stuff.
That sounds fine. We’ll have to do Outdoor Biz and Seager camping event up here sometime in Bishop. I can take you to one of my secret spots.
You show us all the cool spots.
You also give back quite a bit to support state national parks to protect the West as it once was. What do you mean by that, as it once was? I can relate to what it was when I was a kid growing up as a high schooler. It was a lot fewer people and a lot wilder.
The land then. Our focus is, especially with 1% for the planet is to get back through the sales that we make as a business to give back to the environment. We chose to focus on California state parks where we grew up camping and spent a lot of our years in the outdoors. We’ll use it. We’ve got to stand up plenty. We figured, “Let’s give back to state parks.” The national parks as well. From our trips, it made sense to go along with that. As it once was, it’s a focus on the environment and trying to help better those parks and honestly the public lands as well, trying to leave it better than you found it, that energy. All our traits and marketing revolves around joining those areas and the people who live there or enjoy it themselves. Trying to preserve that the best we can and even better it.
It’s definitely a focus on the environment and trying to help better those parks and honestly the public lands as well.
We need a lot of help we can get. You may have seen it too. We’re still in the pandemic. It’s been crazy up here with everybody wanting to get outside, which is great. At the same time, it’s overrunning things.
That’s the thing, everyone’s excited to get out there and everyone has that itch to go outdoors. It’s almost primal. What we’re trying to do is to encourage people whether you can’t, maybe one day in your life and you don’t know what you’re doing, trying to help encourage people in a positive way to get out there, give it a go and learn the way. Don’t be cute. Don’t start fires, all that.
If I can do anything to help you with that, let me know. That’s near and dear to my heart as well. It’s important, especially up here where I live. How did you get involved with Four Wheel Campers? We talked you are going to pick up some rigs. That’s going to be exciting. How’d you meet up with that with Dan and the crew?
Pretty much by chance, honestly. We wanted to rig out the trucks that we have and get good campers on them and knew that there were cameras and games. We reached out to them and started talking. That whole crew is super nice and friendly. It honestly started working out well. We love the look of it. It was a good and mutually beneficial thing. We got together.
What’s it like to work with them?
It’s been great so far. They’re awesome. They’re good people. We haven’t done them installed yet but we are very excited. Even on the website when we were rigging them out, trying to figure out what we wanted on it. It’s hard to pick. To be honest, there was a lot of good stuff.
You want it all.
We’ll have a lot more to share with you. Try it out.
Maybe we’ll do a quick follow-up call once you get them and take them on your first shakedown trip. The design process was all online. Did you go up there and visit him or was it all online?
What was that like? That must have been cool.
That was fun. He’s like a kid in a candy store, scroll down, “I want that. Can I board that?”
Tell us about the rigs. What are some of the features you’re getting and your favorite feature, maybe?
It’s hard. Without the experience of what I’m using all the time, in terms of day-to-day, the solar panel roof that we got. The Project M.
It’s more of a bare-bones model where they all pop up and they’re almost more flush the car but it’s empty on the inside. There was no build-out on the inside. It leaves it up to the user. It’s more modular, which I’m assuming is what the M stands for.
More of a conventional camper shell, which I don’t think they’ve ever offered before mostly in classic campers with kitchenettes and stuff. It’s amazing for all the reasons to be an outdoorsman. For our particular reasons, we wanted something a little bit more gutted so we could fit things in there and travel with more gear. We knew that from our previous rig that that was super helpful to have that extra space. That was an option for the project. We want those. They’re not as dialed and built-out than the other ones but it’s what we want. They still offer so many features.
If you want, you can get it all kitted out with everything that they offer on their website.
They have refrigerators and heaters and it’s amazing what they have. You’re going modular so you can take all your own equipment and then you’re going to still cook outside and take ice chests and that kind of thing.
You can cook inside. That’s the advantage of this and build it how you want it, rig it up and change it. It’s not permanently built, which is nice. We didn’t want to be stuck with some option. Say were going up to Mammoth and we need to bring a bunch of mountain bikes and a bunch of film equipment. We could fit that.
That makes sense. Why did you choose Four Wheel Camper? Have you seen those around before? How did you find it?
For what campers have been the most classic looking camper that looks so good. It doesn’t matter what make or model you get. That’s why we wanted to reach out to them immediately.
A pop-top roof is nice.
We got a queen-size bed in there. Queen-size bed on a regular camper shell, are you kidding me?
I was talking to Chris Hollinsworth, one of the other Four Wheel Camper Ambassadors. He travels around. He does a bunch of events, like the Susan Komen events and triathlons and stuff. He says, “The bed I have in my four-wheel camper is better than any bed mattress I’m going to get in a hotel room. It’s way more comfortable.”
The only thing we were laughing about is if we’re ever urban camping, popping that thing up in the middle of the city.
With the modular, we can closeout. Ninja camp that style.
No one will know you’re in it. Get that light on and get in it and crash the light and away you go. What outdoor activities do you participate in? You mountain bike a lot. What else do you do?
Surfing is a big one, for sure. That’s on our home turf.
Surfing, mountain biking, fishing, snowboarding, shooting, volleyball.
Do you surf every day?
Around work, we try and start a little bit later than normal here at the office so that we have us and all the employees have the option of surfing in the morning. It’s generally better in the morning.
3 or 4 days a week. We’ll realize that we need to surf more than we surf every day in a row again.
You have to find that sort of combo, mountain bike. Hang out at home, jam, laundry.
Online stores are really crucial product businesses nowadays.
If you want a way to find out, let me know. I’ve been looking for many years. There are too many things to do. You got any trips coming up? Where are you headed next? Anything you can talk about coming up?
We’re going to Sacramento to put our campers on, friends giving stuff.
The roundup. We will have to get well to get on a call and talk about that too after you do it.
We’re going to do Panama in January 2022. We’re teaming up with this round company out of Kansas and I am doing a jungle trip.
That sounds like a blast. I’ve never been to Panama. That’d be fun.
We are excited. There are jaguars down there.
I should know that. I have a photo of a cheetah in Africa. I took the photo. I should know that. I’m slipping. Do you have any suggestions or advice for someone that wants to start their own clothing business or business?
We’ll go one by one. My biggest advice would be to use as many friends as you can to get involved with it that are serious. There’s a magic number there. Maybe that magic number is three because that worked out for us but I’ve seen so many come up and die because they didn’t have enough help or they didn’t know how to get in. There’s a lot of work that goes into it. Working numbers and keep building your passion, have other side jobs. We all have a bartender that works at retail stores and stuff like that. To build up that as perseverance, in short is what helped us is fighting.
Whatever industry you’re in, it’s a grind. Unless you’re starting with an insane amount of resources then you’re probably fine. Otherwise, you got to grind and fight through it. Eventually, it pays off and it’s still paying off. We’re working with friends that pay off more frequently. The little things are more fun. Perseverance, in short.
Find people who are willing to commit four years of not getting paid and grinding their asses off.
That’s how we do it. If you’re the right age and in the right place in your life. It took us four years to get somewhere where we felt confident and pushed hard and did it. We all sacrifice a lot.
It sounds like it’s paying off. Good on you for sticking with it. It’s exciting. You have done some cool stuff. Do you have any daily routines you have to keep your sanity? Surfing probably helps a lot. You meditate, walk the dog and that stuff.
I like to stretch at least. I meditate and something on that form every night. Working out and getting outdoors in general. It’s a nice way to keep your sanity. A lot of the trips that we go on involve a lot of food. Even though we may not frustrate it much but we’re on the road on the road after we settle down on a campsite, it’s like, “Where’s the whiskey bottle?” You come back here. It takes a lot. You need time to meditate.
I’m big on the sauna game. I’m not the only one there, that’s a built-in meditation machine right there. That gets the job done for me.
I never got into the sauna as much. It’s pretty good for that, though. How about reading? Are you big readers? Do you have any books you give as gifts or favorite books?
I read a lot. We all have our own forms. I’m a big audiobook guy.
Paolo Coelho, The Alchemist. My favorite would be around trips, Louis L’Amour.
Those will pass the time. That’s good. Nobody else?
I’m all over the place. Honestly, I can attest with my listening habits. I’m an Audible guy. I did random interest. I don’t share the books enough as I should. I should be more of a giver but I’m all over the place. I don’t think there’s one I could pick. That Patagonia book in terms of your last question, Let My People Go Surfing. I know we all got fired up when we read that book.
I listen to more podcasts, audio files. I read the Morning Brew almost every single morning.
I do too. That’s a good one.
A lot of different levels. What’s going on in the world.
You’re selling me on that.
Did I tell you about that?
Do you have an affiliate program for that? I don’t know how I found it. Someone sent it to me too. It’s one of those things I peruse every morning. I got about 4 or 5 things that I do. How about your favorite piece of outdoor gear for under $100?
A Jetboil. We did an overnight camping trip and the Jetboil was how we eat. That was a necessity.
That water filtration pump for backpacking. It was under $100. I have to look at the brand name on that. We were thirsty. It was back. Mine would be, I don’t think it’s super helpful at night. The Kindle, going back to the reading thing.
How can people find you and follow-up? What’s the best way? Your website’s SeagerCo.com.
The retails are all on the website too. I look forward to meeting you in person up here in Bishop. Thanks for coming to the show.
Thank you very much. We appreciate it.