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Fashion-Forward Outdoor Enthusiasts

Following in their families’ footsteps as entrepreneurs, Kelly and Will Watters co-founded Western Rise in 2015, a direct to consumer e-commerce brand with a focus on fully functional yet office appropriate athletic apparel. The couple met while living in Beaver Creek, Colorado and had an affinity for cramming as many outdoor activities into one busy workday as possible. But they couldn’t find athletic apparel that was appropriate for both being outdoors and for meeting clients. Changing outfits multiple times a day between activities became a hassle and they knew there had to be a better solution. And so the epiphany to launch a performance apparel brand surfaced!

As a third generation textile developer, Will went to school for entrepreneurship while Kelly studied museum education and non-profit management. Their unique backgrounds laid the foundation for a great partnership in both business and as spouses. They found themselves living in Will’s hometown of Georgia when they launched Western Rise from a dining room table while storing inventory in a garage. Then they decided to relocate back to Colorado in 2016, bringing the business with them. Kelly explained their reasoning for the move, “Because Western Rise has always embodied the spirit of the mountains, we wanted to be in a community where our products could be supported and tested.” In 2016, Western Rise was accepted into the Telluride Venture Accelerator, and since they both loved Colorado, decided the quaint town of Telluride would be the perfect location for growing their business.

Western Rise launched with a complete product line including pants, outerwear and women’s clothing. However, after the men’s line took off, they decided to exclusively focus on male apparel to fill a much greater need. Now, whether fly fishing or meeting with important business clients, Western Rise offers durable, water resistant, and stain adverse clothing that appeals to both the outdoor-enthusiast and career-driven professional.

As Western Rise grew in popularity, so did the necessity for additional financing, as they ran into cash flow issues like many product-based entrepreneurs. They were constantly facing the inventory battle; Western Rise made money from sales, but needed additional funding to help purchase more inventory for their growing customer base. And being a direct-to-consumer business, they didn’t have receivables to lend against, nor did they have other major assets that a bank would take for collateral. They felt “unbankable”.

Because Western Rise has always embodied the spirit of the mountains we want to be in a community where our products could be supported and tested.

Kelly Watters

Fortunately, Kelly and Will learned about Colorado Lending Source, and received a Colorado Main Street loan in 2018. This financing allowed them to purchase inventory that supported their growing sales; they also leveraged funds to launch their first Kickstarter campaign. Western Rise blew their modest goal of $20,000 out of the water, with nearly 4,000 backers who contributed $599,395 to their campaign. With sales up by 140% compared to the prior year, Kelly and Will’s success has been rapid and remarkable, yet they are still juggling the financing and inventory stand off to keep up with the high demand. Will mentioned, “There are different solutions for every stage of growth. You constantly have to be on the look out for the next opportunity.” The Colorado Main Street loan provided the capital necessary for their stage of growth at that time. As inventive and resourceful entrepreneurs, there is no denying that Will and Kelly will find the next best opportunity for Western Rise’s continued expansion!