Don’t confuse Kind Design founder Damon Redd with a businessman.
He’s not ruthless. He doesn’t make decisions based on the bottom line. Redd says he’s in the business of making people happy with his Colorado lifestyle clothing and design company.
“I know there are a lot of people in the world who say you have to be a diehard businessman to make a business successful,” he said. “I’m more about customer service and just being nice and making people smile. To me that’s a lot more important than trying to make as many pennies as I can.”
On a typical work day for Redd, he wears a black baseball hat with a Colorado flag-themed marijuana leaf on it — his design — while sitting in the basement of his North Boulder home, which serves as his office and studio. He’s surrounded by shelves of brightly colored shirts and hats, and a large-screen printing press with red and yellow paint looms behind his desk.
The Wilmington, Vt., native relocated Kind Design to Boulder from Vail in August when he and wife Kristen moved to be closer to family and friends. Kind Design produces outdoor-lifestyle-themed apparel with an emphasis on Colorado designs and concepts, though Redd is slowly adding other ski states.
Redd took his father’s advice and became his own boss. But before that, Redd worked for four years as a ski patroller in Vail during the winters and a raft guide during the summers.
He met Nick Wyman while trying out for ski patrol seven years ago, and the two have remained close even as jobs and school have made life hectic.
Wyman, who went to business school at the University of Colorado-Boulder and now works as an analyst for Foundry Group, said he’s been impressed with his friend’s commitment to people, not dollars, as he’s watched the business grow.
“It’s very apparent in his design work and dealings with people he’s looking to building mutually beneficial, long-lasting relationships, not just drive margins on a one time deal,” Wyman said.
Part of that mentality comes from Redd’s initial inspiration for the company. He founded Kind Design on the same principles that guided his life on Colorado’s slopes and rivers, he said. The Kind Design logo, a snowflake inside a water droplet, reflects his experiences. Redd’s designs often include colors from the Colorado flag, mountain outlines and even a topographical map of Vail Mountain — all reflections of the state he says he’s grown to love since moving here seven years ago.
“It’s about enjoying life, it’s about nature, it’s about being kind to people,” Redd said.
Since its inception, Kind Design has created and sold products to benefit victims of Hurricane Irene, Colorado wildfires and the Make-a-Wish Foundation of Colorado, among other organizations.
Redd prefers to work with other Colorado small businesses to keep sales and production local. Redd works with Denver-based Grace Skis, founded two years ago by David Liechty, and the two companies formed a partnership to co-sponsor several local athletes, including telemark skier Alex Romashko, big-mountain skier Alex Riedman and skier Drew Rouse.
Liechty said the company likes his design style. “It’s clean, it’s efficient. It resembles our skis and our brand.”
Redd got a custom-made Kind Design pair of skis out of the partnership, too. Growing up as an alpine skier in Vermont, Redd switched to telemark skiing during his first season in Colorado and has since convinced all of his friends and family to let their heels free.
Wyman said he hasn’t worn a pair of alpine skis in seven years because of Redd.
“He kind of lit the fire, so to speak,” Wyman said, adding that it’s apparent in Redd’s designs that he still lives an active lifestyle. “What’s been cool to watch is somebody who really lives and has build a company doing what they love. His slogan is ‘Live your dream,’ and I think he exemplifies that.”
–Follow Sarah Kuta on Twitter: @SarahKuta.