When Brett Farrell set out to create his trail running apparel brand Territory Run Co. in 2014, he wanted to flip the script on how the sport of running was typically portrayed.
“Most brands portray running all about sweat, pain, and workouts,” he said. “But that’s not what it was to me.”
“To me, trail running is a joyous and beautiful experience. I saw what the community was like. Like, runner meets surfer. I thought this is so cool, and it’s not what people think when they think about running. It was more about the beauty of the sport than the competition.”
Brett, an avid runner since his high school days, was on a bit of sabbatical backpacking around the world when he ultimately gravitated to Portland, Oregon.
“As soon as I got here, I felt the freedom to not do the prescribed thing in life. I felt a freedom to follow my gut and follow my interests,” he said of landing in Portland. “There’s a lot of entrepreneurial spirit here that fuels you, and I was constantly scheming up ideas.”
Brett schemed up these startup business ideas while working at a local running shop, which he admits was the extent of his business experience.
“The running industry felt behind, in terms of design,” Brett said. “All the bike shops had super cool graphics, but the running shops didn’t. It was another difference in how running was perceived.”
Despite being a bit naive to what it took to start a business, in March 2014 Brett launched Territory Run Co. with a rather lean website and a single T-shirt design. “I was starting from square one,” he laughed.
“I’ve never really had a creative outlet like this before. Now when I have an idea, I can run with it. Sometimes it flops, but other times it becomes really cool,” he laughed. “Having that space and that freedom is the most joyous thing about the whole brand.”
Once he found his footing marketing T-shirts, Brett perfected the brand’s technical, totally custom, running caps. Designed from scratch, and guaranteed to identify you as a trail runner, they continue to be the shop’s bestselling product today.
As a small business, Brett finds the pressure to constantly scale and grow his brand challenging. “It’s in our culture, it’s what we’ve been taught: you gotta keep getting bigger, gotta keep making more money.”
“But, I’m learning that I’m not like that,” he said. “And I don’t want my brand to be like that. I still struggle with it, but I’ve learned I can keep it small and be happy.”
This belief falls right in line with the Territory Run Co. credo, too.
“It goes back to the idea of the brand: do it your way, run your own style. It doesn’t have to be a 100-miler, it doesn’t have to be fast,” Brett said. “But, find what makes you happy.”
And, Brett is happy filling this specialized niche for trail runners who might dig the dirt trails over pounding the pavement. “We’re in a unique space,” he said of his branding. “If you wear our stuff, there’s no question that you’re a trail runner; we’re hitting that mark.”
In addition to Brett and a couple part-time team members, Territory Run Co. is fueled by its vast trail running community. The brand has a group dubbed Runners of the Wild, who don the brand’s shirts, hats, and soon-to-be shorts, and spread Territory’s message.
“It comes down to the idea that running is way more about the community and the experiences than the painful or competitive side of running,” he said of the Ambassadors’ mission.
Additionally, Territory Run Co. has a slew of cohorts across the country organizing sunrise trail runs for their own communities. “It’s a great way for people to unite and rock the message that running is way more laid back than it’s shown.”
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