Dive into Lake Superior with Gitchi Adventure Goods
If the term “Gitchi Gumi” doesn’t sound familiar, you probably don’t live in the Midwest. You may know its other name: Lake Superior. Sam Peterson and Sarah Rykal love the lake so much they named their company after it.
Gitchi Adventure Goods
The duo started the business in Eau Claire, Wisconsin in July 2015 selling fun outdoor apparel of their creation on Etsy. The women are both creative and did all the drawing themselves at first, learning how to digitize their hand-done images.
“The Gitchi is a special place to both of us. We’ve made many memories there. We’ve both spent many trips on the shores of the Apostle Islands, kayaking the sea caves, sitting beside the campfires in the Porcupine Mountains with Lake Superior’s waves as our soundtrack, taking in an amazing concert at Big Top Chautauqua, swimming in the cool waters of the Lake. When we think of being fully alive, the Gitchi is the first place that comes to mind,” the founders agreed.
Gitchi currently features shirts, like baseball tees that read, “Ignite your adventure” with a drawing of a lantern. They also do prints of outdoor activities such as hiking and paddling. The simple designs are fun and inspiring – perfect to add to the office wall when you need a little daydreaming inspiration.
“We wanted to create a responsible and transparent company that seeks to do good in the world by making products that cause less harm, by educating our customers about sustainability and by supporting the efforts of organizations that are fighting for our planet,” said the duo.
When browsing the Gitchi Adventure Goods website, you’ll read: “Going out is really going in.” Sarah and Sam take this notion to heart as they seek adventures that make them feel fully alive.
“It’s a feeling that, oftentimes, jumps up out of you with no warning. It comes when you’re finally catching your breath at a mountain summit. or when you’re bombing down hills on your bike. When you swim through sea caves in Lake superior. When you finally get to see the Northern Lights dance above you. It’s the things in life that make you feel a sense of purpose and give you that sense of ‘this is why I’m here.’ Feeling fully alive usually involves taking a risk or experiencing something new. And more often than not, it’s a feeling that’s tied to the outdoors.” They shared.
To capture that emotion, Gitchi works with two designers, Dana Christopherson and Danielle Roberts. They help bring creativity and experience to the table while embodying the love of the outdoors. Sam and Sarah still do some designing on their own, too. They love it and say having that outlet helps the women get excited about their work.
The founders met Dana at the University of Wisconsin-Stout when she was a student graphic designer for Student Life Services.
“They were so energetic, driven, cared immensely about the environment and genuinely appreciated the design work my colleagues and I were doing,” Dana said. “They are some of the most incredible women I’ve ever met.”
The designer added that the founders bring vivid ideas and direction to the table when working on Gitchi gear, but also encourage individual creativity. Dana claims she isn’t as outdoorsy as Sarah and Sam but she does enjoy camping, running, hiking and long walks on the beach. She mentioned she often scrolls through the Gitchi Instagram feed and daydreaming. “Who doesn’t do that?!” she added.
“When we’re brainstorming ideas we try to think of moments in nature — from the simple to the majestic — that have inspired us in our own lives. We often look through photos we’ve taken of past travel for inspiration. We try to find a balance of designs that have universal appeal and those that honor our roots, like Lake Superior, Eau Claire and the Midwest in general,” Sam and Sarah shared.
While there are a lot of sporting goods/outdoor gear stores out there, Gitchi is different. For one, it’s owned by two women. Three cheers for lady entrepreneurs!
“From their mission statement right down to their packaging tags, Sam and Sarah have thought tirelessly about what their customers want and need from their brand,” Dana shared. “It’s refreshing to see two people who care more about making a quality product and experience for their customers than just making something that will sell. Gitchi and its founders are rad, hardworking, modest, motivated and believe in their brand. THAT is why I work with them.”
Sam and Sarah place major importance on being good stewards for the environment. Since their focus is on the outdoors they believe they must find ways to be advocates for the planet and not pollute it with manufacturing and shipping processes. They’ve taken serious steps to reduce their impact:
- Gitchi apparel is manufactured in the U.S.A to reduce shipping-related carbon emissions and provide jobs for people in America.
- The goods are made with organic and Global Organic Textile Standard-Certified cotton. The fibers are grown and processed in environmentally and socially responsible ways.
- Recycled polyester, known as RPET, is another fiber used in Gitchi products. It is created with recycled plastic bottles. This process of reusing a non-biodegradable material reduces its impact on the environment and wildlife.
- Gitchi also uses bamboo and hemp for their outdoor-themed apparel. These fibers require little land, no pesticides and far less water than cotton or other major crops.
- The companies prints are done on Forest Stewardship Council Certified paper that was made in places that are Green-e® Certified for their use of renewable electricity. The prints are Green Seal™ Certified because they are made of environmentally responsible products and the printing process is chlorine free. Oh, did we mention the company uses zero new products in the making of Gitchi prints? Every single fiber is 100 percent post-consumer recycled. You can’t really get more sustainable than that.
Even the packaging for Gitchi goods is made in the U.S. with completely recycled materials. The founders suggest reusing it when you’re done, or you can recycle or even compost most of it.
“We want to inspire people to enjoy life in the outdoors and to connect with themselves and with nature. And if we want to enjoy the outdoors, it’s imperative that we sustain it,” the duo noted.
The founders have been waiting for companies who ‘really get it’ and integrate sustainability into their business models. They’ve found a handful who recognize the need for a triple bottom line that places importance on people, the planet and profit, but believe most businesses don’t understand the full scope of sustainability.
“There’s a famous phrase we’ve come to like: ‘We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.’ In starting Gitchi, we decided that we need to try our hardest to be the company we’ve been waiting for. So we’ve set out to do just that.”
Sarah and Sam aim to cause increasingly less harm on the planet with each new goods release as they learn more about the supply chain and manufacturing process and as the industries evolve.
The Gitchi Future
Today you can buy Gitchi Adventure Goods on their website as well as a few stores in the Midwest. Sam and Sarah launched their Spring 2016 Warm Weather Goods on May 18th. They focus on “slow fashion,” offering warm and cold weather apparel instead of continually phasing out clothing with every season change.
“We want Gitchi to be here for many years and to do lots of good in the world,” the founders shared. “At the same time, we would like to grow Gitchi internationally and sustainably. We want to ‘bootstrap it,’ building the company slowly and steadily, expanding as it’s ready to do so.”
Sarah and Sam hope to gain more control over product development to fully understand every aspect of the supply chain while still creating goods from the ground up. This will allow the women to make more environmentally responsible decisions while making one-of-a-kind Gitchi products.
While not working on their company, the ladies love spending time in Utah, Zion National Park, Bryce Canyon and Arches National Park. They enjoy the lush green of Oregon and Washington, and anywhere along Lake Superior. Both ladies feel a special energy in their home state of Wisconsin at Devil’s Lake State Park and some lesser-known spots in Door County.
“We love anywhere with a star-filled night sky, a beautiful sunset, the scent of pine trees, the view of mountains or the sound of waves rolling onto a shore,” they shared. They even keep an ever-growing Google Map as a bucket list of places to explore some day.
They claim the best part of the map is knowing there’s no way they could get to them all. “That’s a wonderful problem to have!”
Keep an eye out for a potential Gitchi Adventure Goods Kickstarter in the future by following Sam and Sarah: