Pernilla Nyrensten, CEO and founder of global outdoor clothing brand RevolutionRace (www.revolutionrace.com), recently published its first quarterly results as a listed company. Pernilla Nyrensten became the first female founding CEO on the Stockholm stock exchange since its inception 160 years ago.
RevolutionRace started in Pernilla’s father’s garage in a small town in Sweden in 2013, and the company has come a long way since. The company is now growing rapidly, making a profit and selling its products to more than 35 countries. RevolutionRace reported net sales of SEK 897 million, or USD 100 million in the last fiscal year.
Nyrensten: I grew up in an entrepreneurial family. I sold my first pair of pants at my father’s store in Sweden when I was eight. Before starting RevolutionRace, my husband and I used to sell clothing at trade fairs in Sweden. As someone who enjoys hiking and the great outdoors, I began to pay particular attention to feedback from customers at the fairs that told me how they struggled to find hiking pants in fashionable colors, flattering fit, quality, and reasonable price.
I realized there was an opportunity to offer stylish outdoor apparel of excellent quality and at affordable prices. That’s why we started RevolutionRace because we wanted to revolutionize the outdoor industry with a direct-to-consumer business model. My husband and I started the company with 30,000 euros eight years ago. I knew I wanted to communicate and build the brand on social platforms to reach our customers directly. I also saw the opportunity to offer multifunctional outdoor apparel. People want to move seamlessly between the city and the outdoors in today’s lifestyle. We utilize social media to communicate directly with the customers as I believe that typically, the retailers create a wall between the customers and the brands. I want to offer my customers the best experience and product through a direct channel.
We started the brand with one pant in Candy Pink, Rusty Orange, and black as we listened to what our customers wanted in color, fit, and style.
Chan: How did you engage your customers when the brand was unknown?
Nyrensten: We targeted 3 to 500 friends and families through paid ads on Facebook. I communicated with the customers in the same way I used to sell at my father’s stores. It was the same tone of voice. It was authentic.
I am obsessed with our customers’ satisfaction. I asked many questions, and I listened to what our customers wanted. It was very organic, and our customers shared their opinions and started to follow us.
Chan: How did you learn and overcome the retail operations, supply chain, and customer service challenges while building this brand from the ground up?
Nyrensten: We first went to a Swedish agent since we didn’t have production volume to go factory-direct. We only had enough money to fund one pair of pants to start the brand. I learned how to handle the production process with the Swedish agent. I tracked the dates in the calendar so they couldn’t fool me if the production were slow or running late. I’m a quick learner, so all that stuff I handled by myself before I hired employees.
Chan: What was your breakthrough?
Nyrensten: A Facebook ads manager asked to take our brand to the next level by doing movies like many other outdoor brands. We wanted to feature all of our pants’ components and functionalities and better inform our customers of our product and the features. Since we didn’t have a big production budget, we filmed the video ourselves using our phones. Our customers loved the authenticity of the video, and the video went viral.
It was a huge success. We discovered a life hack that became our best practice for online advertising, and we’ve been told that our ‘do-it-yourself’ style videos even inspired content creation strategies at Facebook’s Silicon Valley HQ.
Chan: What’s next for your brand?
Nyrensten: We rely on our data and customer reviews to predict next season’s assortments. We think and create only long-term value, sustainable and multifunctional products. We think about how many times you can use the product. There is a gap in the market where other brands don’t focus on the multi-functionality of the products.
We started in Sweden and the Nordic countries, and we grew into Germany and greater Europe. Today, Germany is the largest market for RevolutionRace, and we just launched on Amazon USA.
Chan: The outdoor hiking activities have grown tremendously through Covid. Did you see your business ride with that wave?
Nyrensten: This fiscal year, we grew by 132%. In Q4, which is April to June, we grew by 152%, and we saw many other e-commerce players losing sales. I believe because, at the early stage, all e-commerce players went up because of COVID, and then it was only later on when you could see who were the real category winners.
Chan: How are you mitigating your global supply chain issues?
Nyrensten: These things can be challenging for a company chasing new and re-ordered products. We have a running assortment strategy with 75% in-stock core products, which is helpful. We have also diversified our suppliers in multiple European and Asian countries. The hardest part is the new products because you need to figure out the volume. Fortunately, we are not impacted by seasonal fashion. The biggest problem is the lack of shipping containers.
Chan: What is the most critical part of your company culture?
Nyrensten: We have an underdog culture where we fought to make every Krona count because we started with nothing. We have to believe in ourselves and succeed in what we do together, as a team.
Chan: If you could go back in time, what would be that one piece of advice you would give to yourself knowing what you know today?
Nyrensten: Believe in yourself and don’t believe that the “experts” know all the answers because nobody does. Once, an “expert” told me that women can only do small businesses as a hobby and cannot build a successful business. I had to prove them wrong, so that’s the essential part of the fight and success of the RevolutionRace. I believe in our gut feelings, and today we have a unicorn valuation of our company. I also think that women need to inspire and support each other.
I loved the quote by the incredible Kamala Harris, “I may be the first, but I won’t be the last.”