The Soul of Stio

22 Dec 2020

A Slice of Mountain Life

Winter 2020/2021

Written By: Monica Fedrigo | Images: David Bowers

Stephen “Sulli” Sullivan, founder and CEO of Stio, is hands on with his company. While opening a new location in Park City, Stephen was there with his tool belt on and a paint roller in hand, putting the finishing touches on a store he designed himself. The grand opening meant attention from the press and Stephen recalls that “They would arrive to interview me and ask if I could help them find the CEO. They thought I was someone who worked for the contractor.”

Since founding the outdoor apparel company in 2011, the easygoing, outdoor-loving CEO has created a business that is exactly in line with his vision and has nurtured its growth. With sales nationwide and 80 employees and counting, Stephen has crafted a brand that’s embraced by locals and coveted by those longing for a slice of mountain life.

Stephen is fascinated by store design, but storefronts are not integral to the company’s profitability. “Our stores are the physical manifestation of the brand and contribute nicely,” he says. “But we do the vast majority of our business through e-commerce.” Their reliance on online sales was a big factor in Stio’s ability to thrive during the tumultuous business environment of 2020.

A second fortuitous circumstance was the fact that their product is outdoor clothing, and that it’s comfortable. As more people spent time in nature, the brand saw continued growth. And Stephen notes that “Sales of casual clothing picked up after everyone started working from home. We sold out of our fleece sweatpants.”

Embracing innovation while maintaining the ethos of the brand is a priority at Stio. A textile specialist focuses on sourcing as many sustainable textiles as possible, with the eventual goal of 100 percent sustainability. A company stewardship council, run by a rotating collection of employees, is constantly looking for ways to keep the company moving forward in an environmentally responsible way.

Stephen’s past endeavors shaped the founding of Stio, which is his second outdoor apparel business. He co-founded Cloudveil, a company that provided him with a clear view of exactly how he intended to curate Stio. Selling online and through catalogs, as opposed to wholesale channels and retail buyers, was an intentional change.

“I love the direct connection with our consumers,” he says.
“It’s enormously satisfying. We can be more creative; we can
develop things that push boundaries — whether that’s technical boundaries or fashion boundaries — and bring something unique to the industry.”

"We can be more creative; we can develop things that push boundaries — whether that’s technical boundaries or fashion boundaries — and bring something unique to the industry." Stephen Sullivan

After over three decades in the valley, it’s an industry he understands well. “I moved to Jackson on December 6, 1989,” Stephen says. After his best friend planted the idea, it didn’t take long for Stephen to quit his corporate job in San Francisco and head for the Tetons. “The proximity to the mountains, where I feel most comfortable, is unparalleled,” he says.

Stephen is outdoors year-round — fishing, cycling, running, and skiing — and he creates clothing that will perform during his constant outdoor endeavors.

While it was the outdoors that drew him to the area, Stephen contemplates with a smile that his reasons for calling Jackson home have changed over the years. “It started with the activities but has evolved into the community.”

Looking to what’s next for the brand, Stephen never loses sight of what Stio represents. “It’s about the soul of mountain life.”

It’s a company unmistakably his own, and unmistakably Jackson.

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