eVent Technology President Outlines Business Opportunities
Last week I caught up with Chad Kelly, president of eVent Technology, to get a quick update on the company and chat about business challenges as well as industry bright spots. A self-described “gearhead,” Kelly started his career in outdoor specialty retail and worked as a rep before pivoting to the supply side, joining eVent in 2001, where he focuses on high performance material end use applications. Here’s an edited version of our conversation:
Q: This summer will mark one year since eVent was acquired. How's the new partnership?
A: Two important things I want to stress are that we are now industry owned and operated, which is huge for us! In the past, we were an adjacent business inside an industrial corporation. These were good companies, but the conversation was rarely about our industry. In addition, the partnership gives us enormous flexibility in our supply chain that creates access to more products from more places. From a technology’s company perspective, we‘ve got a lot at our fingertips now, and that’s exciting.
Another positive is that we’ve had a strong relationship with Performax Pro for over a decade prior to the acquisition. (Performax has been renamed eVent International, with eVent Technology the U.S. subsidiary.) I know these guys and they know me. So that’s good for all involved.
To sum it up we’ve been able to leverage our eVent product, the supply chain, the commercial team, eVent’s technical reputation and the brand, and combine that with additional product support, additional supply chain partners, additional distribution and folks who know and understand eVent and the industry.
Q: You'll be celebrating your 20th anniversary with eVent fabrics this year. What change stands out, and what challenges lie ahead?
A: I’m a little sentimental about retail consolidation that has occurred because of my background working at an independent technical outdoor store (The Alpine Hut), which was great fun and launched me into the industry. The part that is disappointing is that there are fewer stores, and there’s less variety out there. We’ve always been popular with innovative new brands, and always open to new design and development. The interesting thing now is brands going direct-to-consumer; we talk with startups weekly, all focused on a consumer channel. That’s not a bad thing, plenty of creativity and new products still exist, it's just coming a different way. Interpreting what the customer is asking for is challenging because we are further down the supply chain. We’ve always talked about waterproof protection and comfort — that’s who we are. Now, however, the market is becoming increasingly focused on sustainability. What we at eVent are trying to figure out is: What is the right balance of performance and keeping pace with market trends. They don’t always go together.
Q: What excites you about the state of the industry?
A: I definitely see bright spots ahead for the outdoor industry. For example, globalization. That has been going on slowly for years, but now every brand has to create a product line that is global. From the supplier side, that globalization trend has created, and amped up, the speed of innovation. We feel it directly now that we have global partnerships, and I believe that is a benefit. This puts industry in a good spot. At the same time, a new collaboration model is taking shape between different types of material suppliers and/or technical suppliers. This kind of collaborative model ultimately will benefit the products and the customers.