After keeping burly loggers well-shod for over eighty years, Viberg Boot is stepping out of the forest and onto the runway. For Creative Director Brett Viberg, gaining traction with style seekers comes naturally. The challenge is traversing the generational divide at his family's company.
"It's kind of like an ongoing battle with my dad, doing what he's been doing for 40 years. The company is 80 years old. Then I've kind of taken it into a new thing."
Declining job numbers in the logging industry have translated into dwindling sales for functional footwear. Chasing growth, Brett is blazing a new trail into the fashion market. Thanks to his efforts, Viberg enjoys cult status in Japan. High-end retailers, like Barneys in the United States, sell the handcrafted boots. Even Brett's blog gets 38,000 hits a month.
But Glen Viberg, President of Viberg Boot and Brett's dad, was concerned about their original customers. "When you have an established business that's already doing two and a half million dollars in sales, you can't just throw all that in the trash can and say, okay, let's completely change the direction here."
As fashion sales increased, so did family tensions. "I was ready to walk away," says Brett.
Instead, he signed up Viberg Boot for CBC's The Big Decision. Part of his motivation was money. After buying a new building, the company needed a cash injection to increase production. But Brett also wanted an outsider's opinion to validate his increased emphasis on the fashion market.
"It was like two weeks of family therapy," says Brett. "It was frigging brutal."
But Glen is aware of the dangers of brand stagnation. "If Henry Ford still made black Model T's, would everybody still buy them?" The Model T was on the road when Brett's grandfather (Glenn's dad) started Viberg Boot in 1930. "When my father was in my shoes, so to speak, he was more than willing to listen to whatever I had to say."
You'll have to wait until the episode airs November 13th to find out what happens, but for now, Brett says he'd do it again. "It really helped my relationship with my dad. Everybody is on the same page."
By YouInc Columnist Tiffany Burns