Many friendships have dull origin stories: we met at a bar or we were college roommates or we played on the same t-ball team. This is not such a story. Jainee Dial and Lindsey Elliott’s friendship began with road kill.
In 2013, Dial went to a neo-bohemian cookout on a beach in Sonoma County, California. As millennial hippies tossed fresh vegan salads, she saw Elliott sitting by herself, frying pavement venison. To her credit, at the time Elliott was working for an environmental nonprofit and possessed an education permit allowing her to use road kill for her postmodern primitivism studies–yes, that’s a real thing. Dial and Elliott shared the meal of car-killed deer and have been almost inseparable since.
This November, the friendship rooted in a curious appetite will see its resourcefulness materialize with the launch of the pair’s online retail start-up, Wylder. “The idea began in early 2013, but it was developed in conversation and observation over the next year,” Elliott recalls. “I took a trip down the Grand Canyon with Gina Peters, who is now our first employee and brands partnerships director. I spent 28 days floating down the river, thinking about Jainee and this concept in a serious way. I decided that Wylder was something I wanted to do.”
Dial and Elliott attended Outdoor Retailer in January 2014 and approached brands with the proposition of a women’s specific adventure goods company. The response was tremendously positive. “There was a lot of research and development needed but we got an overwhelming, resounding ‘yes’ from everyone,” Elliott says. “We were not the only ones interested in this concept. Wylder has been in grassroots development ever since.”
Due to the positive feedback, Dial and Elliott moved forward with business development. Rather, than pitching the idea to heads of large companies, they created a Kickstarter campaign, which raised nearly $55,000.
Wylder is Utah’s first female owned registered benefit corporation and is also pending additional certification as a B corporation through B Lab, a nonprofit certification agency. As a legally registered benefit corp., Wylder’s right to assist social good is protected legally and is fundamentally built into the company. “Taking a hardline on your business’ impact doesn’t lead to financial impotency,” Dial says. “Consumers want to put their money where their mouth is, where their heart is. Business can be profitable and good for the world.”
Within the structure of a benefit corporation are three goals—people, planet, and profit. For Dial and Elliott, the triple bottom line feels like a no-brainer, a business perspective that is more appropriate, equitable, and realistic for them. “The Grand Canyon Escalade Project, the Public Land heist, these are deeply troubling. Whether you’re a dedicated mountain person or a weekend warrior, this is going to affect us all,” describes Dial. “The economics of consumerism can and will drive social change. Where and how products are produced is important.”
Dial and Elliott see Wylder as a platform for better consumerism, a chance to champion brands who manufacture products with efforts to negate environmental impact, and use organic materials and recycled fabrics. Both Dial and Elliott are self-described tomboys with a deep connection to the outdoors that began from birth. As a child, Dial escaped Salt Lake City suburban life through weekend hunting and fishing trips at her family’s ranch in Wyoming. There, and on her father’s 10 acres next to Utah’s Duchesne River, the mountains were forever woven into her life. Elliott built forts, climbed trees, and caught crawfish at her grandparents’ house outside of Boulder, Colorado. Her childhood family canoe trips to Minnesota’s Boundary Waters illuminated the mystery and lore of the outdoors, and are the backbone of her current life. Now, 36 and 29, Dial and Elliott hope Wylder will help women have such experiences.
The major objective for Dial and Elliott is living up to their grand dreams for what Wylder can be and do. Aside from providing women with environment-friendly, long-lasting outdoor products, Wylder hopes to connect customers to the practices of use. “We want to educate about these cradle-to-grave processes around production and consumption, get people interested in the lifespan of their products, and why it matters to hold onto something,” Elliott says. “We want to reconcile this, break the tradition of planned obsolescence, and provide as many timeless, solution-oriented options as possible in the marketplace we create.”
This is no easy task, but for Dial and Elliott, that is entirely the point. For them, Wylder is as much a philosophy as it is a marketplace. “Lindsey and I have these high ethical ideals. It’s a daily struggle, but I am so glad about that,” Dial explains. “We are dealing with a really good set of problems, trying to create a business that is financially successful while being positively effective socially and environmentally. I hope 50 years from now we’ve created massive, protected swaths of land. Hopefully, we are creating a company legacy and not a business that has an eventual end.”