Madison firm targets women who love the outdoors
Living in Wisconsin—a state geared to the outdoors, with its hunting, fishing, ice fishing, and adventure sports culture—Wendy Gavinski was frustrated by the limited selection of women’s outerwear for snowmobiling and skiing.
Women were driven to smaller men’s sizes for outerwear or to women’s lines that lacked a feminine fit or a designer look.
To remedy that problem and seize a business opportunity, Gavinski founded DSG Outerwear in 2010. Her vision initially resulted in a casual line that connected with a female audience. Women responded immediately, drawn by the vibrant color schemes, feminine fit, and quality materials.
Meanwhile, the company aligned itself with key retailers and took on an ambitious trade show schedule to relentlessly promote its brand. Its distribution network expanded and in 2015, the firm signed on with Mountain Sports Distribution as its exclusive Canadian distributor.
The firm expanded into women’s snowmobile gear and clothing that delivered the look and function women wanted.
Expanding to serve more sports
DSG Outerwear used its grant to create French-language marketing materials for use in Quebec.
DSG Outerwear, based in Madison, soon branched out into other markets. It worked with the Wisconsin Legislature to make the color bright pink legal for hunters in addition to the traditional blaze orange during gun seasons.
The measure was signed into law, and Gavinski pounced on the opportunity, rolling out a new line of outerwear to serve the women’s market. Soon, the company expanded into fishing and ice fishing wear. In 2021, the company launched a battery-operated, heated apparel line featuring gloves, vests, and socks to combat cold weather.
All the while, Gavinski concentrated on delivering clothing designed for women, including plus sizes, that was functional for the outdoor activities they tackled. DSG Outerwear featured not only the outerwear needed for the hunt, but attractive casual wear for after the hunt.
Harnessing the power of exporting
Keenly aware that women’s appetites for distinctive outdoor wear aren’t confined to the U.S., DSG Outerwear looked north and targeted Quebec as a fertile market for expansion.
It hired a distributor there and used a $25,000 International Market Access Grant through WEDC to pay for translation services in the largely French-speaking province. It used those services to develop advertising and establish a strong social media presence in those markets.
“Quebec is a huge market in the outdoor world for anglers and hunters,” said Gavinski. “It was amazing how well the brand went over with our French-speaking customers. They love fashion, so it was a great combination of fashion and function to participate in their favorite hobbies.”