When Mike St Pierre despaired of finding a backpack and tent that wouldn’t weigh him down as he escaped from the kitchen to New York’s Adirondacks, he did what every self-respecting high-end chef would do; he whipped up his own.
Working in his Brooklyn apartment on his mom and grandma’s sewing machines, he experimented with materials, bonding and sewing to come up with backpacks and tents that were infinitely better than he could find in the marketplace. At half the weight or better, and waterproof, the material he settled on, Dyneema, was unforgiving, but made from fibers that are stronger than Kevlar. In fact, Dyneema is the strongest manmade fiber in the world.
Starting with funding from family, and later friends, Mike moved out of his apartment and into a garage in Kennebunk and Hyperlite Mountain Gear (HMG) had its first employees. In 2011, Mike approached Southern Maine Finance Agency (SMFA) for financing to buildout 7,000 square feet of space in the North Dam Complex in Biddeford. Hyperlite was poised for hyper-growth.
“I approached SMFA for a loan and they worked with me to find exactly the right combination of funding sources to provide my company with the money it needed, at the right rate, in a timely manner” Mike explains. “Without their expertise, we would not have been able to move ahead as quickly as we did with as much ease. Their knowledge of mill redevelopment, coupled with their access to a variety of sources of capital, really benefitted HMG”
Dan St Pierre, Mike’s brother, and another refugee from New York City, was brought in with extensive experience in corporate finance and entrepreneurial management. He joined Mike just as Hyperlite was taking over contiguous space for manufacturing in order to meet the demand of elite mountaineers and long trail thru-hikers.
The growth has continued between 50% to 70% each year since 2011.
“We have a unique relationship with our customers” says Dan. “We live their lives, and with 80% of our business coming direct from our website, we continue that discussion to improve and grow our product line. Mike continues on as our key R & D user/designer and we have some of the most highly skilled and productive employees anywhere.”