Flying Squirrel Outfitters - Handcrafted Hammocks with a Story

July 07, 2017

I want to introduce a Friend of the Tribe - Flying Squirrel Outfitters. They make high quality, uniquely designed, hand-made hammocks in Northern Thailand.

On top of that, they work to create sustainable social change by empowering women in the local hill tribes they work with - each hammock is meticulously crafted by skilled seamstresses, where they earn a high living wage working at home, with no set working hours.

I first met Brian, the founder of Flying Squirrel, in Thailand in 2015. Both our companies were in the idea phase. We shared the excitement of building a brand that's different, a brand with a driving purpose that makes a positive impact in the world.

We hung out, hiked, traded ideas over lunch, and per the traveler lifestyle, I left Thailand and said "I'll see ya around".

Fast forward to 2017 and I'm back in Thailand, working on a new product and catching up with friends. Flying Squirrel is growing, making more awesome hammocks, and we're back to trading ideas and talking about adventures.

Here's a glimpse into the story of Flying Squirrel Outfitters.

Brian and the seamstressesBrian and the seamstresses

Where do you live and where are you from?

(Brian) About 3 years ago I quit my comfy job in Seattle, sold off all my belongings and hit the road to travel the world. I ultimately fell in love with Chiang Mai, Thailand and decided a little over 2 years ago to put down some roots here with the business.

How did you come up with the idea for Flying Squirrel Outfitters? Tell us your startup story

The early misconception is that I came to Thailand to start this business, which isn't actually true. It wasn't until after about a year of traveling I began exploring some ideas within ecommerce to help fund my travels. However, I eventually took some early advice that ultimately shifted my thinking which was "Make sure you're passionate about your next move or you will get bored fast, and boredom will waste you a lot of time and money."

I realized I wouldn't be motivated to start an actual business if my sole motivation was limited to funding a life on the road...I needed a purpose. Around this time I was learning more about local social entrepreneurs running "businesses-for-good" and some of the work NGOs were involved with in Northern Thailand, and realized I wanted to create a positive impact in some way. From that I decided to wait until the right opportunity presented itself.

Some months later I was looking to purchase a hammock for my townhome in Chiang Mai. I stumbled upon an amazing story about a hill tribe community making woven mayan-style hammocks just outside the city. I made contact with the operator and set out for a visit to the village. I was blown away with how the hammocks had provided a micro economy for the hill tribe, and the operator told me how the demand for work was extremely high now that other villages have caught wind of the hammock making.

I told him how popular the camping variety of hammocks had become in America and asked why he wasn't selling them. Immediately we both saw the opportunity with one another and acknowledged the serendipity in the situation as we both were basically looking for this partnership for different reasons.

We decided to roll out a new line of hammock products that would help employ local seamstresses that desperately need safe and reliable work. We focused on hiring women in garment villages that couldn't physically work 10 hour days in a factory for min wage, relegated to low paying freelance work from home. Companies are known to take advantage of these "stay-at-home-seamstress" paying them wages below the legal limit and inconsistent with their promise for future work. Hammock making was a great opportunity for a consistent alternative to other low paying work.

Hangin in hammocks

What's something unique about your company?

Without a doubt the most unique aspect of FSO is that we are all "in-house". We are the manufacturer of our own products which has inherent benefits as a business, but ultimately the greatest benefit is a better handmade quality product for customers made the right way.

People feel a closer connection to where their product came from and we work to bridge that gap in the supply chain. We make videos highlighting the women working from home, illustrating how we weight test our products, and our ability to make anything custom made for customers. Although we move a bit slower than competitors who simply outsource their inventory, we have greater control over product development and quality control.

What goals do you have this year for Flying Squirrel?

We want to roll out a few new products this year as well as build on our Amazon launch that just happened recently. We also have some ideas about products in other industry categories such as Yoga and Apparel. We will really try to drive our online presence this year!

What are your favorite outdoor activities?

Im personally a big snowboarder, which is ironic living in Thailand. I've recently taken up rock climbing to satisfy that need for extreme, and it supremely gets the job done!

Are there any books, podcasts, or inspirations you want to share that have helped you in your entrepreneurial journey?

The Joe Rogan podcast is always entertaining, fresh and covers the gamut. One book I found incredibly insightful was "The One Thing" The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results by Gary Keller.

How can people follow the adventure of Flying Squirrel?

Check us out here:

Watch a video and learn more about our positive purpose:
www.flyingsquirreloutfitters.com

Facebook: facebook.com/flyingsquirreloutfitters
Instagram: @flyingsquirreloutfitters
Medium: medium.com/@fsohammocks
Amazon: FSO Double Parachute Camping Hammock

Cheers Brian, see ya around! :D

Author: Joe

Joe's into outdoor adventures, hiking, traveling, and having fun. He's on a mission to make a positive impact on the world and live in harmony with the Earth.

Favorite nature spot: "Any forest, probably Big Sur in California"


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