Steamboat companies use trade show to boost international appeal |

Steamboat companies use trade show to boost international appeal

— A Steamboat Springs business owner was hoping to strengthen his grip in the global marketplace during this year's Outdoor Retailer Summer Market trade show in Salt Lake City.

Erich Esswein, owner of Grip Pro Trainer, is one of several Steamboat-based businesses attending the four-day outdoor industry trade show that ends Sunday. Big Agnes, Honey Stinger and Point6 showed off their products to potential buyers, as did SmartWool, which for the fifth year had a contingent of employees that biked 355 miles to the show.

"Lots of traffic," Esswein said Friday from the show, where he had a booth set up across from Big Agnes, the maker of outdoor gear including sleeping bags and tents. "Lots going on here."

This is the Esswein's fifth year at the show, which he began attending to build awareness for his company that sells $7.99 finger-hand-forearm strength and endurance trainers.

Outdoor Retailer, or OR, attracts nearly 2,000 companies for an audience of global purchasers and members of the media. About 40,000 people attend the summer and winter shows in Salt Lake City each year.

"The unusual thing that goes on here is a lot of international traffic," Esswein said.

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He advertises his three grip trainers in magazines such as Maxim, Outside and Men's Fitness, but OR gives him the chance to get his product into the global market. Esswein said he has picked up distributors from Germany, Argentina and Sweden. He said the highlight of the show has been meeting with a distributor from Australia, which would create an opportunity to further grow his business.

SmartWool also hoped to grow its brand at OR, but not before burning thousands of calories during a four-day road ride from Steamboat to Park City, Utah.

This year 31 employees, retail shop owners and buyers made the trek to OR in what has become a tradition for the Steamboat-based merino wool sock and outdoor apparel company. An eight-person crew from Steamboat-based Iconic Adventures provided rider support.

"It was fantastic," said SmartWool spokeswoman Molly Cuffe, who was one of the nine employees from SmartWool's Steamboat headquarters to do the ride.

The group also included Jon Dorn, editor-in-chief of Backpacker Magazine, who first biked to Steamboat from Boulder to meet up with the SmartWool crew. Cuffe said Dorn measured burning 28,482 calories during the four-day ride to Utah.

Once in Utah, Cuffe said the SmartWool team prepared for more business meetings than they have ever had at the summer OR.

"Our focus this year still continues to be in apparel and establishing ourselves in the industry as an apparel brand," Cuffe said.

Networking with international buyers also was important to Big Agnes and its sister company, Honey Stinger. Chris Tamucci, who handles international sales for the companies, said he has met with buyers from China, Hong Kong, Japan, Ecuador, Peru and Venezuela.

"All our dealers are super positive because they are seeing so much growth of our brand," Tamucci said.

Big Agnes is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year and is launching a new insulated Q-Core sleeping pad as well as a new line of sleeping bags for teenagers.

"Our family camping segment has just really grown," Tamucci said.

To reach Matt Stensland, call 970-871-4247 or email

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