The seeds of an
Idaho Falls startup.
Like many entrepreneurial paths, this one has been twisted and full of branches.
Bear & Blue’s founder, Carrie “Bear” Royce, spent most of her prior 20-year career in tech industries. But after selling her stake in her last tech venture and spinning wheels deciding on a new one, she resolved to make a big change. Tech had gradually pulled her away from her artistic passions as well as from her family. So she set out to start something that would take her back to the things she loved.
The family tossed a dart at a map, sold everything, and headed for a simpler life in the shadow of the mountains. A beat-up old building in west Idaho Falls, Idaho, was purchased virtually sight unseen—for a purpose yet to be figured out at the time. Along with help from family and friends, Bear set to work handcrafting its woodsy renovation. Her inspiration was Yellowstone, where she took many trips as a kid.
Through hand-peeling logs and designing rustic details herself, she learned new skills and discovered a passion for woodwork and handcrafts. Research and business development drew her attention to the shops around the region, where outdoor lifestyle drives demand for products. So she set out acquiring all the equipment she’d need to design, prototype, produce, and package such products in-house.
Within a year, the workshop had become an internal supply chain, packaging and shipping base, ready for the ecommerce piece of the puzzle. It’s well equipped and staffed for creative prototyping as well as volume production. For large volumes, Bear & Blue partners with regional manufacturers.
Bear will be the first to admit to her nontraditional startup approach this time. But that’s exactly what she was going for—something different, fresh, inspiring. Something worth raw hands and stained jeans. Drivers-by will often see Bear and her family outside the building, tinkering on something woodsy or green. It’s a labor of love that will be an ongoing hands-on project for years to come.
The Hollow at Bear & Blue
The store next door to the Bear & Blue workshop serves as a showroom as well as a gift shop. Favorite product lines from other independently owned companies can also be found on the shelves—a gesture of support toward other entrepreneurs. In Kansas City, Bear was an outspoken advocate for entrepreneurial support and community, a passion she is anxious to keep fueling here in the state where she grew up.
As for the taproom, Bear just wanted a “warm place to sip a bev while working at my laptop.” So when she can’t get away to the soothing pops of swaying lodgepole pines, The Hollow is the next best thing. Even better, The Hollow has become an inviting neighborhood gathering place, where friends can settle in for a comfortable evening of drinks, games, and warm conversation.
Bear Royce is a formally trained designer, coder, writer, contractor, speaker, and community builder. She holds an MBA and ancillary credentials in business development and marketing. Her 25-year career has included both bootstrapped upstarts and international corporations.
Who is Blue?
Blue is an allegory. Much like Calvin’s friend Hobbes in Bill Waterson’s cartoons, the little pal on Bear’s shoulder is playful and adventuresome, yet still grounded in reality. As Bear is often distracted by creative visions of grandeur and can easily get lost, Blue reminds her to stay on path, focus on things within reach, and enjoy life’s simpler pleasures.
The bear and bird together were inspired by two cautionary tales of building a business: The rival sales/marketing metaphors of “following a bear through the woods” and “a bluebird landing on your shoulder.”
Blue is a mountain bluebird, the state bird of Idaho.
These Folks Deserve Our
Our appreciation goes out to these family and friends for donating a lot of sweat and tears toward a tiny plan. Free labor (a.k.a. “Will Work for Beers”) and hand-me-down resources are tremendous gifts when you’re trying to stretch your startup dollars.
Among some locals, The Hollow is informally known as “Whitehead’s Place” thanks to Don Whitehead’s help with the gorgeous woodwork … Not to mention the ideas, endless repairs, inspections, and paperwork.
“There’s a world of difference between rustic and shitty.” — D.W.