Kinfield's Founder Is Rebuilding The Outdoors Category From The Inside
The way we approach the great outdoors hasn't changed in a long time. Now, Nichole Powell is modernizing the industry with a DTC startup that speaks to an 'outdoors-ish' audience and validates smaller moments like those from one's own backyard
- PSFK sat down with Nichole Powell, the founder and CEO of DTC outdoors brand Kinfield, about her company's launch and disrupting what had been a stagnant market.
- Kinfield is a vegan line of three products meant for outdoor use, and it's targeted specifically to millennials who are participating in the experience economy.
- Powell says that physical retail is on the way for the brand, especially now that there are spaces that specialize in promoting digital-first products. She also explains the brand's focus on building community through in-person events, and ultimately differentiating from competitors by offering an ‘outdoors-ish' alternative to the limited ‘outdoorsy' category.
PSFK: How did you decide to launch Kinfield?
Nichole Powell: Growing up in Minnesota, I spent most of my childhood playing outside and going on family camping trips to Lake Superior and the Boundary Waters, often accompanied by a backpack of conventional outdoor products. It wasn’t until years later, when I was packing for a weekend camping trip with friends, that I realized that many of the outdoor products in my bag were the exact same brands that I had grown up with.
I wasn't continuing to use those products because I loved them, but rather because there wasn’t any better option. It seemed especially strange to me to be using conventional toxic ingredients in natural environments, particularly when you start to consider what happens when those products wash off into the water supply. After looking around and asking friends for recommendations, I realized that the products that I wanted to buy—clean, effective, modern—didn’t exist. Instead of giving up, I dug in, and Kinfield was born.
How did you determine that there was a space in the market for a new kind of outdoor brand?
I was really excited by the opportunity to create a new brand voice in the outdoor space, one that felt more friendly and accessible, and that was focused on celebrating the pure joy of being outdoors rather than the specific thrill of tackling a multi-week trek through the Amazon or something similarly intense.
I heard from many friends that they loved being outdoors, but didn’t see themselves represented by the typical “outdoorsy” brands because those companies have a very action-oriented and aspirational take on the outdoors.
Tell me about how Kinfield is different from its competitors.
On the brand side, we really think of ourselves as the friendly, casual voice in the outdoor space. There is such an opportunity to build a brand around the idea of celebrating not just the outdoorsy, but the outdoors-ish, too. Not everyone needs to be scaling a mountain to appreciate the outdoors. Sometimes the most beautiful moments are waiting for you in your own backyard.
How do you plan to attract customers? How will your marketing and social strategies work?
Our acquisition plan is much more art than science—we want to take the time to get to know our customers and build our community organically, through first-person engagement at events and activations. I see tremendous opportunity in partnering with other brands for collaborations and other activations, as it allows us the opportunity to create something fun and special for our own community, while also reaching new eyes.
Is Kinfield only DTC? Do you plan to launch Kinfield in other online stores, or even in physical locations?
We’re starting strictly with DTC, as it gives us the best opportunity to really get to know our customer and build our community. While we don’t have any immediate plans to launch with other stores, I think there are a lot of interesting retail concepts out there that could make a lot of sense for us—things like SHOWFIELDS in NYC and collaborating with other DTC brands for physical pop-ups, both of which would afford us more room to play as a brand versus traditional retail.
In the longer term, retail is a no-brainer when you consider our customer’s lifestyle. We recognize that speed of delivery and convenience is one of the benefits of retail, so we’re addressing that by launching with multiple shipping speeds and piloting same-day delivery via bike courier in Manhattan and Brooklyn.
What are trends that you’ve been noticing in the outdoor product space? How are you responding to those?
Kinfield is positioned at the intersection of two really interesting rising tides—a renewed consumer interest in clean and green products and the rise of the experience economy. We’re seeing that more and more people want to invest in experiences that deepen their connection to their loved ones and to the world around them. In a time when consumerism is at an all time high, experiences have become the new luxury, and we see so many of those experiences take place in the great outdoors.
Beyond an ever-increasing interest in more outdoor experiences, we’ve also noticed that consumers are holding brands to a higher standard—expecting the products that they use to be formulated with clean and safe ingredients, and built in a sustainable way.
Lead image: Marissa Alves/Kinfield