The “Behind the Wheel” series is an up close and personal look at brands and their owners who are an authentic and passionate part of the exciting world of Vehicle Supported Adventure. Today we’re sitting down with Gavin Stener, Founder of 67 Designs, the leading brand in the premium mounting solutions for adventurers around the world.
Gavin, great to chat with you today and I first want to let you know that here at TAP, we’ve used your products in both our Jeeps for several years now. Thanks for a great product and experience! That being said, let’s jump into your background and why and how you started 67Designs?
Really happy to hear about your experience with our products and thanks again for being a customer. I started 67 Designs in 2012 with a few simple objectives that carry through everything our team does each day. I set out to create a design and manufacturing company focused on how we use our electronic devices. As a society, we spend thousands of dollars on iPhones, iPads and other devices, but back in 2012 I could not find a quality product to securely hold my phone while driving. I started designing a product for myself and ended up showing the original JK Mount base to a few fellow Jeep owners. It became clear pretty quickly that there was a market. We naturally gravitated to the overlanding community and the wider adventure market. We are now in every type of wheeled vehicle as well as installed in planes and boats.
To follow up on this first question, what’s behind the name 67 Designs?
I knew from years of sitting in product and company naming committees with consultants that we needed something easy so that people could see it, say it and remember it. If you can get the first 5-10 people to see an image, hear the URL and they can come back in 10 minutes and correctly enter the website without any prompting, then a company or product has a good chance of becoming a recognizable brand that customers can easily share. So we have a number—my birth year—a single letter followed by .com so our customers can and do easily spread the good word.
Personally speaking, design aesthetics, coupled with a quality build is all important when parting with my hard earned $. Tell us a little about the design and production process of your product.
Our primary driver is definitely delivering functional design matched with high quality materials. The other crucial factors, of course, are how we can manufacture the product given the ever expanding in-house skill-sets and by working with our small collection of trusted sub-contractors. From the first week in business, we have 3D printed our models in-house. Without question, that has made a huge difference. It continues to enable 67 Designs to turn designs and prototype incredibly fast. Building a part, testing it and finding when it breaks evolves the design quickly and is just another way we strive to deliver the best for our customers. We 3D print in house or with our contract printer for certain production parts.
We like to use real carbon fiber and CNC machined aluminum. We tool exclusively here in the USA for injection molded parts and aluminum die cast parts. Above all, we are focused on making the very best device mounting products while making it every bit as sleek as the devices we use on our adventures or at our desks.
In your opinion, what keeps 67 Designs as the innovative leader in this category? Is there one thing or is it a multitude of reasons?
As far as sustainably growing our company, I fall back to lessons I learned decades ago while at 3M. 3M is always innovating and pushing the development pipeline. They are a great American company that embraces creativity and sponsors engineers to innovate and experiment. That culture leads to new and better products and categories. At 67 Designs, we work to have the same style of innovation DNA, and we back it up with investment in R&D and our customer relationships. We derive a major portion of our revenue from products that did not exist 12-18 months ago and embrace removing products as they move through the product life-cycle. Sometimes new item numbers relate to incremental refinements, but very often they are brand new offerings—offerings that have not yet been introduced into the market by other companies.
I see you’re not selling on Amazon, is there a reason for avoiding this obviously enormous retail platform?
This is a topic we struggle with constantly. Nike and many top-tier names have removed themselves from Amazon. We know that Amazon is confusing consumers and is arguably misleading the consumer who searches specifically for 67 Designs. When a consumer searches for us, Amazon knowingly diverts to imports and knockoffs. We did have our early products sold through Amazon FBA (Fulfillment by Amazon) and so our decision to stay clear of Amazon today is based on first-hand experience on how they operate against the needs of American business owners. I would much rather grow the business sustainably over time with customers able to directly communicate with us. We are a quality US manufacturer, and we like manufacturing, fulfilling orders and supporting our customers each and every day. In the end, Amazon and most other third party logistic providers push volume over quality and service, and we just don’t feel this is doing right by our customers.
Any new products you’re debuting in the coming year?
Last year was a whirlwind and amongst all the Covid-19 restrictions, our team developed and launched 12 new products and several upgrades. In the coming weeks, we’ll be introducing several key products related to the Series 55 and the desktop.
Right now, our top two priorities are keeping our workers safe during the pandemic and expanding our manufacturing operations. We have been so incredibly fortunate that during COVID-19, our products have been in such high demand, and we hope to release another 12 new products in 2021.
Vehicle Supported Adventure has obviously exponentially grown in the past 24 months. For any small brand this can create challenges in itself as competitors join each category. Any particular brand and marketing strategies that have worked for you?
The growth in vehicle supported adventures has helped many independent companies grow, 67 Designs included. We are incredibly grateful to be so warmly embraced by the overlanding community. It’s nice to be a very small part of well executed builds and awesome people taking awesome adventures. One pro about this community is how connected they are. So much of the time, it is our customers who drive traffic to our site through word of mouth, YouTube videos or other social media posts. Competition is increasing and clear knock-offs are confusing the market in several overlanding product categories, but they are always of a far lower quality. I have been overlanding for decades and I know that if you are on the trail, better have erred on the side of high quality gear that will last. In my experience, those serious about adventuring, tend to value safety and quality. And we pride ourselves on being just that.
As a passionate overlander, what’s been your favorite trip you’ve taken? Also, what is your current rig?
What a great question. Even though I have wonderful Jeeps, including my Gladiator Rubicon, and have done some great overlanding trips in the US, the #1 overlanding trip of my life was in Australia as a boy. We had been on red dust roads for weeks and my Dad took the family Holden places it was never meant to go, but it sure was an epic trip. I guess I hunt for that sense of freedom and escape every time the tires hit the dirt. That’s the point, though, and maybe with Covid-19 and the increase in overlanding in 2020, we will have a new generation that will realize we have so much to explore here at home (and offline). I look forward to getting back outdoors in the new year and hope to run into some of our customers along the way!
Thanks for spending the time with us today Gavin. Good luck in 2021 and we hope to see you on the trails!
Check out www.67d.com and TAP into Adventure.