Co-founders of SheFly

Revolutionizing Women’s Outdoor Apparel: How SheFly is Changing the Game

By Joy Martin

In the summer of 2016, Georgia Grace Edwards was guiding with a group of men on Alaska’s Mendenhall Glacier when a lightbulb ignited. After one too many days navigating crevasses to find a discreet, safe place to squat, she resolved to do something about this universal issue. While other cumbersome solutions existed, Edwards committed to overturn the “pant patriarchy” and create a product that women in all outdoor scenarios could embrace. 

“Just by wearing our pants, women can save over an hour a day on the job,” Edwards said. “We’re not just solving this challenge for the sake of convenience; this is a matter of safety, confidence, and health. It’s not just being outside; this is tied to existing in society.”

When she returned to school from Alaska, Edwards connected with Charlotte Massey and another university friend, Bianca Gonzalez. The trio got to work prototyping pants in Edward’s dorm room at Middlebury College in Vermont. 

“The outdoors [is] dominated by a narrative that is primarily white, primarily masculine, and primarily able-bodied,” said Massey in a 2019 TEDx Talk in Stowe, Vermont. “The added difficulty in going to the bathroom adds one more hurdle that makes outdoor accessibility even more difficult. When we force half the population to hold in their pee, we’re also holding back our ability to have an inclusive outdoor space.” 

SheFly Apparel manufactures women's outdoor pants that make peeing outside easier.
SheFly Apparel manufactures women's outdoor pants that make peeing outside easier.

Edwards enrolled in an entrepreneurship course and pulled together a business plan. The women launched SheFly Apparel in August 2018 and, by the end of that year, awards and grants for their innovative design began trickling in.

“If I hadn’t had the time and space that college entrepreneurship class provided, I don’t know if I would’ve started [SheFly], much less taken it to a place where I can employ others,” Edwards said. 

After the official business launch, Gonzalez stepped into her career as a land planner for her home state of New Mexico, while Massey and Edwards worked full-time jobs and tackled SheFly’s supply chain and funding challenges. Edwards explained that, from the bottom up (pun intended), they are a values-based company, beginning with who they hire to how they show up for public speaking engagements. They even emphasize gender equality in their bottom line (yep, another zinger), as they seek 50% of funding from women and women-owned companies. 

“Everything about our business is tied to our values,” Edwards said. “A lot of decisions aren’t that hard because this is our value and here is the natural answer that aligns with that value.”

In May 2021, the all-women team was accepted into the Moosejaw Outdoor Industry Accelerator program hosted by Western Colorado University’s ICELab in Gunnison, Colorado. They spent five weeks living in a dorm room, connecting with Gunnison’s bounty of mentors, community support, and resources available to startup companies. They also fell head over heels in love with Gunnison’s access to the great outdoors. In early 2022, Edwards and Massey moved SheFly’s headquarters from Vermont to Gunnison. 

“Our times in rural mountain communities have always been our best times of acceleration,” Edwards said. “To have access to the outdoors on top of a coworking space and funding from the City of Gunnison and the state…it’s more than a trifecta, it’s like a perfect storm for a startup company in the outdoor industry.” 

Since then, they’ve pivoted into full-time commitment to SheFly Apparel. While they learn how to delegate work and trust their team members, Massey focuses on operations as SheFly’s COO. As CEO, Edwards oversees publicity, sales, financials, and everything else. Word of mouth is still their number one marketing tool, Edwards said. 

“If you want to see our product in your local gear store, pressure those businesses to stock up,” she said. “It means more coming from a customer than from a brand.” 

heFly Apparel participated in the 202 1 Moosejaw Outdoor Industry Accelerator Program.
heFly Apparel participated in the 202 1 Moosejaw Outdoor Industry Accelerator Program.

Edwards said SheFly is wasting no time paying forward all the good they’ve received as a fledgling startup. She and Massey prioritize mentor opportunities, seeking connections with women-focused clubs and initiatives on Western Colorado University’s campus and beyond. Over the next five years, the women expect to create 24 jobs in management, design, marketing, and more. They received the 2022 Outdoor Retailer Innovation Award and funding from the Town of Gunnison and the Colorado Economic Development Commission. In July 2022, SheFly was one of eight winners of the Greater Colorado Venture Fund’s Pitch Series at Grand Junction’s West Slope Startup Week; the First Southwest Community Fund awarded SheFly $50,000. 

“Something as simple as a pair of pants crafted with an inclusive, thoughtful design can change daily life: that’s the hope,” Edwards said. “Now we want to get the technology applied to every possible application of bottoms imaginable.”