For young Park City entrepreneur, sky is the only acceptable limit
When Carissa Dahl and a friend designed a skirt last year and began selling it online and at small farmer’s markets in Vail, Colorado, it was not entirely clear that the venture would morph into a full-fledged business.
"We were experimenting," she said. "We didn’t quite know what we were doing, and we weren’t quite ready to say, ‘This is a business.’ But people really liked the skirts. So it was great to see people buying them, then coming back to buy multiple skirts. And they also referred it to their friends. That was a really good sign, kind of like the alpha testing."
A year later, Dahl is now a bona fide entrepreneur and chasing visions of global success. Strong sales from the skirts led her to start her own company, Strömma, which she is hoping to turn into a popular line of activewear. A native of Park City and 2010 graduate of Park City High School, she has returned to the area to get the company off the ground. She is launching a Kickstarter campaign that will run through March to fund a new line of products, including lifestyle bags, T-shirts and tank tops to accompany the skirts.
"We’re going to keep doing farmer’s markets and push online sales," Dahl said. "But a lot of the Kickstarter will go toward scaling out, being able to manufacture our products in L.A. and ordering enough product upfront where we get the minimum (rates)."
While the company has small roots, Dahl’s aim is high. Armed with an entrepreneur’s spirit, she hopes to eventually turn Strömma into a worldwide brand. Determination is a trait passed down through her family, which is full of entrepreneurs. She said the desire to create something out of nothing and turn it into something "is just my personality."
"I want (the company) to be huge, you know?" she said. "I really enjoy doing farmer’s markets and being able to interact with customers, but I want it to be huge. I want to get my designs out there across the world and be able to sell them in different outdoor communities. I think I’m pretty ambitious. Even saying that, in my head I’m like, ‘Wait a second. That’s kind of scary.’ But it’s what I want. And that’s when I will feel successful."
Dahl has a strong vision of what she wants the company to eventually be. When she went to New York to attend fashion school at Marist College in Poughkeepsie, she had dreams of entering the fashion world. She quickly discovered, however, that the cutthroat nature of that industry didn’t suit her. But then she found another way to appease her creative sense. She learned that activewear companies often have little in common with the fashion scene, emphasizing environmental friendliness and positive work environments where employee satisfaction is paramount.
She wants Strömma to embody those traits, in addition to empowering women.
"It’s just the great combination of the lifestyle I grew up with, with lots of outdoor sports and hiking and biking and camping and skiing, and combining it with the passion for fashion design," she said. "It was like that ‘Eureka!’ moment for me."
Before starting Strömma, Dahl gained experience working for other companies. The whole time, though, the reality that she wanted to branch out and create her own business was always nagging. Even so, starting something new has been frustrating at times. It has been a crash-course in entrepreneurship, and Dahl has had to often remind herself that she is a first-timer.
"I want it to be perfect, I want to already be good at this and to know exactly what I’m doing," she said. "But then I’ve got to remember that I’ve never done this. This is how I’m gaining experience."
More than anything, though, the process has been rewarding. Dahl has proven to herself that she has what it takes to succeed, and she is excited to see where her path takes her.
"I’m motivated," she said. "There have been a lot of really late nights, a lot of hard days, a lot of problem-solving. But we did it, so there’s a lot of satisfaction in that. To put the work in and have good feedback makes you keep pushing."
For more information about Strömma, and its Kickstarter that begins March 1, visit strommaactive.com.
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Another ski season is in the books, and much to the relief of the restaurant industry, the outlook, like the weather, is looking sunny.