Forging Purpose, and Partnerships
Bryan Papé, MiiR
August 27, 2019
To understand the ethos that drives our Evergreen company, MiiR, it’s helpful to know that I was forced to consider my legacy a bit earlier than I would have expected. In 2006, when I was 20, I was in a ski accident and broke my femur. I was aware at the time that a femur fracture can be a life-threatening injury—if you hit the femoral artery you can essentially bleed to death in about 10 minutes.
As I waited for help, propped against a tree in the snow, I was acutely aware of my situation. But instead of panic, I experienced a calm sense of clarity, and I came to two realizations that would chart the course of my personal and professional life. My first thought was of my girlfriend Becca, who I had been dating for about three years. I thought, "Man, if I live through this, I've got to marry her. She's incredible." Second, as I considered the fact that I could very well die, I thought about what people would say about me at my funeral. And I realized that if I were to be eulogized, nobody would have been able to say anything about what I had done to make the world a better place.
Fast forward 13 years, and I have been happily married to my then-girlfriend for 11 years, we have two kids, and I’m working hard every day to build and grow a company that gives back through every product we sell.
I founded MiiR in 2010 with the idea to merge product design and innovation with philanthropy. I had always been entrepreneurial, and when the outdoor industry startup I had been involved in sold, I began thinking about products that could be innovated. I identified bottles as an area of opportunity: there were clear improvements to be made to existing designs available in the outdoor industry marketplace, and innovating the product would serve customers by increasing portability and reducing plastic waste. The bottle was the product that would be our launching pad, our entry into the marketplace. Each product that followed has followed the innovative design principles of that first idea: timeless, thoughtful, beautifully simple, and sustainable.
But I didn’t just want to sell a product; I wanted to make a difference—to do good. To that end, we committed to grant three percent of our annual revenue to impactful projects that would transform communities. We attached a “Give Code” to each product we sold, allowing customers to register that code after their purchase and follow the trail to see where the portion of their purchase dedicated to grant making would ultimately land. In this way, we ensured that every transaction would provide an opportunity to do good every single day. From the beginning, that spirit of generosity was the essence of the MiiR brand, and our mission evolved from that place: “We exist to empower people for a better future.”
It turns out, my team and I were fully immersed in building MiiR, focused on product and Purpose, other companies were taking notice. In 2013, an email that would prove transformative landed in our general information email box: "Hey, this is Paul from Patagonia. We'd love to work with you. Not sure if you've heard of us." We had heard of Patagonia—I had admired the brand and loved their products since I was a kid. From that first outreach, we developed a partnership with the company, which we maintain today, through which our products are co-branded and sold worldwide. Patagonia has been an incredible partner in and of itself, but the partnership has also been very significant in what it signals to the marketplace about our brand—that a company of that caliber wants to work with us.
That connection was the first of what has become a series of impactful partnerships—others have included Blue Bottle Coffee and Stumptown Coffee Roasters—with companies that are value-aligned with our mission. These collaborations have allowed us to build our brand in a powerful way over time, and they have also provided additional opportunities to give back. The fact that we are an Evergreen™ company, committed to pacing our growth over the long-term, has allowed us the patience and space to embrace these opportunities selectively, at the rate that feels right for us.
Almost 10 years after that first email from Patagonia, we receive offers regularly to partner with other companies, but because we aren’t looking to meet VC or Wall Street’s quarterly expectations, we have the luxury of always returning to our mission to clarify when to say yes. And we are committed to continuing to say yes, to continuing to grow, because when we do, we earn more money to grant to people and organizations around the world—that’s a pretty powerful motivator.
As we take this patient view, we are excited to see how future partnerships will continue to grow our brand and how and where we can make a difference in the world. As a social enterprise, this opportunity to transform lives and communities drives us, but product innovation remains the core of what we do. Every product we create must be able to compete in the marketplace and be the best possible product for its intended purpose. When we are able to reach that mark, we earn the right to be generous.
Bryan Papé is Founder and CEO of MiiR.