Over the last three years, Dirtbag Runners has grown into something we never anticipated – a massive world-wide community, design company, and potentially, camp-out / event company.
Dirtbag Runners has hit a turning point – we are trying to turn this small company into something that is here to stay. To be able to continue to run DBR, we needed to branch out from more than just selling trucker hats. Events and meet-ups, more rad designs, producing higher-quality videos and blogs. Recently, we launched an all-new line using recycled & eco-friendly apparel, which we talk more in detail about here.
In 2015, we hosted our very first Dirtbag Runners Camp & Run in Reyes Creek, California. We were still a very small community at that point. We had an incredible turnout and it reminded me how much I loved the aspect of bringing people together, out in nature, and doing something epic. We were able to partner with Patagonia for some incredible race shirts, and since that event, have dreamed of the next time we could do another event and co-brand with Patagonia.
At the end of our recent road trip across the Western US, we met with our running mentor, Luis Escobar. We talked about various ideas for potential races, camp-outs, and get-togethers. After lots of introspection, and some sage advice from Luis, we agreed that Dirtbag Runners is not an ultramarathon event company. We don’t care how far you run, or how fast. We care about being together, out in nature, with our best friends. We live for camp-outs, fun, and uniting our community.
The biggest problem we have had in trying to do events is choosing the right location. No matter where we choose, a large portion of our community will not be able to afford travel to the event. While it’s certainly a dream of ours to host a world-wide event series, at the end of the day, we are still trying to build up this small business and we simply don’t have the means yet to make all of this happen.
For the last three years, we have been a part of a New Years Eve 24-hours-of-running event in Southern California. We plan to host a large Dirtbag Runners get-together this year, and I wanted so badly for this to happen, on the same weekend, in other DBR communities across the world.
I racked my brain at another way we could host an event that everyone could attend. I also racked my brain at how we could co-brand with Patagonia for a new race kit that we had designed. Due to Patagonia’s requirements for co-branded apparel, we could not sell the kit in our online store – it had to be built into the price of an event entry.
Then, it hit me – we could plan a virtual race which entry fee covers the new race kit we designed.
The whole point in us putting on the virtual run was to create a new and fun way to release a product. The virtual run itself had no additional cost or value. It was simply a unique approach to releasing a race kit.
We got to work designing the race kit and planning out how we could make this a fun event for everyone.
Since May, we have been building up our Strava group, which now has 1,697 members and growing. We have logged over 8,018 total club miles and have held monthly run challenges with prizes for the winners. The feedback was very positive, and we thought this could be a rad opportunity to use technology in line with the virtual run. The Strava group run challenges allow more people from around the world to participate with each other in a fun new way.
Technology is the reason why Dirtbag Runners exists. We started off as a small blog and instagram account, and now have thousands of people worldwide who connect to our message and are a part of this community.
For some reason, the term Virtual Run leaves people with a bad taste in their mouth. While a Virtual Run, at surface level, may come off as a money-making scheme (and probably is, for some companies), with Dirtbag Runners, this couldn’t be further from the truth. 100% of the money for the virtual run is going directly towards the production and manufacturing, shipping, and marketing for the race kit.
We chose to take a chance at something different that embraces the fact our community is world-wide and very much digital. We aren’t concentrated in one specific location.
We have been brought together through social media, so why not embrace that fact? The plan was, and still is, to cultivate local meet-ups for this event. Give people a reason to get together on the same day of the year – and also give them a rad race kit in the process.
With over 80 ambassadors representing 30 countries worldwide, a virtual run quickly became what we saw as a golden opportunity for a fun event. We are planning to help facilitate meet-ups across the world, giving people a real-time, in-person opportunity to join in this experience.
We spent weeks designing these custom shorts & singlets. We have learned that in small business building, oftentimes we cannot pay ourselves for our time. For the first three years of DBR, I lived solely off my savings to be able to continue to create and ship our merchandise. I did it simply for the love of design and our community. We have, as with all of our apparel, a very little margin of profit. What we do get back in profits from our apparel goes directly into financing business licenses, paying business taxes, and producing more products. Still to this day, we do not pay ourselves.
The week before launching the virtual run & racing kit, we were bummed to learn that the stock of singlets & shorts we wanted through Patagonia were no longer in stock. Rather than drop the weeks of planning and designing we had done, we decided to explore other options. Plan B turned into an incredible opportunity with BOA USA – a custom running apparel company based out of Phoenix, AZ. The cost would be a little higher than we wanted, but we knew we wanted to try something new and different. We had the ultimate opportunity as designers to bring the raddest race kit possible to the community. A fully sublimated design with complete freedom to do whatever we wanted. Rather than simply sell the kit on our online store (which we could do using BOA’s products) we decided to continue our pursuit of putting on the virtual event in addition to selling the race kit.
There are some people in the running community that chose to look at this event at surface value – $120 for a virtual run. Unfortunately, that statement is damaging and does a disservice to what we actually planned and where the money goes. Saying that we are putting on a $120 virtual race leads people to believe that we are taking $120 for nothing.
As we stated in our event page, ”The entry fee is $110 for US, and $120 for International. The cost covers your BOA USA Dirtbag Runners race kit, tax, and shipping fees.” There are no additional fees associated with the virtual run itself.
We are writing this blog today to address those claims and pull the curtain back to show everyone what is happening behind the scenes at DBR.
There has been criticism with virtual runs that charge money and aren’t donating to a cause. The revenue for this event is going towards the cost of the production and manufacturing.
The most important factor in donating to a charity is to have money to donate in the first place. We simply have not had extra funds to donate a portion of our profits to charity. Up until now, although it hasn’t ever been in our budget, we have chosen to donate to individual races, causes and charities when we could, which usually came out of our own pockets. We are not the type to publicly post when we donate. Unfortunately, this means that many do not know how we are actively participate in making the world a better place, and improve the lives of those around us and in this community.
Although we are still trying to get to a place where we can align with a non-profit, over the last few weeks we have begun the process of aligning with 1% for the Planet. We are discussing with them the ways that we can slowly get involved with their charity in a way that will benefit them, and not make DBR go under. Anyone who owns a small business knows how every penny matters in the beginning. We hope, after this holiday season, to be grounded and in a place that we can officially start our dreams of partnering with 1% for the Planet. At the end of the day, the biggest factor in this happening is our success, and to succeed, we need to continue to do what we are doing – make rad stuff, bring this epic community together, and remember that we are striving to make this world a better place.
We hope that this blog will help our community better understand the inner-workings of DBR, our dreams, and what our plans are for our future. We invite anyone with questions or curiosities to contact us – we are always here to listen, discuss, and hear your ideas.