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Traverse City Startup Story: Revealing a New Product Line and the Essentialism of Entrepreneurship

“You cannot overestimate the unimportance of practically everything.”

This a quote from Greg McKeown in his excellent book, Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less. 

It’s a message that is particularly poignant for us right now as we inch closer and closer to our launch. As we get further along, more and more “rabbit holes” appear before us that pose the risk of taking us off track.

Distractions and trivialities are the most common roadblocks to building something new. You can take things in so many different directions, but each new direction threatens to derail the original vision.

In our case, the original vision is to design and create products of quality and craftsmanship that inspire and empower people – especially kids – to pursue adventurous lives exploring the great outdoors. Executing that vision will enable us to plan and host awesome events, and build places such as the Fairy Trails, that align with our vision. Finally, and just as importantly, building a successful business will allow us to give back and impact those in our community who are less fortunate.

And so, at this critical juncture in our startup phase when we are juggling multiple projects with a number of different partners, we are trying to continually remind ourselves of McKeown’s message. Take care of the big stuff, we believe, and everything else will take care of itself.

We’re in the midst of a sprint to get this business launched, but we know that the launch will just be the beginning of a long marathon. And to run a successful marathon, you need to adopt an Essentialist’s mindset in order to stay on track and not burnout.

Here are more insights from McKeown that are important to keep in mind when tackling any worthy endeavour:

“The way of the Essentialist means living by design, not by default. Instead of making choices reactively, the Essentialist deliberately distinguishes the vital few from the trivial many, eliminates the nonessentials, and then removes obstacles so the essential things have clear, smooth passage. In other words, Essentialism is a disciplined, systematic approach for determining where our highest point of contribution lies, then making execution of those things almost effortless.”

Essential words of wisdom for anyone trying to start, or grow, something of significance.

From Pin Party to Final Product

The one area, more than any other, that we are trying to apply the Essentialist’s mindset is in creating and curating a cohesive product line. We’re not interested in simply offering a bunch of disparate products that bear little relation to one another simply because they are trendy or popular at the moment. Rather we want to build collections that reflect our vision, have meaning and purpose, and are interrelated.

Today we’re previewing another product that will be available at the time of our launch: Northern Michigan-inspired hard enamel pins for kids and adults.

Enamel pins have been popular and enduring symbols throughout modern history. They can be worn on lapels, jackets, hats, bags – really anywhere you want to add a bit of flair or meaning to an outfit or accessory.

Several of our product lines, such as the girl’s cape designs we featured last month, are being designed to showcase enamel pins (and don’t worry, there’s something special coming for boys, too!). This is an example of the type of product cohesion we’re aiming for. Just as Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts earn merit badges that reflect their various interests and achievements, we’re hoping that kids get inspired to get outside and active while wearing their favorite Life and Whim apparel and pins.

Our pins will feature places, things and messages that have a deep connection to the great outdoors, with a focus on Northern Michigan’s majesty. Some pin designs are more geared to kids, others to adults. But kids and adults, alike, will have plenty of pins to choose from that reflect their personal interests and styles.

The inspiration for our pins is all around us – from the animals that call Northern Michigan home to the creative and adventurous spirit that this community exudes. One of the biggest problems we faced in developing our pin collection was not in coming up with ideas, but in winnowing down to the essential best ideas.

Rather than simply trusting our own intuitions, we decided to ask for help. And what better way to get input from others than to throw a party, right?!

Last Wednesday we hosted a “Pin Party” at The Little Fleet for a number of families. We displayed ten pin designs, and asked kids to vote on their favorites. We committed in advance to make the top five vote-getters the first five pins that will go into production and be featured when our new shop launches this spring.

Traverse City ecommerce, enamel pins, outdoor brand, pins for kids

The party was a lot of fun and we received lots of great feedback. Each pin design received a number of votes, but there were some clear winners. You’ll have to wait until launch to see the entire collection, but we wanted to reveal the kids’ favorite from the pin party.

Treadwell is a black bear who lives in the forest near the Sleeping Bear Dunes. Sleeping Bear, coincidentally, is a great place to gaze at the stars and find the constellation Ursa Minor, the “Little Bear,” which inspired the Treadwell pin.


We’re really excited to roll out the entire collection. Many of the pins for kids (although we were heartened to hear that many of the adults at the party said they would wear them as well!) are meant to be fun and whimsical. The pins we’re designing for adults are a bit more sophisticated and feature meaningful messages. All of them are meant to enable people to show-off what they love about the great outdoors!