In the broad landscape of jumpsuit manufacturers, there’s a new kid on the block that has caught my eye – JOIN. JOIN has been in the background of the major players in the category for the last couple of years, but the brand is surging to the forefront via a grassroots movement of skydivers trumpeting the quality of their product that holds up to the rigors of skydiving and tunnel flying.
JOIN co-founder, Hannah Berkowitz has an apparel design degree from Colorado State University and began the company almost by accident. Her brother was in need of a new suit and didn’t want to spend mega-bucks to get one. Hannah had worked at iFly Colorado and saw the beating many suits were taking. She created a durable suit that looked pretty awesome and by happenstance, her brother’s friends wanted them as well.
With my new interest in JOIN, I reached out to Hannah to learn more about JOIN’s story:
JLB: I’ve read the story of JOIN on your website and it’s really interesting. Once you created that suit for your brother, what made you decide to take the risk to build this business?
HB: I wouldn’t necessarily say that it was a choice. I could never have predicted that my life would take me in this direction. At first, it was just a simple suit for my brother who didn’t want to pay $900 for a suit. We made his suit out of a different material thats qualities are windproof and still breathable, to slow him down. After that, we just started getting orders. We realized that there wasn’t a company making suits to slow people down like we do, so that is where we found our first niche in the industry.
JLB: How did you come up with the name JOIN? What’s the significance of that?
HB: My dad actually came up with the name. We were sitting around the table trying to figure out a name and a logo and we had the idea of something that was based on WW2 propaganda. When my dad mentioned the “We want you” poster, it just fit.
JLB: Once deciding to create a business, there’s a lot to do from developing a website, creating your products and options, order forms, creating systems etc., how long did it take to go from the thought of opening a business to announcing you were open for business?
HB: In all honesty, I am still working on all of these things. It is a never ending process. So, in the beginning, I was learning what I needed and making it as I went and now we are trying to make everything better. Being a small business, it is hard to find the time to do all of that on top of selling, cutting, making sure production is running smoothly, embroidery and shipping.
JLB: Your mom and brother are part of JOIN. What are the roles of each person?
HB: Thank goodness my brother Henry and mom Sharon are in the picture. With out my brother, we wouldn’t be in business. He was the one who decided to back us financially, along with my parents. Henry has been our research and development since the beginning. He is always looking at new fabrics, new design and what is going to make our suits the most durable and high quality. Without my mom, I wouldn’t have my sanity. She helps with errands, shipping, ordering of new fabric, invoicing and accounting.
JLB: When was that ‘aha’ moment for you when you realized this business could succeed?
HB: I would have to say our “aha” moment was probably our first trip to the Redemption Boogie in 2013. It was the first time I was in another place where people didn’t know me well and all of a sudden we were taking orders. It was a great feeling to be backed by so many great people.
JLB: I’ve started to see JOIN showing up on a lot of people on social media. What has been the most successful piece of marketing for you that has allowed JOIN gain much more exposure?
HB: I would say our most successful marketing would have to be our military work and our sponsored athletes. We have been working with Operation Enduring Warrior for a long time now and that has been a great experience. A few summers ago, Todd Love was featured in three magazines including two covers in our suit.
JLB: Who was your first paying customer and how did that feel?
HB: Our first paying customer was Nick Kaminski I believe. It was great. Not only was he our first customer, he was also the Cookie rep. So, to have support from other vendors from the beginning was very reassuring. Also, I have to give a special mention to Greg Rau for taking me under his wing and introducing me to everyone and teaching me to skydive! (Greg is a 10).
JLB: The skydiving industry is small and there’s many jumpsuit players in the game. What makes your company different and why should people buy your suit?
HB: There are a lot of good jumpsuit companies out there. We try to focus on quality and functionality for all our products. We want you to end up with something that’s going to work and is going to hold up to the abuse skydiving and tunnel flying puts on a suit. We also make the coolest pants and shorts out there and I don’t think there’s anyone else who makes something similar to those.
JLB: Since starting JOIN what has been your highest / proudest moment?
HB: I would have to refer back to our work with OEW. I have always felt like the suits we make for these guys was meant to be. My brother and business partner is a retired vet and I feel that this is one way we can give back. It’s so nice to know that these guys are getting the chance to follow their dreams and be free in the sky. In the sky you don’t have to think about all the things that bug you while you’re on the ground. Everything is clear. We also got to participate in a Make A Wish Experience. A little boy in Denver wanted to be Iron Man so I made him a suit and he flew it in the tunnel.
JLB: What has been your lowest moment?
HB: Constantly doubting if the company is going to succeed and if I’m good enough. I have low moments when we’re slow wondering if orders will come in. I also have low moments when we’re really busy wondering if I’ll get through everything and if people will be happy. I think the lowest is when suits come back for repair and I wonder if I’m good enough. I always want people to be happy with what they buy from us.
JLB: A challenge for all small businesses is growth. How have you been able to keep up with an influx of orders with the size of your team?
HB: Thus far, we have been able to handle the work we have received. Although it is hard sometimes, we have pushed through. I hope we can do the same in the future. With the help of my mom and brother we have all the angles covered. The big thing is staying on top of orders as they come in. Especially the bigger orders. I hear of other companies out there with huge wait times and I just don’t want that to happen with us.
JLB: How do you maintain a balance or do you feel like you have balance as your company is in the midst of growth?
HB: I work really hard at what I do and it takes up most of my time. I try to find time for myself when I can to keep my sanity. I also love getting to travel to boogies and meet all the people using our products. It’s great to see how happy they are and I love to hear how much they love their JOIN products.
JLB: What are your future goals for JOIN?
HB: The future of JOIN will hopefully encompass many more sports! The newest product that we have put on the market is our mens and women’s shorts and pants. The nice thing about these pieces is that they are so versatile. You can use them for skydiving, hiking, swimming, climbing, surfing and much more.
JLB: If there is one thing you’d like everyone to know about your company, what would it be?
HB: I would say, the one thing I want everyone to know about JOIN is, we really want our customers to be happy. We will do everything in our power to make our products right for the customers. We strive for the best quality and durability on the market down to the smallest detail. We are constantly trying to make our products better and develop more of what the client is looking for. Our newest product is our shorts (mens and women) which can be used for many different activities, so hopefully you can just spend the money in one spot and wear them all the time! Lastly, I’d like to say thanks to everyone who has supported us over the last 4 years. It is because of you (you know who you are) that we have made it this far.
This article was published in the October 2015 issue of Blue Skies Magazine