This holiday season has required a true heads-down effort on First Peak — to guide production, communicate with my customers, and coordinate events and promotion. But the end of the year is also an ideal time for reflection, so I’ve forced my head up and tried to relish the accomplishments and learnings of this wild year.
From years of building product at tech startups, I’ve grown very comfortable with the “from-to” model of describing change. It’s quite simple: what was the world like before (“From”), and what is it like now, or where is it going (“To”)?
While there are many “from-to” pairs I came up with in my brainstorming, 4 bubbled to the top as most poignant. I dig into each below:
FROM basics TO staple layers
When this year started, First Peak’s entire catalog was focused on basics (Ts, bodysuits, and bibs). In early 2023, I had just kicked off the pre-sale of flannels, and sweatshirts were in the works. Zooming ahead to today, I’ve continued to develop more of these “staple layers,” and they’ve become core to the business. These items have transformed how customers shop and find us — there’s now more of an eye toward unique, durable, all-season items — and many of the financials of the business (e.g. average order value, margins, up-front production costs) have evolved as well. I attribute much of this year’s sales growth to successful experimentation on what types of products make the most sense for First Peak.
FROM remote TO face-to-face
Perhaps the most obvious shift of 2023 has been my physical location. For the first 10 months of the year, my family was fully nomadic, living in no place for longer than 6-weeks, and spending less than 10% of our time in the US. It’s a lifestyle we loved — and still love — and that we’re committed to getting back to in some way. That said, closing out the year back in the Bay Area has been eye-opening. I’ve seen the immense power of face-to-face, regular engagements with my manufacturers, which has impacted both speed and quality of production. I feel a new-found commitment to the critical relationships that keep First Peak going, and an excitement to see what these partnerships will continue to unlock for the business in the years ahead.
FROM all small-batch TO some experiments with scale
You may have noticed that First Peak introduced a series of new fabrics this year, like Seawool, Modal, and (coming soon!) Tencel. Much of this was due to my deepening knowledge of textile innovation, and my own experimenting with these sustainable, natural fibers that quickly won my heart. Some of the evolution was also due to scaling decisions, and identifying fabric blends I was ready to commit to, versus those I was still testing. While I stand by First Peak’s small-batch production approach (both in principle and necessarily), making a few bulk investments in supplies and equipment (“bulk” by my own standards, but still tiny relative to any large manufacturer) has sped up production cycles and notably cut costs.
FROM advertising TO journalism and community
This last From-To is a little funny because I never hit the ground running with advertising. But I always felt I should have. Every quarter, I’d set a goal around ad spend, and a month or two later, I’d disappointedly put that goal on the back-burner to invest elsewhere. Finally, around mid-year, I shifted my thinking to view “advertising” slightly differently — Facebook and Instagram ads weren’t the holy grail; finding new customers was. I started to experiment with essay writing and journalism, and became more plugged in with community groups of like-minded parents. My perspective today isn’t that I’ll never spend money on ads, but instead that the investment isn’t a foregone conclusion. Rather, I can stay focused on the core goal of growth and customer acquisition, and adopt a more varied playbook.
In addition to documenting some of these big from-to learnings, I’ve also taken some time to celebrate. Check out this infographic of some of First Peak’s biggest wins of the year.