John Merris will admit that he had an idyllic childhood. Rising up on a 50-acre ranch outdoors of Austin, he spent numerous weekends across the campfire, telling tales, gazing on the stars, and easily having fun with what he calls the very best passion of all: hanging out with family and friends collectively. within the heat glow of a wooden hearth.
Not surprisingly, these nights left an enduring impression on Merris. In any case, time spent open air by a campfire tends to have that impact.
So when brothers Jeff and Spencer Jan approached Merris about taking the lead of their small however rising moveable range and hearth pit enterprise, he could have been a bit of swayed by a first-hand data of the attract of fireplace pits. campfires.
“Are you able to think about coming full circle and saying, ‘Hey, do you wish to run an organization that makes hearth pits?’ I am considering, that is what he did for enjoyable after I was a child on the ranch,” Merris says of his response when the brothers first approached him.
On the time, Merris was firmly ensconced in his position as chief income officer for Clarus, a Fort Value-based world glassboard producer. Y particular person stovesas the corporate was then recognized, it was a six-person firm based mostly in Southlake.
However Merris, who’s a graduate of Brigham Younger College and has an MBA from the College of Texas, was prepared for a problem and a change. Previous to Clarus, she spent three years as vp of MultiView, an Irving-based digital advertising and communications firm. Though she was instrumental in driving gross sales progress at each corporations, she didn’t wish to be pigeonholed right into a gross sales place.
“I actually felt that if I might have extra management over the broader actions of the enterprise, then I might do extra,” says Merris.
He joined Solo Range as CEO in 2018, and to say that 4 years have been a whirlwind can be an enormous understatement. Since he took over, Solo Manufacturers, as the corporate is now recognized, has acquired three different corporations: Kayak Oruwhich produces collapsible boats; chubby, an informal clothes model for males; Y ISLAND, which makes paddleboards. In 2020, Merris was named Ernst & Younger Entrepreneur of the Yr for the Southwest Area. And in October of final 12 months, Solo went public, which has reworked the enterprise right into a $2 billion world firm, buying and selling on the New York Inventory Change as “DTC,” a nod to its direct-to-market enterprise mannequin. shopper.
That second ringing the bell on the rostrum of the New York Inventory Change along with his spouse Cindy and members of his workforce was magical for Merris.
“It was actually humbling to be within the constructing and see, you realize, Alexander Hamilton’s first handwritten commerce carried out on the New York Inventory Change, and all the businesses which are there which have made their capital accessible to the world”. Merris says. “Being numbered and named amongst that’s fairly spectacular.”
The IPO was additionally the end result of a grueling few years and was what Merris calls “the heaviest job” he is ever carried out in enterprise.
The corporate had a $2 billion valuation on the day it went public, however for Merris, it wasn’t an outlet for him, nor was it meant to be a giant money-making second.
“This was the primary day of the following decade,” he says of that momentous day. “To construct a model that is going to be round 50 years from now, that is actually what it is all about.”
He continues: “The general public providing actually put our firm on the map from a advertising standpoint. We’re a closely targeted direct-to-consumer enterprise, which suggests we market on to the shopper and ship the product on to them… And that creates a one-to-one relationship. The preliminary public providing allowed us to permit our shoppers, who’ve actually made this occur for us, to turn into shareholders. Now, everybody may be house owners.”
Whereas the corporate’s headquarters not too long ago moved from Southlake to a bigger area in Grapevine, Merris stays firmly planted in Southlake, the place he lives along with his spouse and 5 kids, ages 2 to 14. He likes to journey and the household is at the moment constructing a second dwelling in Utah. However that could be the extent of Merris’s restricted free time.
“I inform individuals I haven’t got hobbies, I’ve children,” jokes Merris, whose days are actually targeted on maximizing time with household whereas dealing with the calls for of being the CEO of a $2 billion public firm.
COOKING NEW PRODUCTS
Since Merris joined the corporate as worker quantity 7, it has grown to greater than 500 workers unfold throughout not solely its North Texas headquarters, but additionally achievement operations in Pennsylvania and Salt Lake Metropolis, Utah; the satellite tv for pc headquarters of the manufacturers they’ve acquired, together with the workplaces of Oru Kayak in Oakland, California, ISLE in San Diego and Chubbies in Austin; plus work-from-home workforce members in a pair dozen states. In August, Solo Manufacturers opened a warehouse and distribution middle in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, to give attention to its ever-growing European clients.
Worldwide gross sales are one of many methods the corporate will develop. One other method is thru innovation, developing with new merchandise that match into your model portfolio. To that finish, Solo has launched a product that may revolutionize out of doors cooking: pi solely it is an reasonably priced ($470) out of doors moveable pizza oven that rapidly cooks up crispy pizza.
“We’re delighted with Pi,” says Merris. “If you concentrate on it, we’ve these 4 superb out of doors manufacturers: Solo Range, Oru Kayak, ISLE, and Chubbies. And our model mantra is ‘Good Occasions, Lasting Reminiscences’. That is what it is about. Anybody who has made dough, rolled it out, put all of the substances on it with their family and friends and made a pizza collectively… You discuss smiles and moments and reminiscences. It simply matches very nicely. So we thought, ‘Why do not we exit and actually create an ideal, differentiated product that may do that even higher than something on the market?’”
Launched on March 14, also called Pi Day, and shipped to clients starting in July, the product is the end result of over a 12 months of improvement, using Solo Stoves’ signature airflow building to make pizzas are completely cooked after about 100 seconds. They use the identical high-quality stainless-steel because the Solo stoves and hearth pits, and just like the stoves, the Pi will work with wooden or a mixture of wooden and gasoline.
Along with the road of stoves, hearth pits and the brand new pizza oven, Solo Range provides equipment to make the out of doors hearth pit expertise even higher, like a bundle of New Mexico juniper wooden, with an fragrant scent that It can flip anybody’s campfire. the envy of the neighborhood.
Actually, Merris’s favourite Solo product is roasting sticks. These folding, double-pronged stainless-steel stakes are nice for roasting marshmallows, brats, or anything that could be tasty when toasted on a Solo range. They arrive in a chef’s roll and fold right down to 36 inches every, protecting one far sufficient away from the hearth that the cooking expertise is satisfying and never awkward.
“They’re superb,” Merris gushes. “It is issues like that which have enhanced the expertise and made our merchandise much more enjoyable to make use of.”
THE NEW POINT OF SOLO
All merchandise are processed in-house, which signifies that Solo Manufacturers requires massive storage areas. That is a part of what precipitated the transfer to Grapevine’s new warehouse, headquarters and showroom, situated a brief drive from DFW airport and Merris’ dwelling in Southlake.
Strolling via the expansive showroom, you get a way of what Merris and his workforce have turned this enterprise into: an all-encompassing out of doors life-style model. The merchandise are on show amid quaint, sensible scenes bearing their logos: a Solo moveable hearth pit arrange outdoors an Airstream trailer, a tenting scene centered round Solo stoves, Oru kayaks and ISLE paddleboards flanking a larger-than-life photograph mural. lifetime of an inviting river. Close by, a Chubbies swimwear and activewear show has you wanting ahead to the weekend.
Whereas not a retail retailer per se, clients can order merchandise from an iPad or their telephones and stroll out with the product because of some superb know-how on the opposite facet of the showroom wall. That is the place robots information warehouse employees via aisles, directing them to merchandise as they fill orders. The sort of know-how permits the corporate to meet about 500,000 orders monthly.
As you would possibly anticipate or anticipate from an organization devoted to having fun with the nice open air, their workplaces even have a cool vibe, a sense of being outdoors slightly than working inside, like a reproduction of a dogtrot home smack dab within the center. from the workplaces to the hearth pit sconces alongside the partitions. There are additionally weekly barbecues, pizza making and campfires all through the corporate.
Solo Manufacturers additionally has a tradition that you’d anticipate from an outside life-style firm. It is a spot the place workers do group service tasks collectively, like cleansing parks and planting bushes. The corporate additionally has a complete tradition assertion that encourages workforce members to reside and work with values which are rooted within the concept of being a superb individual, one thing its executives really feel begins at dwelling with their kids, partner, household and mates. .
“We work very onerous, each as a collective group and individually, to be really good and encourage that good within the clients we deliver into the fold,” says Merris.
TAKING IT HOME
Though idyllic in its personal method, Southlake could be very completely different from the 50-acre ranch of Merris’s youth. Nevertheless, Merris continues to be in a position to create the identical sorts of campfire souvenirs for his kids that he had as a toddler, because of the array of merchandise his firm sells.
“What I really like most about Solo Range is that we give on a regular basis individuals the chance to create these superb moments of their yard with out having to reside on a ranch or pack up the automobile for an official ‘tenting journey,’” says Merris. . “It is as simple as strolling into your yard and turning in your Solo Range, and in 10 minutes you are telling tales, laughing and making reminiscences for a lifetime.”
Like these of his personal childhood.
A day within the lifetime of John Merris, CEO of Solo Manufacturers
There isn’t a typical day for the CEO of a $2 billion firm, however many days for Merris observe an identical construction.
05:30 a.m. Merris’s day begins early, earlier than the children stand up, when she will work out within the gymnasium. “It is the closest factor I’ve to a passion,” she says, admitting that she prefers to work out when the children are nonetheless asleep so she would not take extra time from the household than her job requires.
6:30-8am Merris helps the children prepare for the day, which often includes “dropping a number of children off in school.”
8am-5pm If he is not touring, Merris works from his workplace at Solo Manufacturers’ Grapevine headquarters. Her every day schedule is often crammed with one-on-one syncs together with her workforce and all kinds of company-related public actions. Merris additionally communicates commonly with different CEOs and entrepreneurs to share concepts and discover new alternatives.
5:30 pm Merris worries about being dwelling at evening, spending time with household, and placing the children to mattress. After the children are asleep, Merris goes again to her pc, responding to emails and ending work earlier than calling it an evening.