A woman-owned and operated outdoor clothing retailer, SheFly, has picked Gunnison for its headquarters and plans to create up to 24 jobs in coming years, the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade said Wednesday.
The company’s name refers to its flagship product, a trademarked zipper design created for women’s pants. There’s a regular zipper for putting on and removing the pants, as well as an additional one below that goes to the back belt line.
“This design allows women to unzip only as far as needed to maximize privacy on the trail, in the woods or anywhere else nature calls,” according to a release.
Grace Edwards, SheFly co-founder and CEO, got the idea while working as a glacier guide in Alaska. After returning to Middlebury College in Vermont, she and fellow students Biance Gonzales and Charlotte Massey developed a business plan and started sewing the pants in their dorm room.
Economic development officials made picking the headquarters location easier for the company with $227,000 in incentives by way of job creation tax credits, including $75,000 from Gunnison. The company expects to hire up to 24 full-time positions, with an average salary of $65,075 for management, design and marketing jobs.
Gunnison competed with Chelan, Wash., and Burlington, Vt., as potential headquarters locations.
“I can think of few places better suited for an outdoor apparel brand focused on increasing accessibility and empowerment in the outdoors,” said Edwards in a statement. “As a 100% women-run company, SheFly is incredibly lucky to be able to scale our startup in a place where we have access to capital, a wide variety of product testing grounds and activities, business mentorship, resources, education, and networks.”
Edwards also cited a “constant stream of our core customer segment” and “a workforce that’s passionate about improving outdoor spaces and experiences.”
SheFly plans to locate its headquarters at the ICELab at Western Colorado University, “a business resource center and coworking space for small businesses and student entrepreneurs alike in the Gunnison Valley,” according to the release.
In a rare move, the Economic Development Commission voted to increase the incentive package from $75,000 to $152,000 in a performance-based Strategic Fund incentive over five years.
Commissioner Jay Seaton said that while a 1:1 local match is the commission’s policy, commissioners can increase the award for each net new job. The recommendation was based on the number of jobs “created in rural Colorado,” according to the release.
“As someone who also started a business from my dorm room, I understand the innovative spirit necessary to turn an idea into a business and what it takes to help people start a small business,” said Gov. Jared Polis in a release. “Gunnison, and Colorado, is an outdoor recreation mecca and SheFly is a wonderful addition to our state.”
“Some of the outdoor industry’s heaviest hitters came from rural Colorado communities,” Edwards said. “It’s an honor to be able to follow in their footsteps.”