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In 2016, Jainee Dial and Lindsey Davis opened the online retailer Wylder Goods with $54,000 from Kickstarter and a simple yet compelling mission: to create a unique gear-buying experience for adventurous women who love the outdoors. Now, in the middle of the coronavirus crisis—but not because of it—Dial and Davis have made the difficult decision to shut down the company and focus on new projects.
“This was well in the works before coronavirus,” Davis told OBJ this week. “This had more to do with the evolution of startups and how they can match up, or not, with the life stages of their founders. To put it simply, it was time.”
For nearly half a decade, Dial and Davis curated a product line that sought to change the narrative about women in the outdoors. “We have been addressing the legacy of pink, and paisley, and flowery—this hyper-feminized vision of what it means to be a woman outside,” Davis said in her first interview with OBJ, shortly after Wylder opened four years ago. “I think what’s coming next is more unisex designs, colors, and patterns.”
“The experience of being a woman differs from being a man outside,” Dial told OBJ in the same interview. To get more women engaged with the outdoors in an authentic way, “you have to have someone with experience speaking with conviction on behalf of those experiences,” she said.
That’s exactly what Dial and Davis did. Over four years, the brand amassed a loyal fan base and built a formidable online presence committed to the idea that the industry needs retail experiences welcoming of all styles, perspectives, and attitudes. The company’s social media efforts championed an inclusive, forward-thinking, active lifestyle that eventually became integral to Wylder’s larger mission. Halfway through the company’s four-year run, Dial and Davis started organizing “field trips” as a way to engage their community, traveling to places like Alaska with Wylder customers and brand ambassadors. The company partnered with nonprofits “even before we really had the resources to do so,” Davis said. “It was just something we needed to do.”
Despite success, Davis said that recent changes in everyone’s lives have made it clear that it’s time to move on.
“When I started this company, I was 28 years old and living out of a pop-top camper. Back then, it was fine to sacrifice everything for the growth of the company. For everyone on the team, everything has changed so much. Now what’s required to run a startup has come into direct conflict with our lives.”
Though she said it breaks her heart to shut down the company, Davis is proud of how she, Dial, and the rest of the team grew over the years.
“Everyone on our team showed tremendous tenacity,” she said. “Businesses fail in a lot shorter time. I’m incredibly proud of our team’s ability to stay committed to something that was always challenging, even with so many wins along the way.” Ultimately, though, “it’s important to know when to fold and to give yourself permission to do that,” she said. “You have to measure your own success in life.”
Davis told OBJ that she has a “fantastic job lined up in the industry,” and that she’ll release the details of that new venture soon.