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Outdoor Gear Specialists Embraced Barter To Launch Company

Jim Holland and John Bresee, two self-described ski bums, started an online business of selling outdoor gear on a proverbial shoestring—$2,000. has turned a profit for five years straight. As the No. 2 online gear seller behind REI, they expect to ring up $15 million in sales this year.

Without start-up capital the two followed the path of other successful entrepreneurs—they put on their barter hats.

Wanting to maintain frugal but fanatical customer service, the partners persuaded fellow ski bums to become phone reps as well as expert advisors. This was accomplished by rewarding the reps with free gear for testing new products such as tents and hiking boots. Customers would then get firsthand knowledge from the reps.

Holland and Bresee also pushed for a form of barter in the advertising arena by working out partnerships with thousands of affiliates wherein a commission was paid in exchange for pushing business to their site. To view their efforts go to