It wasn’t until returning from a trip to China in spring 2017, that I gave the idea of UK manufacturing some genuine thought. At the point I’d started the company the year before, I had naturally assumed that the only way to be a successful outdoor equipment brand in this day and age, was to manufacture overseas. I took out a toxically high interest rate bank loan and attempted to run the company the way other successful outdoor brands ran there’s. It didn’t work! With the overheads of the business combined with the repayments to the bank, it soon became clear, that I wasn’t selling the company’s products quick enough, and before long I wasn’t going to have enough money to continue with the high order quantities the factories were demanding. Further more I was becoming bored of the business already. Up until this point the company had mostly seemed like a glorified office job, just one where I didn’t get a wage and had the constant stress of bankruptcy.
One night after a few beers with my friend Tom Gale (now the owner of Atom Packs), I decided to have a go on his old industrial sewing machine. I took a peice of small fabric, folded it over and sewed it together. That simple act changed my life! The next day I acquired my own machine and spent the next few months glued to it. Seam by seam, the worries of overseas manufacturing drifted away as I buried myself into the joys of sewing. I used the remainder of the money I had left to convert my storage unit just outside Kendal into a workshop and once I’d mostly sold out of my overseas manufactured stock, I changed the company entirely. With the ability to manufacture in the UK, I no longer cared about competing with the other brands on the market. I was no longer preoccupied with being cheaper than my competitors. Gone was the notion of “stacking them high and selling them cheap”. Gone were my concerns about grinding to a halt once the money dried up and gone were my feelings of boredom and helplessness, as I waited for other people to make my products for me. I was finally on good foundations, I was finally in full control of the ship and the company was heading in the right direction. My focus from now on would be on creating the highest quality outdoor equipment possible and running a sustainable company. And the journey would start right here in Cumbria, in my own little workshop, surrounded by fabric, and sewing machines, making what I consider to be the best backpacks on offer today. I went from having little to do with the making of my products to having everything to do with the making of my products. I’d found my niche and soon I would no longer think of Summiteer as a business, but as my life’s mission.