Before Kyle Baker, owner and founder of Ripstop by the Roll started selling fabric, he was in the business of sewing fabric.
The year was 2011, and in their parent’s bonus room, Kyle and his little brother started up a hammock camping outfitter called Appalachian Hammocks. An electrical engineer by trade, Kyle went from designing circuits to designing lightweight hammocks, tarps, and gear bags.
Initially, the brothers just used the fabrics that were available at the time, but they weren’t ideal for their specialized craft. “We knew there was better stuff out there,” Kyle said.
No longer willing to settle, they set out to design their own fabric to their own specifications. Lacking the capital however, Kyle thought, ‘let’s start an offshoot business and sell some fabric out the back door.’
Very quickly he learned he wasn’t the only one seeking these specialized materials. “A bunch of other people had the same problem,” Kyle explained. “Unknowingly, we filled a gap in the market.”
With affordable, lightweight, technical fabrics made to withstand the outdoors, their offshoot business gained instant popularity in the industry, including a large number of Garage Grown Gear brands. With a variety of nylon, polyester, Dyneema®, and mesh, Ripstop by the Roll took off.
As a result, the hammock business was scrapped, and Kyle pursued the new enterprise on his own. “We decided we could provide more value to the market through innovation by supplying the material, rather than with finished products.”
In addition to selling fabric, Ripstop by the Roll started offering digital printing and laser cutting services, too.
They can print any logo or artwork in any color on a number of the fabrics they sell, including Dyneema Composite Fabric. The brand’s OutdoorINK print on-demand department creates dozens of wild, fun, and creative prints and patterns taking Dyneema as we know it to the next level.
According to Kyle, cutting time can be a big drag, which is why the brand contracts that service out. Many of their customers, especially startup companies, require nonstandard shapes of materials, making this service invaluable.
They’re certainly not the only brand to digitally print or laser cut fabrics, but Kyle explained how these services, along with their principal products, can be a logistical advantage for a startup business.
“We’re not the first to sell fabric, but we’re the first to have these layers of value that are all interconnected to provide the maximum effect for our customers. We have this level of synergy between the fabric, laser cutting, and printing all under one roof.”
Just like they have a variety of fabrics, they have a wide range of customers, too. “At our core, we’re built to supply the smaller guy,” Kyle explained. “But as we’ve grown, we’ve adapted and gained a lot of knowledge that’s of value to some bigger brands, as well.”
Kyle gets a lot of fulfillment empowering small businesses and startups by providing them with cutting edge materials and fabrics (even offering half-yard quantities). “We’re taking the toolbox of resources of yesteryear that was only available to the larger brands; those who have already made it. We’re taking that toolkit and bringing it down to the startup level.”
Another unique component of Ripstop by the Roll are their DIY kits. Everything needed to complete a DIY hammock, zipper pouch, or tarp, minus the guesswork, is provided.
“I get a kick out of creating these new things in the marketplace. We’re pretty proud of them,” Kyle said of the kits. “It’s not needless consumption, either. We can cut that zippered pouch exactly to size, such that the customer doesn’t have to buy a half yard of fabric. We’re providing value on multiple levels to the consumer.”
Recently, in an effort to service smaller brands and meet the demands for Dyneema, Ripstop by the Roll put together a sample book of Dyneema fabrics. “It looks cool, like something you could put in your library,” Kyle laughed.
Inside is over 25 samples of Dyneema and their technical specs. “It makes it really easy for the DIYer or small startup to compare all of the fabrics.” According to Kyle, his brand is the largest distributor of Dyneema in the country.
With a lack of formal business education, Kyle admits he’s received a lot of on-the-job training.
“As you progress in the business, it’s very easy to become the center of everything and having too much stuff run through you,” he said. Lately, he’s attempted to remove himself from day-to-day operations and turning the crank of the business. “But not because I’m lazy!” he laughed. “I love to work!”
As founder, Kyle originally wanted to start the brand to prove to himself that he could do it. “That’s changed over time,” he said. “Now, I’m doing it for my team. I get a bigger kick out of pushing forward so we can get to a point that we can share in the success that we’ve been fortunate to have.”
Their 12,000-square-foot facility in Durham, NC employs a tight-knit team of 12 “that’s more like family than anything else,” said Kyle. And it’s the team that carries the brand. “The team is more important than any one person, including, and especially, myself.”
“Our team, not an individual, will define the future for Ripstop by the Roll and the outdoor community that we serve. My job is to simply position the team for success.”