By MUIR Founder & CEO Ian Muir McNally
2020 was supposed to be our breakout year. Everyone thought so. All of the pieces were in place - a solid product line, a compelling strategy, a passionate community, and an insanely talented team to make it happen. January and February yielded record sales, well north of 100% year-to-year growth. MUIR was humming beautifully. We were pumped.
Then Covid 19 happened, and everything changed. Our B2B channel collapsed, our supply chain was majorly disrupted, trail races and all in-person events were cancelled.
Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth - Mike Tyson. Our “plan” was useless. We were forced into survival mode.
Having an endurance athlete mindset definitely helped, but as you 100 milers well know, the path to the finish line - at all costs - often comes at a steep cost. With almost no retailers to serve (roughly half our business) we frantically leaned into our direct customer channel. Our drastic loss of revenue, with no recovery in sight, forced me to make the gut wrenching decision to furlough our sales lead, Francesca - our longest MUIR employee, and my sister. The pain didn’t stop there. My remaining team’s hours were reduced. We had to scrap our newly launched hydration line, trim our energy gel line, scour our operations to cut costs wherever we could, and ramp up our ad spend while pleading with our suppliers to extend terms. It was ugly and humiliating, but through sheer force of will, an incredibly loyal community, and no small amount of luck, we figured out to survive.
We then focused on being relevant.
How can we best serve others while remaining true to our brand?
We decided to expand the definition of the endurance athlete to encompass frontline workers (who are, in every respect, endurance athletes). MUIR gels we had allocated for cancelled trail races were redirected to fueling medial personnel at our local hospitals. This was so successful, that we were soon receiving requests for MUIR from hospitals all over the country. To defray the costs of this demand, we set up a donations portal on our website, and asked our community to help us help these frontline workers, who were courageously putting themselves in harm’s way to help others. In this way, we were able to fuel hospital staff in 13 states! Likewise, when the infernos ravaged our precious planet, we fueled professional and volunteer fire fighters in CA, OR, WA and CO.
To further our commitment to relevance, we proudly donated to two non-profits. 25% of our sales proceeds on Earth Day went to the John Muir Trail Wilderness Foundation - their mission is preserve and restore the JMT. The Sierras were closed at the time, but we wanted to invest in brighter days ahead. We also donated 20% of our sales proceeds Mother’s Day weekend to Home Start - their mission is to provide shelter to battered children and mothers (another sad, unfortunate consequence of Covid’s stay-at-home mandate was an increase in domestic violence).
Choosing relevance and service, over profits, was my proudest achievement in 2020. In fact, this choice has emboldened me and my team to go further, and commit ourselves to a higher purpose. We are a Next Generation Nutrition™ company, committed to Long Term Health - for humans and for the planet.™
We now regard our hopes at the beginning of 2020 as a false summit. Once we climbed to the top, we scampered down the steep, perilous switch back on the side, and bushwhacked through a low valley rich with unforeseen beauty. There’s an even higher peak ahead, and we are printed to summit it this year!
Thanks to all of you for reading this, for believing in us and for supporting our vision for a better, healthier planet.