Bear Butt began in the fall of 2015 when Owner and Founder, Michael Whiteley was a broke newlywed with a big dream to change the world. The company started from ground zero using just a credit card with a $5,000 credit limit – in Michael’s mom’s name. Being broke, having recently made the decision to drop out of college, and with a baby on the way, Michael knew it was hustle time.
He and his wife (and co-founder) Sami moved to Idaho and found themselves living in a place they now refer to as “the shack”. The shack is where Bear Butt started.
Soon after, the duo made the decision to move to Mexico in an effort to save money and take advantage of lower expenses. Michael would spend the majority of his days hustlin’ in a 6 square-foot space, and really building up the Bear Butt fan base. He and Sami dominated the customer service realm by taking care of their customers and going the extra mile – so much as to send a random customer who was venting to them about motherhood a trophy that read, “#1 Mom” in hopes to make her day. Well, it did, and it was that hustle and determination that resulted in a firm foundation for the Bear Butt brand.
The company immediately went from selling about 50 Hammies a day to over 300 Hammies a day, and being out of inventory. They reordered, were back in stock for a short time, and BOOM! Out of inventory again. The inventory issues ultimately drove Michael to put in a $1 million order with money he didn’t have. BIG mistake. That decision hurt the company and made things difficult to move forward, but Michael deems that it was one of the most valuable learning experiences.
After spending five months in Mexico, Michael made a decision to hire some of his most trusted homies as business partners. In December 2016, Michael and family moved to Utah and the Bear Butt Team began to take form. In the beginning and for a short time, the team began working together to build up the company – all while mooching off the wifi in local university spaces and churches. As the team began to grow, so did the space they worked in.
The Bear Butt Team “made it big” in January 2017 when they moved into a 10x20 ft. office and became the most hated office in the business park. Apparently hover boarding around the office resembled the sound of a “herd of elephants”, they always talked and laughed “way too loud”, they painted their office royal blue which apparently was “not allowed”, they ignited sparkler fireworks inside for a skit video, they transformed an entire wall into a whiteboard wall that they’d write sales funnel plans all over, – oh, and the dozens of holes in the wall from daily dart games didn’t make them anymore well-liked by John, the landlord.
Fast forward to April 2017, Bear Butt had expanded from 3 team members (including Michael) to 10! Nope, Bear Butt didn’t have the money to bring on all these team members, and still remain profitable; But Michael was confident that bringing in talent anyway and worrying less about money meant growth. All of the happenings up to this point proved that Bear Butt was really beginning to make a name for itself – when the company got hit with another curveball.
Payments were missed to their main supplier and inventory was not released from the port, so the company had basically zero inventory through most of May and June – peak season. Luckily, Bear Butt still managed to do close to $300,000 in total sales between the two months combined (just a few weeks of sales).
To make another dent in the hammock market and providing gear that people want, Bear Butt launched patterned Hammies and a new slew of summer Hammies. These new products came along with a new push within the company to do $1.7 million in sales in July and August combined. The number $1.7 million was chosen because that’s what they needed to achieve in order to avoid bankruptcy. Spoiler alert: They only did $732,175.61 and still managed to stay in business.
Growth – and FAST growth. It was time to move into a larger space. The Bear Butt Team had expanded to nearly 20 team members, and the 8000 sq ft “dream” warehouse down the street was beginning to look mighty fine. There, they could begin fulfilling all of their own shipments, would have plenty of space for Penny Board and hoverboarding, and team members would no longer have to sit outside for lack of space inside the office.
But in true Bear Butt style, there was no decision that didn’t come with opposition. Obviously the team was on board with expanding and growing the company, but the financial advisors were not. "You'll go bankrupt," they said. "It isn't wise," they echoed. Michael went home to tell his wife that the warehouse probably wasn't going to happen. She replied, "I never knew you to give up." Ayoooooo!
Two weeks later, the team packed up their 10x20 office into a U-haul, Michael and Matthew met to sign the papers, andddd another curveball – the seller backed out. Michael messaged the team to say a quick prayer that things could turn around and we could get the warehouse. He then plead with the seller and the attorneys saying something along the lines of, “We don’t have anywhere to go. We sold our office space. The team has the U-haul already packed up and are just waiting on the green light. We HAVE to make this happen. The team is depending on it. Morale will be shot if we can’t make this happen. Please work with us!” The lawyers then spoke one-on-one, a resolution was made, papers were signed, and by end of day August 8th, 2017 Bear Butt was all moved into a brand new 8000 sq ft warehouse and had achieved over $3.9 million in lifetime sales.
Bear Butt now employs nearly 100+ talented humans and has bigger goals than ever – goals that they become embarrassed about when spoken aloud. But without those goals, the company wouldn’t be able to change the game in the outdoor industry. Bear Butt believes that nothing should stop you from being bold and doing things differently. Bear Butt encourages making mistakes – even hefty financial ones. It’s not about the money. As Michael often says, “money comes and goes”. It’s about GROWTH and being bold.
Michael dropped out of college and moved his family to Mexico when he was broke with a baby on the way, Bear Butt hired great people without having the money, they bought a million dollar warehouse when it wasn’t advised, they’re about to expand into a relatively unknown territory, but they’re going with their gut and doin' it. You can do whatever it is you want to do when you go with your gut, surround yourself with good people, make mistakes, and have the courage to be bold.