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Ruffed Outdoors Launches Crowd-Sourcing Financing Campaign

Posted: November 5, 2013

Less than a year old, Ruffed Outdoors is working to leverage its initial success into a successful KickStarter campaign to finance a small-run production of jackets, pants and hats.
The natural camouflage of the ruffed grouse inspired the cammo designs of Ruffed Outdoors

The natural camouflage of the ruffed grouse inspired the cammo designs of Ruffed Outdoors

One day last winter, as Torin Miller studied a picture of ruffed grouse, the wildlife and fisheries science student noticed how well the woodland bird blended in with the surrounding brush.

Miller, a hunter, marveled at the effective, natural camouflage and realized he’d never seen any camouflage jackets, pants or hats for hunters patterned to mimic the grouse’s plumage: rich brown peppered with white and black on the bird’s back and white with dark brown bars on its breast.

Hunters would buy a product like that — if properly created and marketed, suspected Miller. 

He told his three best friends, also hunters, about his idea.“They believed in it. I believed in it and it took off from there,” he said. “We all share the passion for the outdoors and the industry.”

Now, they are all partners in Ruffed Outdoors, a new, student-run business venture that in early November launched a crowd-sourcing financing campaign on Kickstarter.com. On the campaign’s second day, 29 backers had pledged $2,880 toward the company’s $15,000 goal.

“Mother Nature already did all the hard work for us,” says Ruffed Outdoors partner Brad Grieb in a slick, polished three-minute video on the company’s Kickstarter site, which also includes the story behind the product. Here’s how the campaign works: supporters make financial pledges at different levels corresponding to different rewards, like a Ruffed Outdoors decal, hoodie, drink koozie or jacket. 

Once Ruffed Outdoors meets its goal, Kickstarter charges supporters’ credit cards. If the goal is not reached at the end of the 30-day campaign, no one is charged.

Miller and his partners used photographs and a real (stuffed) grouse to create three designs, had them printed on high-tech fabrics to make sample jackets and pants.

While the ruffed grouse provides the form and fashion, Miller and his partners have given a lot of thought to function in their fabric choices. After reviewing many fabric samples, they found a softshell tricot fabric for the suits and added a Gore-Tex lining to keep hunters warm and dry.

Miller initially worked with grouse photos and digitally manipulated them in Photoshop to create the designs. Based on the prototype, the four friends officially founded the business as an LLC and registered copyrights for the designs.

They began working with Mark Gagnon, Harbaugh Entrepreneurship Scholar and Coordinator of the Entrepreneurship and Innovation Program, in late April and developed two more patterns.

Now, there is the original ruffed grouse pattern, based on the Pennsylvania state bird, the “ptarmigan” which has more white in the design and is based on the bird of the same name found in the northern latitudes of Canada and Alaska and the “sharptail,” mimicking the feathers of the sharptail grouse found in open spaces of the Great Plains region. 

As Grieb says in the company’s KickStarter video: “A simple yet effective camouflage that provides hunters the ultimate concealment across the continent, regardless of your latitude, longitude or altitude.”

By the summertime, Ruffed Outdoors had presented its plans to Lion Launch Pad, a business accelerator program to help student entrepreneurs launch viable startup companies, and was awarded a $500 grant.

Using that money, the team had fabric printed in each of its three patterns using a sublimation printing process in North Carolina. A seamstress in Bellefonte made the garments out of the printed fabric. 

The four friends, hunters and partners all grew up together in Bellefonte. Grieb, partner-sales, is a junior at Lock Haven University, partner Nate Alterio is a Penn State sophomore with an undeclared major and Jonas Holderman is a graduate of the forestry program at Penn College in Williamsport.

The partners worked with the SparkPlug program, which coached them and awarded them $500 to start a crowd-sourcing campaign. They’ve also created a website and achieved a solid following of 600 Facebook friends and are using Twitter to promote the business.

Founded in February 2013 and less than a year old, Ruffed Outdoors is working to leverage its initial success into a successful KickStarter campaign to finance a small-run production of jackets, pants and hats in preparation to exhibit at the Archery Trade Association show Jan 6-8.

The partners' goal is to license the designs to outdoor apparel makers and produce their own specialized apparel and accessories with the grouse cammo designs for a target market of young men — and possibly young women as they’ve experimented with incorporating pink into the designs.

“We’re ready to take the next step,” says Miller. “We’re ready to take off.”