How did you come to start Virtika and what do you think was your greatest challenge?
In 2009, I was looking for a new outerwear sponsor and wasn’t having much luck finding anything that I liked and fit me the way I wanted (tall). I approached a few companies and asked to get involved with the design process and they all turned me down, so I decided to create Virtika. The greatest challenge was starting a company with no money and no real experience in any of the skills I would need to run the business. I just took things step by step and taught myself website design, photography, marketing, sourcing, importing, taxes, accounting, and clothing design.
What makes your company as a whole better than the average brand?
- We are 100% rider owned and operated. Our international team of professional skiers and boarders help design and test everything we make. This leads to our outerwear and clothing having super solid construction combined with practical features and designs/color ways that lead the industry in style.
- The small size of our company also makes us very quick to react to our customers’ needs. We are the only company that lets our customers decide our colors for the following season- we have everyone vote on their favorite colors on Facebook and that’s what gets made.
- We are one of the most core brands in the snow sports industry. Since we don’t have to answer to any big parent companies or investors, we are free to do whatever marketing we want. We are known for having some of the most creative, attention grabbing, interesting marketing and content around. This freedom also allows us to quickly and efficiently develop new products that our customers and team riders are asking for.
I got a chance to view a few of your products on your website and was super impressed. My favorite item was the 2017 Signature Jacket- Marble; the look is on point and the ability to zip off the sleeves and open up 6 different vents is impressive. Now with all that said, what is your favorite Virtika product and design?
Thanks! My favorite thing to ski in is definitely our Signature jacket and pant. I hate wearing (and carrying) a ton of layers which is why I designed the Signature series to be incredibly warm, technical (100% taped seams, 3L 25k shell, DWR coating, etc.) and insulated while still having the ability to cool off if need be- The jackets have zip-off sleeves, hiking straps (so you can wear your jacket like a backpack), and 6 huge mesh vents. The pants have a zip-off bib and 2 oversized crotch vents to help cool things down.
My favorite thing to wear around town is our Soft Shell Jacket. It’s warm and comfy and has lots of pockets and enough technical features (10k waterproof and DWR coated) to keep the elements out. It has a great look and is priced competitively.
What are your hopes for the next year?
We will continue to develop new products and lines like our new “Crossover Jacket” series that we are excited to work with Kickfurther to fund. These kinds of pieces are perfect for those who want a versatile jacket they can wear around town or ride in without having to spend $300. We are also going to reach out to more stores, teams, and clubs to push the wholesale side of the brand.
Virtika has an international team of riders that represent the brand. How did you put your team together and what does your team do for Virtika?
I’ve been skiing professionally for over a decade and have met some amazing people. I have made life-long friendships with people from around the world while traveling for skiing. Our team consists of some of the best, most stylish professional skiers and borders on the planet, many of which I know personally or have been introduced to by close friends.
Our team consists of world renowned, established athletes as well as some up-and-comers. Our team competes in comps like Dew Tour, X-Games, the Olympics, and various Red Bull events. They film with movie companies and magazines like Level 1, Poor Boyz, TGR, Inspired Media, Freeskier, Skiing Mag, Powder Mag, as well as with our own film crews and photographers to put out segments, edits, and get content for social media, the web, and magazines.
Currently Virtika primarily caters to winter sports enthusiasts. Do you plan on pushing into other markets like dirt biking or surfing?
We currently have a summer line that includes tank tops, board shorts, denim, tees, raglans, thermals, women’s tees, hoodies, and a ton of different hat styles. We don’t have plans to push any specific summer market, but we have been seeing a lot more orders going to places in warmer climates that don’t anything to do with the snow sports industry.
What do you hope to obtain by working with Kickfurther?
It is our hope to get people involved with the brand that may not have had much exposure to Virtika in the past and give them an inside view on how a production run is coordinated. We love the idea of interacting directly with Kickfurther backers in a mutually beneficial relationship that allows us to fund production of new items while giving them some extra cash in their pockets!
This isn’t really a question per say, I was just hoping you would tell about us your favorite skiing/snowboarding story.
That’s a tough one. Not sure what my favorite story is, but I can definitely think of a very memorable story- I was in Austria skiing with my buddy Alex. We were invited to ski in the Alps for featured stories in Skiing and Freeskier magazines. After a few weeks of skiing we left and met up with some friends and I ended up getting invited to a big air comp in Planai. After practice, Alex and I tried to take a backcountry shortcut back to our hotel and got totally lost and cliffed out. We were forced to climb some gnarly cliffs in all our gear, with our skis in the dark. We destroyed everything we were wearing and almost had to spend the night out there. We barely made it out, skied to a country town, and hitchhiked back to Planai. It was an ordeal to say the least, and it taught both of us to be a little smarter when exploring unfamiliar mountains.
This last question is especially for any entrepreneurs who may be reading this; what is the greatest lesson you have learned while building Virtika?
Never give up. I’ve learned throughout the years that no matter how hard things get, there is always a solution. Like all startups, we’ve been faced with all kinds of challenges and struggles in the past 7 years there’s always a way out if you focus on finding a solution instead of dwelling on the problem and never give up!
David Lesh gave me an opportunity to interview him for this blog post on his business Virtika. He opened up to the questions by touching upon not only how he got started, but also what he felt was his greatest lesson learned. For that and everything in between, I have to say thank you Mr. Lesh. I found it interesting how the Signature Jackets and Pants have so many features, such as the ability to zip off the sleeves and even wear it as a backpack. My favorite part though was how David informed me that their team of international riders help designs each product to be the most comfortable and practical in the market. Their focus on creating products that truly work for the consumer is just one of many reasons why I admire David’s business and their story as a whole. If you are interested in supporting companies like Virtika, here is a link to sign up. Also, if you have questions please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Cheers!