Enduring The Cold with Huckberry
I’m not the only one who thinks that winter’s prolonged stay is rather inevitable if you live in Michigan. As my mother says, “Michigan is trying to be all 4 seasons in one day.” From the blinding yet beautiful sun to the ice storms that continue throughout the weeks, us Michiganders have always endured the harsh to enjoyable weather in the months after the holiday season. From morning coffee in front of a blistery winter scene to a sunny hike that still breathes a blistery chill. Today, I’m grateful and am excited to create this post for you guys today. The Huckberry team sent me a wonderful email and wanted to have me try out the Proof Field Jacket that they carry in their shop. I’ve been a long time follower of Huckberry and love their brand story.
Five years ago, Rich and I were freezing our butts off on a rickety chairlift on the backside of Squaw Valley when we decided to go for it.
Looking back, we were far too naïve to know exactly what it was, but we definitely knew what it wasn’t — cranking out spreadsheets for 90 hours each week for the rest of our lives. Still, gaining the courage to leave our safe, lucrative jobs wasn’t easy. As Jerry Seinfeld might say, it was like tipping a vending machine — you don’t just push it over, you have to rock it back and forth a few times.
Having discussed our idea over countless Anchor Steams after work, we knew in our bones that Huckberry needed to exist. There were men’s stores, sure. Adventure magazines, too. Yet nothing out there spoke directly to us — 25-year-old guys who lived in the city but livedfor the outdoors — and we envisioned a brand that was equal parts store, magazine, and inspiration to help guys suck the marrow out of life.
So in the summer of 2010, we left our jobs, invested $10,000 each from our savings to form Huckberry LLC, and set out to scratch our own itch.
We chose the name Huckberry because we both loved Mark Twain's Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and thought Huckberry was the perfect totem for the spirit of adventure we wanted our brand to embody. More practically speaking, Huckberry.com was available on GoDaddy for $9.98 and Huckleberry.com was not.
We hit the trade show circuit and sold our favorite brands on our vision. Most looked at our self-designed business cards, smiled with amusement, and said no. But enough said yes, presumably taking a chance on us not because of where we were, but because of where we were going.
Inspired by 37 Signals’ (now Basecamp) Bootstrapped, Profitable, and Proud blog post series, we decided not to pursue venture capital. We wanted to build our business on our terms. Towards Patagonia and its organic Let My People Go Surfing brand, and away from the VC-fueled boom-or-bust brands that were chasing it.
So we hustled. Working out of our apartments, we read Photoshop for Dummies cover to cover, and designed Huckberry 1.0. Our friend’s younger brother, Jimmy, helped code it between classes during his junior year at UC Berkeley. Our first website wasn’t pretty, but it worked, and as a mentor once told us, you always throw out your first pancake.
In April 2011, we flipped the switch, and Huckberry.com went live.
Our community began to grow…slowly. We couldn’t afford to advertise so we got creative and partnered with the Art of Manliness (thanks again, Brett 👊) and Outside. Brands began to ask how they could get featured on Huckberry. When our apartments started to overflow with inventory and cardboard boxes, our roommates and the local barista suggested we get an office. So we rented one in San Francisco’s North Beach neighborhood for $600 a month. We felt like kings; it didn’t matter that our castle was only 296 square feet (well, ~350 square feet if you include the bathroom).
We built our team. Ali joined. Jeff. Alex. Even Eli, our local barista. No prima donnas in that group. Every day at 4pm it was pencils down and packages out in a blitz of boxes, beer and tape. At 5:25pm, we’d carry each box down to the street, grab a mail cart, and push it uphill both ways in a blizzard to the post office. If you’ve ever lived in San Francisco, you know the uphill both ways part is true.
When our inventory began to overflow into our bathroom, we started looking for a warehouse. When we had to store inventory on our roof overnight, we really started looking for a warehouse. In the spring of 2012, we found one in San Francisco’s SOMA neighborhood, and not long after moving in, Ali decided it could use a 12-foot rock wall.
Writing all of this in January 2016, it’s hard to believe that it’s been over three years since Ali, Buddy, and Si built that rock wall in our old warehouse. It feels so close, yet so far away(if you recognize that we just dropped some Hall & Oates, good on you).
So much has changed. The tens of packages we used to ship a day are now thousands. Our team has grown from six cold souls wearing ski jackets in a 48° degree warehouse to 50+ strong working in a (heated) office in the Design District. In this past year alone, we launched our Ambassadors Program, introduced our Artist Spotlight and Field Guideseries, shipped our first print catalog, and partnered with our friend Chris Burkard in the next installment of our Explorer’s Grants.
Still, the important things remain the same. As Apple founder Steve Wozniak once said, all the best things that I did at Apple came from a) not having money and b) not having done it before, ever. Every single thing that we came out with that was really great, I'd never once done that thing in my life. Woz would be happy to know that as we approach our fifth anniversary we’re still a) 100% bootstrapped, and b) hustling to build the most inspiring, creative, and profitable company in eCommerce.
We’ve always believed that a Jedi draws his strength from the Force — that you all are Huckberry, and we're just the stewards. So in perhaps one of the greatest understatements of all-time, we’d like to say thank you for supporting us on this journey. For bearing with us through our growing pains, false starts, and the time I accidentally Instagrammed six pictures of the inside of my pocket while dancing with my wife in Vegas (blame it on the a-a-a-a-a-alcohol).
I think Rich and I now realize that when we decided to go for it that day at Squaw, that itwas an adventure. That for us, the action is, and always will be, the juice.
We promise that everything about the Huckberry experience — the gear, stories, experiences, shipping times et al. — is going to get radically better in 2016. The road ahead is unpaved but open, and we can’t wait to share the journey with you.
See you out there. [H]
Andy Forch and Richard Greiner
As I do, I wanted to add my chemex recipe down below. I’d have to say that making a large pot of coffee for friends to enjoy is the perfect way to endure this weather. My friend Brandon and I had a discussion about brands and where the social media world is going and as he came into the house, I asked “ want some coffee?” I replies with “I wouldn’t oppose!”. So, we went outside and made some coffee on my little gas burner. The Proof field jacket is the perfect accessory for warm and cooler days. I’ve been wearing if for a couple weeks now and a lot of people have asked me about it and as I do, I sent them to Huckberry. Let’s make some coffee shall we?
Ingredients and Utensils
6 TBS Whole Bean Coffee ( I'm using Rowster Coffee today)
Chemex Filters ( not pictured because I bought the wrong ones)
Goose Neck Kettle ( I love my Stagg Kettle)
Step1: Fill your Kettle up with water and turn your stove on to medium to high heat
Step 2: Put your Filter into the chemex. Make sure the folded side is by the spout
When grinding for a chemex, Its usually grounded to a medium to fine grind. it should look like kosher salt.
Step 3: Grind your 6 TBS in a burr grinder.
Step 4: When the water has boiled and sat for 30 seconds, in a circular motion pour your water into the chemex, pre-wetting the filter and warming the chemex
Step 5: When the water goes through the chemex, pour out the excess water.
Step 6: Add your ground coffee beans to the chemex
Step 7: Zero out your scale and place chemex on top of the scale.
Step 8: Start by wetting the beans. This is called the bloom. Start with 150 g of water
Step 9: Let the coffee bloom
Step 10: Continue to pour until you reach 450 g of water: Pouring in a circular motion
Step 11: Let the coffee drain into the chemex.
Step 12: Continue to pour until you hit 700 grams
Step 13: Let it brew
Step 14: Serve and Enjoy
I can’t be more thankful for Huckberry sending over this wonderful package. I have a little coupon code for you guys to use if you want to grab a jacket for yourself. Use code proof10 for a discount on the jacket. It comes in three colors and the best part, there’s a compartment on the back of the jacket that holds a hood!