Outside Business Journal

Cloudveil Founder Stephen Sullivan to Debut New Outdoor Apparel Company, Stio

OBJ has the exclusive first look at Stio, a new outdoor apparel brand being launched by Cloudveil founder Stephen Sullivan this fall

David Clucas

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Stephen Sullivan, the founder and former CEO of Cloudveil, will debut a new outdoor apparel company this fall.

Stio will be a premium outdoor brand, using top technical fabrics in mountain lifestyle designs, Sullivan told OBJ in an exclusive preview. More significantly, it will be direct-to-consumer only, with its first retail store location in downtown Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

“It’s a continuation of a life-long obsession I’ve had in the outdoors,” Sullivan told Outside Business Journal.

Stio will launch with more than 60 product styles, from baselayers to outerwear. It will focus on apparel, but also sell some accessories, such as totes, duffels and messenger bags.

“We put together quite a bit of money [undisclosed] and went back to partner with some long-term manufacturing partners from the past for a big launch,” Sullivan said. By September of this year, the e-commerce site, physical store, and catalog business are scheduled to be up and running.

Sullivan said he had an 18-month non-compete agreement upon leaving Cloudveil in February 2010, plenty of time to research and prepare the new brand.

“I visited a lot of cities to see how the urban market has been very influenced by the outdoor market,” he said. “The goal is to take the mountain ethos and make it more for everyday living.”

Stio will target higher-end consumers, ages 35-55, who frequent the mountains for recreation, Sullivan said. The products, priced anywhere from $50 to $700, will feature technical fabrics such as Polartec, Pertex, PrimaLoft and Schoeller, but be stylish to wear to a restaurant or around town.

“It’s for people who want to enjoy the outdoors, but not to the extreme,” he said. “We call it ‘mountain maturity.’”

The decision to go direct-to-consumer comes from Sullivan’s past experience in both retail and at Cloudveil, plus his future outlook for the industry.

“Although I have a ton of friends in the wholesale channel, it’s also a very complicated business and very tough to maintain your brand’s voice,” Sullivan told Outside Business Journal. “One advantage of going direct-to-consumer is that we plan to have quite a few more drops and less seasonality. That shortens the cycle quite a bit.”

Without third-party retailers, Sullivan acknowledged that Stio will have to spend a lot of money on marketing to get out the word about the brand. The company has hired brand loyalty, public relations, and creative agencies that will concentrate on digital and social media advertising, he says.

Stio employs eight people at its headquarters in Jackson Hole and plans to ramp up to 16 by the launch of the store. Sullivan says the company is planning for additional stores based on where business is coming from, likely other mountain resort areas.

“I don’t have visions of grandeur to build a billion-dollar company, but I do have aspirations to build a sizable company that brings something back to this community,” Sullivan said. “I was obviously frustrated and upset the way things ended for so many at Cloudveil. It left a hole in this community.”

Sullivan founded Cloudveil in 1997, after being a manager at an outdoor retail store. The company later brought in private equity money and grew to $22 million in sales. It sold to Spyder Active Sports in 2008, before being sold again, this time to Windsong Brands in 2010. Sullivan left shortly afterward. Earlier this year, Windsong announced another management change at Cloudveil, bringing in Rockhopper Group to move the brand forward.

Sullivan said some past Cloudveil employees are now with him at Stio.