Looking Back on a Ten-Year Climb

By Stephen Sullivan on

A Letter from Our Founder 

Thirty-two years ago, December of 1989, I rolled into Jackson, Wyoming in a VW Bug overloaded with every one of my worldly possessions—most importantly my skis, two bikes, a climbing rack and my fly rods. After growing up and going to college in Colorado, I tried the corporate career path on the West Coast, but it didn’t take me long to realize the city life was not the life I wanted to lead. So I headed home, back to the mountains. 

I spent my first seven years in the valley scratching out a living to feed my outdoor obsessions— bartender, ski instructor, hack carpenter. In between, I logged countless days high in the Tetons, on our local rivers and out on the trails. After landing a day job at a local outdoor shop, I quickly became part of the Jackson mountain community. I climbed, skied and fished with some of the best in Jackson, many who later became local guides and lifelong friends. Truth be told, it was damn near idyllic for a guy in his twenties, but my ambitions went beyond shared mountain epics.

So in 1997, after having gone deep for a couple years on textile and apparel construction, I started my first outdoor apparel company with a good friend. We battled our way to respectability, building a small, pioneering brand with a committed following. But after a super fun ten-year ride, we lost the driver’s seat and consequently, the company lost its way. I tried to buy it back from the new owners, but was left standing at the altar. So, with an eighteen-month paid sabbatical in my back pocket, I decided to wait it out and then saddle back up.

During that gap, I spent a lot of time with my wife and three young children, and back in the mountains. Skiing the Teton backcountry, fishing our rivers, climbing our peaks—all the while reflecting on why I’d moved here in the first place and confirming that I wasn’t done with the apparel business. Thankful for the incredible daily access and the constant inspiration, I dreamed up Stio as a brand rooted in all aspects of the mountain life, a brand emanating from the totality of my life and business experience. I recruited a small but super talented crew, called in a few favors from old friends, and we started another big climb with lofty objectives—but with the wisdom of the previous approach deeply embedded.

A decade has passed and Stio has scaled far beyond that original business plan. Fueled by a passionate group of talented people all united around the same vision—and humbled by the response to our unconventional thinking—we’ve attracted a loyal following of fans and customers who believe that our mountain perspective makes a difference. We haven’t been perfect but each and every day we strive to do the right thing. Most importantly, we have stayed true to our roots, building gear that blends technical function with mountain style while also operating ethically, responsibly and sustainably in our communities and environment.

As we charge into our second decade, we are continuing to build on the original vision. We’ve embraced better practices—recycled materials, organic fabrics and life-cycle design for the greater global good. We’ve backed causes that protect our most treasured places and ones that encourage a diversity of access, and most recently have become a Climate Neutral certified company. 

Looking back on any journey is always a reflective moment, but it’s also a time to appreciate the view as much as the grind. From all of us here at the Stio headquarters in Jackson and Wilson, Wyoming—our dedicated remote team that spans the country from Portland, Maine to Portland, Oregon—to our outstanding retail teams in Jackson, Teton Village, Park City and Boulder—we send out our most sincere Thank You for your continued business and support! 

Cheers and good health,

Stephen Sullivan – Founder/CEO

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