In a nation driven by fast food, big box retail, and twenty-four hour news, it’s nice to know there is still room for entrepreneurs and inventors who are willing to put everything on the line for the American Dream.
Like many parents, Rick has spent countless hours attending his son's soccer tournaments over the years. During one such tournament in Virginia, Rick had an epiphany that would change their lives forever.
“We had an 8:00 AM game so I set up my trusty soccer chair at midfield, ready for action. It was 29 degrees, coupled with high winds and freezing rain. Everyone bundled up with blankets, parkas, gloves, etc. but we were still cold and wet. By half time the temperature warmed up to a sultry 35 degrees - then came the rain. I knew there had to be a better way. On the way home, I sketched my first pod."
When selecting materials for the SportsPod, Rick relied upon his 30 years experience in the textile industry and his love of camping to make sure the shelter could withstand even the harshest weather conditions. It also had to be light weight and portable so he outfitted the carry bag with backpack straps. After all, make no mistake about it. This product was designed for two things, Rick's love for backpacking, and to keep him warm, dry and comfortable wherever he is. Rick and Kelly decided to invest their life savings in this new enterprise, but there were no guarantees. The early days were slow.
“We were worried at first because we weren’t selling a lot of pods. We were shipping one or two at a time from a couple of small, rented warehouses. We had a website but no infrastructure set up for fulfillment. Then, Kelly sold her company and began working at Under the Weather®. Shortly after, the company went viral on social media."
Rick’s spirit of invention coupled with Kelly’s marketing expertise provides the perfect balance to keep this American Dream alive and well.
“In 25 years of marketing I have never seen a product launch like this one. In less than a week, our Facebook fan base increased 400% and we started receiving hundreds of orders within a 10-day time span. It was all organic, all “shares.” The challenge then was keeping up with orders and setting up a makeshift fulfillment center. Rick, I and the kids spent our days shipping and all night long responding to Facebook posts and emails.
It was a crazy five or six months until we caught up. We continue to grow and struggle to not only manage the business we have but also to “stay ahead of the curve. Each day brings a new set of challenges but we know we are living the American Dream. We have talked with hundreds of customers. We know first-hand we have a passionate fan base. It is not only a marketer's dream but it is “our” dream, our product. It doesn’t get any better than that!”
Five years later Under the Weather® is now the leading personal shelter in the U.S. with multiple patents and distribution in Canada, Australia, and Europe. As they say, the rest is history.
Although many small businesses can say they have a close relationship with their staff, here at Under the Weather®, our team is part of the family. We’ve grown a lot these last few years and thanks to our hard working staff, we’re ready to grow some more. With new products coming online and expanded distribution around the world, these dedicated soldiers are ready for action. Thanks Mary Jo, Jordan, Stacey, Amy, Ron, Vicki, Roy and the rest of our fulfillment team for all your hard work and dedication.
Running a small business requires a ton of passion and plenty of work behind the scenes. Rick and Kelly have built a team that truly embodies these attributes. One of these team members is business developer and marketing strategist Ward Hopkins. Ward was originally brought on to develop the new Shopify store, but once he got involved they quickly realized he had a lot more to offer. His 20+ years of experience in marketing, web design, ecommerce, and business development made him a perfect catalyst for accelerating the Under the Weather® vision.
Not only did Ward handle the development of this amazing custom Shopify store, but he also manages more than 25 different online apps and software integrations that keep the store humming along. His combination of technical, creative, marketing, and business skills combined with being a Shopify expert make him a perfect compliment to our growing operation.
Ward enjoys helping small businesses grow. If you’re interested in working with him, send us an email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Rick and Kelly attribute much of their success to the many thousands of customers, fans, and friends that have contributed valuable feedback, suggestions, and positive reviews over the years.
The close connection that Rick and Kelly have established with their loyal customers is nothing less than amazing. It is so rare to see this level of engagement especially when it comes to ecommerce. When you work as hard as they have and believe in a product as much as they do, it’s easy to see why Under the Weather® customers are so dedicated.
After several hundred sketches, Rick eventually came up with a design that made sense, a fully enclosed tent in which a soccer chair could fit comfortably. It needed great visibility and had to be portable and lightweight enough to carry from game to game. It also needed to be easy enough to put up and take down on the fly.
The “Under the Weather®” pod began with crude sketches and many prototypes over two years. The first prototypes were “weather tested” in their back yard for an entire winter. The final tweak was sun protection, a request from many of the “product testers.” Two years and many prototypes later the first order was sent out and the business was up and running.