Bryan Papé – Founder & CEO, MiiR

Having inherited his grandfather’s entrepreneurial spirit, it wasn’t until a life-or-death ski accident at the age of 20 when Bryan Papé fully realized his vision to begin building a legacy of generosity. That clarity, coupled with design opportunity in active lifestyle products, led to MiiR’s launch in 2010.

A Product to Project™ company committed to trackable giving, MiiR gives 3% of revenue to partner organizations with an aim to provide people with access to a better future. Every product we design is built in-house with an emphasis on innovation, timelessness, simplicity, and sustainability.

MiiR partners with some of the most respected nonprofits in the world to create sustainable giving projects in the clean water, health, and food sectors that address both domestic and international issues. To date, we have given over $600,000 and empowered the lives of 100,000+ people worldwide, and invite customers to track the impact of their purchase through our Give Code™ registration process.

Outside of MiiR, Bryan has many passions including teaching his daughter to explore, bird hunting with his vizsla, and building his family’s cabin in the middle of nowhere. He enjoys skiing and mountaineering, and has successfully summited Mount Rainier on four occasions, two of them with his wife, Rebecca. Born and raised in Boise, Idaho, he considers the Pacific Northwest home after having lived in Seattle for close to fifteen years.

In 2016, Bryan was named a 40 Under 40 business leader by the Puget Sound Business Journal, the same publication that named MiiR the third fastest-growing private company in Washington the same year. He received the first “Young Alum of the Year” award from his alma mater Seattle Pacific University in 2009, and in 2015, was awarded the first “Young Alum of the Year” from the SPU School of Business and Economics. Bryan and Rebecca were honored as “Supporters of the Year” by One Day’s Wages in 2013.

How did the concept for MiiR come about?
The idea for MiiR was born out of a desire to find a way to merge business and philanthropy. I had a life or death ski accident in 2006 when I broke my femur. Lying against that tree not knowing if I would live or die, I thought, what would people say about me at my funeral? And that question cut to the core of who I was. I was a living a super selfish life and wanted to change that. I had a successful exit in 2009 with a company I was a minority owner of called Little Hotties Warmers and that allowed me the opportunity to start MiiR.

How was the first year in business?
The first year was filled with discovery, learning, and loneliness. I started MiiR out of our apartment. I grew the business from day one on Facebook. I had some insane conversion metrics which allowed MiiR to start scaling. I say lonely because my wife would come home from her job in the financial world talking to people all day and I would want to talk and chat nonstop. It is funny to think about that first year.

What was your marketing strategy?
My marketing strategy was to target people who liked the outdoors, yoga, and charity to like MiiR on Facebook, as that feature had just rolled out. 100% of content went into the news feed, and from there, I had really high click-through and conversion rates.

How fast did the company grow during the first few years?
We have been growing around 100%, YoY, since inception.

How do you define success?
Success is achieving the goal or purpose you set. For us at MiiR, our mission is to empower people for a better future. On the one hand, we achieve it daily, and yet on the other, it is ongoing.

What is the key to success?
Clarity of mission, hard work, timing, and a little bit of luck!

What is the greatest lesson you’ve ever learned?
Life and business are a marathon, not a sprint. Dennis Madsen, former CEO of REI, was an early advisor and he taught me that as an early founder.

What are some quotes that you live by?
“It’s not what you have, but what you give.” – Unknown

“Have the humility to know you’re not shit while having confidence to know you’re special.” – Gary Vaynerchuck

“Your society values people by how much you have, ours by how much you give away.” – Sitting Bull

What are some of your favorite books?
Essentialism by Greg McKeown
Principles by Ray Dalio
Half Broke Horses by Jeannette Walls

Tell me about one of the toughest days you’ve had as an entrepreneur.
There have been some doozies. What I learned the most from them is that the only constant is change. More specifically, in early 2015, there was a port strike in Seattle and all of our inventory was stuck on a ship or port. Our warehouse was empty and we obviously could not bill our customers for product that had not been shipped. We were pretty close to running out of cash and it hurt our growth that year.

When faced with adversity, what pushes you to keep moving forward?
I think about the fact that every entrepreneur faces challenges, some bigger and some smaller, and that I am probably not the first person to experience the current adversity. With that, I challenge myself to respond and think better than those before me. I think about my grandfather a lot during hard times. He built his business from the ground up and faced many recessions, and not just survived, but thrived through it all.

What advice would you give to young entrepreneurs?
Know why you are starting what you are starting, and don’t do it for the money. The challenge and accomplishment is the reward, and it is far more satisfying.

Who else should we interview? Nominate someone!

Interviews are conducted for research purposes by author Jason Navallo for his upcoming book, Underdog.

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