Topo Designs, makers of classic-style USA Made backpacks, started in a basement.
“We had a grassroots approach to growing it,” said co-founder Jedd Rose. “I bought a sewing machine and decided to start learning how to make bags—it might be lower than grassroots, it might be dirt.”
He laughed as he told me about the first few samples that he created—which will never be shown, ever, to anyone.
Fortunately, Jedd (pictured left) didn’t stop with the first prototypes. His persistence created Topo Designs as we know it today: A pack and apparel company that harkens to an unhindered style of the 70s and 80s. The heritage-style look was something that Jedd felt was missing in the market.
“I grew up in the era where I was using all of my parents hand-me-down gear, and that was my idea of what outdoor gear was,” Jedd said. “I continued to be an avid outdoors person and I got to this point where I missed how simple and cool, and how wonderfully uncomplicated that outdoor gear was.”
Today, it’s common for people to associate functionality with ultra-technical features, Jedd said. But, his goal is to create a product that embodies durability and aesthetics without an over-complicated construction.
Using local and high-quality materials is also a top priority for Jedd. As often as possible Topo Designs purchases materials made in the USA, such as Cordura fabric and YKK USA zippers, and the company’s products are sewn in Colorado.
“We wanted to bring back this simple, great outdoors company that is made where it is inspired,” Jedd said of Topo Design’s USA made backpacks and apparel.
“We were lucky the sewer was able to take us on at that time,” Jedd said. “It was a sew shop that had just started, and they were willing to grow with us and us grow with them. That’s been a really great relationship and we’ve been lucky to find someone locally.”
Eventually, company headquarters evolved from Jedd’s house to Mark’s house to a rented office space. In November 2013, Topo Designs opened the doors to its flagship store, which occupies a space in Denver’s first permanent shipping-container retail location. The team—now with 7 full-time employees—enjoyed the space so much that they decided to rent a second shipping container to use as their office space.
Jedd admits that he didn’t take the most efficient approach to starting a business. However, his passion for being involved in every step of the process outweighed a desire to excel quickly or to hire others to lay the groundwork.
“Mark and I are hands-on people, even to a fault, where we want to be involved in every process of it,” Jedd said. “We like tackling problems, making things ourselves, and working on stuff in every phase.”
Who out there has Topo Designs backpacks or clothing? What do you love? What could be improved? If you haven’t tried it, what about the company appeals to you?