The recently expanded production floor at Biddeford’s historic Pepperell Mill is buzzing with tattooed millennials and baby boomers alike, moving fluidly among shelves of fabrics and rows of machines. With a promise to create quality jobs, Hyperlite Mountain Gear’s workforce exemplifies a commitment to American-made, sustainable products manufactured with the highest level of efficiency and precision.
Hyperlite Mountain Gear was established seven years ago by brothers Mike and Dan St. Pierre, who wanted to create durable, lightweight gear for their own adventures. After about a year of prototyping and testing in a family camp, they officially launched the company in Biddeford’s Pepperell Mill with aspirations of developing unique products for outdoor enthusiasts and everyday backpack-wearers. Now, after six years and three expansions in the mill, Hyperlite Mountain Gear employs 37 individuals, has multiple job openings, and anticipates a staff numbering 45 by the end of 2017’s first quarter.
Biddeford’s historic Pepperell Mill, established in the 1840’s sprawling along the Saco River, was a primary location for textile manufacturing for over a century. Thousands of people moved to Biddeford to secure jobs at the mill, and many made careers of their textile work in the growing urban community. Though the rich textile history of Pepperell Mill has waned significantly, the St. Pierre’s see growth in Hyperlite Mountain Gear’s future at the mill.
Where many manufacturing startups make the transition from cottage industry production to internationally exported manufacturing, Hyperlite Mountain Gear has held true to its “hand-built in America” motto and keeps production completely in-house. “We can’t use products that have mistakes,” says Mike. “With a small inventory hold, we can make changes in production, when necessary, happen in real-time. Keeping production in-house is a necessity if we want to provide the highest quality for consumers.”
From CAD programming to cutting and stitching, the committed craftspeople of Hyperlite Mountain Gear have all gone through thorough job-specific training. Regardless of experience, all production workers train alongside seasoned employees for anywhere from two to four months. Because of the technical fibers used in the company’s gear, precision sewing, manufacturing, and quality control are paramount in Hyperlite Mountain Gear’s production model.
After several years of approaching CEI for financing, Mike and Dan St. Pierre (CEO and CFO) sealed the deal in 2016 with a $250,000 investment from CEI Ventures.
“Mike and Dan are incredibly committed to building a sustainable business through continuous improvement, employee engagement, and financial control. I am thoroughly impressed by their understanding of the Hyperlite Mountain Gear core user and their ability to design and create winning, high quality products.” –Chandler Jones, Principal, CEI Ventures
While the St. Pierre’s have faced challenges in every area of business ownership and production, they embody the quality of a true entrepreneur: a motivation to continuously persevere.
–Dan St.Pierre, CFO, Hyperlite Mountain Gear
High performance textile companies like Hyperlite Mountain Gear are mixing innovative technologies with traditional practices to revitalize the local Biddeford community as well as the US-made textile industry.