Company Profile: GAIA Ultimate

by | July 21, 2011, 5:00am 0

GAIA Ultimate. If you played high level Ultimate in the early 2000s you either owned a pair of the world’s first Ultimate cleats or a GAIA jersey. Until they went bankrupt in 2008, GAIA was the easy pick for the leading name in Ulti gear. Since then the company has rebooted under its original founder and innovator Brett Price. Skyd caught up with Brett to learn about what the new GAIA has in store for the Ultimate community until we all die in 2012.

Tell us about yourself. Who are you and how did you get involved in Ultimate? What is your Ultimate history?

Brett Price: I am a business grad from UBC, turned financial auditor, turned footwear and clothing “salesman”.  Played at University on a casual basis since 1994, then joined the Vancouver Ultimate League (a city league with over 200 teams) in 1998.  When ultimate is your business playing once or twice is good enough. Never wanted to do it competitively, just enjoyed the game and the social aspect.

Tell us about the inception of GAIA.  Why did you decide to create the company? Where are you located?  When was it started?

No longer available GAIA Ion Flame Cleats

Originally started imported clothing/footwear and after getting more into Ultimate in 1998 , I quickly realized that there was no “Ultimate cleat” and started to design one.  We are located in Vancouver with partner/distributors in Europe and Japan since 2000.

How has GAIA grown?

The company grew from 2 of us working in a solarium to 15 full and part time staff in 2008. In 2008, our primary factory and operating partner went bankrupt, taking down the brand as well.  We lost all employees, inventory and our original investment.   In 2009, I personally re-booted the brand as a 100% virtual brand with factory direct full custom products.  We have no finished goods inventory, no physical location, and no full time staff.  We have no physical environmental impact/footprint past the production of the goods.  Our sales are now climbing rapidly again and we hope to be back to pre-2008 sales within 3 years.

How many employees do you have?

None.  We are now 100% commissioned based, paying a very high commission to our sales reps.

What is your mission statement?

“To provide high quality, fully customized team and event gear, delivered on time at a competitive price with incomparable customer service.”

Our vision:

“To build a collaborative brand consisting of athletes and enthusiasts who are interested in building an entirely virtual apparel brand, dedicated to great gear, a free and flexible lifestyle with only a nominal environmental footprint.”

The Gaia Flyweight Fabric

What products do you offer? What are your signature products? What are you most proud of?

Full body sublimated and screen printed athletic jerseys, shorts and warmup apparel.

We are most proud of our cleats…that unfortunately had to be discontinued due to falling market prices of large scale competitors such as Nike, Adidas etc.  The design changed considerably since the first release in 1998 and by 2008 it had excellent sales globally and quite an impressive following.  After restructuring we dropped  footwear business in 2009 to focus on custom apparel.

What makes GAIA different compared to the other Ultimate apparel companies?

On time shipping: We have not shipped one order late since our restructuring in 2009.  it feels like one of those work safe signs, we will eventually miss a deadline..but we have a pretty unbeatable record in the past two years.

Incredible fabric and construction: We replaced our famous FLYweight fabric in 2007/8… 18 months later players revolted and we brought it back (even softer) in 2010.  The fabric is incredible, incomparably light and durable.  No pilling, no pulling…can be washed a thousand times and still looks great.  Also, our fit and stitching is Nike quality, which is hard to find in custom gear.

Really really good customer service: We narrowed our product focus and the result is that we are really focused on custom gear.  We are doing less…but better.  The result is obvious in our customer service and our delivery, especially since our restructuring in 2009.

Value: We are not the cheapest, but when you look at the full picture the value is incredible. We can compete with the cheapest AND the best quality brands in the business.

What do you do better than other companies?

See above.

What do other companies do better than you?

Price:  we are not the cheapest.

Selection: our new focus means less selection.

Tell us about your supply chain.  Where is your material made and how is it shipped?

The Gaia Silktouch Sublimation Jersey Fabric

All our fabrics are 100% technical micro-fiber polyester called FLOtech.  It is shipped on mass by boat (best for environment) to our factory in Mexico.  The goods are assembled and shipped duty free, direct to the end customer in N.America and Europe.

Do you utilize green technologies in any of your products?

Our factories are private, Canadian owned factories (owner lives in Canada), located in China and Mexico.   They are sweatshop free.

We also have no environmental footprint after the production.  In our minds this is the best you can do.  Many (not all) of the seemingly “green” initiatives actually do very little for the environment.   We have offered organic cotton and recycled polyester in the past, but players complained about the higher price, so the programs were discontinued and we focused on reducing our environmental footprint and consumption in general.

How do you view your competition?  What are you doing to stay competitive?

Since our restructuring, we have resolved to run the business on a proactive (not reactive) basis.  We provide the best value we can, listen to the customer and never look over our shoulder at the competition.

Cost and overhead reduction is the key survival.

Do you believe that the market can support another start-up apparel company?

There is a ridiculous number of Ultimate apparel brands all shooting for the same market, when we started we were the only one…now there are many. It is a dramatically over-saturated market.

How do you view an entrance from one of the “big” sports companies like Nike or Adidas?  Is it inevitable?  How are you planning for this possibility?

We just focus on improving ourselves, and are not concerned about any competition.

What do you see as your role as an apparel producer in the sport of Ultimate and the future of the sport?

We used to take a much more assertive role in the sport and after 10 years realized that our role is to focus on the gear.

What can the Ultimate community expect and look forward to about your company?

Our new full sublimation jerseys and shorts are now available and will be officially promoted on the website shortly.

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