Warming up to NuDown
A Reno-based company hopes to heat up the outerwear industry by using an environmentally friendly insulation substance in its line of jackets and vests.
NuDown uses compressed air as insulation to keep the user warm. The technology provides consumers with an alternative to down feathers and synthetically insulated jackets.
“It’s the air space that keeps you warm, not the feathers,” NuDown CEO Bob Hall said.
Each jacket and vest has a blood pressure-like pump in the pocket, which allows the user to customize the warmth of the jackets throughout the day. The more air that is pumped into the jacket, the more air that is trapped between the fabric and the user. If the user is too warm, he or she can release some of the air by pressing the valve on the side of the pump.
“It’s light, it’s free and there are unlimited refills,” Hall said.
The company launched its 2015 line of outerwear this past September. NuDown offers three jacket options for both men and women.
The line, named after mountains in the Sierra Nevada, includes the Mount Tallac jacket, Mount Whitney vest and Squaw Peak jacket. Each is available in a variety of colors and will be called the Alpine collection.
NuDown is sold locally at Bobo’s Ski and Board, located at 475 E Moana Lane and online. Prices for NuDown jackets range from $450 to $800.
According to Hall, the high prices are in line with their competition.
“Our competition is there (pricewise) and higher,” Hall said referring to other high-end ski apparel companies such as Japan-based Descente and United States based Spyder. “We want to be among the best.”
Entrepreneur Jeff Picket founded NuDown in 2013 when he purchased the apparel side of Klymit, a Utah-based company.
Picket was an early investor in Klymit who saw the potential for the technology but knew Klymit didn’t have the capital to apply the technology. He made them an offer to create a friendly spinout company.
“Jeff is the number-one user of NuDown,” Hall said. “He wears it everyday whether he is in New York or up on Mt. Rose.”
Hall and Pickett are neighbors in northern Nevada and were introduced by a mutual friend.
Hall has worked 40 years in the outdoors and ski industry. He held a number of jobs such as being the president and CEO of the North America division of sporting goods company Salomon, the CEO of sport and optical company Pan-Optx, Inc and president & CEO of Ride Snowboards and more.
“I was comfortably retired and not looking for another new project,” Hall said.
However, after seeing the potential for the clean technology, he agreed to come on broad as the company’s CEO.
Hall also wanted to make sure the company reflected his values when doing business. He developed five principles that NuDown operates by, such as using fairness as a guideline, creating good jobs for good people, respect shareholders, do good and do business locally.
“We are a global company but we want to do business locally,” Hall said. “Our first choice is to go the extra mile to do business with a local firm.”
The company selected a northern Nevada branch of First National Bank for NuDown’s bank and Bradlab for its marketing and public relations.
However, they were not able to find a local manufacturer and the jackets are currently made in Thailand.
“We looked (for a manufacturer) locally, but came up empty on that one,” Hall said.
NuDown also makes it a priority to give back to the local community.
NuDown is part of the 1% for the Planet organization. To join, a company pledges to give 1 percent of their revenue annually to a conservation non-profit. NuDown is working with the Nevada chapter of The Nature Conservancy to give away its 1 percent.
“We want to leave northern Nevada and the planet a better place.” Hall said.
Hall expects to continue to develop the company over the next few years and to license the technology to other outerwear brands.
“We expect to grow in two ways,” Hall said.
“We want to build a prosperous and responsible apparel business and build a new technology.”
NuDown will expand the outerwear they offer for its 2016 line, which will launch next September.
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