For the next installment of our Q&A series we have Kirstie Pike, founder and president of the Colorado women’s gear company, Prois Hunting Apparel. Kirstie started the business in 2006 and launched its products at the SHOT Show in 2008. She says all her gear is manufactured in the U.S. and she’s excited to see the business “expanding rapidly.”

 Kirstie's husband Steve is her Prois partner, and both of her teenaged daughters love to hunt. Kirstie found a few free minutes this month to talk with FSHuntress about the rewards of starting a business and the behind-the-scenes of garment production. Thanks to her for a great interview! -K.H. 

FSHUNTRESS: What made you want to start your own women’s gear company? And what did you think you could offer that existing women’s gear companies could not?

KIRSTIE PIKE: The absolute inability to find high performance hunting gear for women. Men’s gear had hit that mark some time back. The hunting industry was, at that time, the only outdoor sporting industry that had not identified the fact that women demand performance from their gear. Up to that time, the only gear I could find was men’s (and most places didn’t carry smalls) or silly girly gear that was absolutely ridiculous.

FS: What are some of the challenges of designing gear for women?

KP: For Prois, it is ensuring that all of the cuts, fabrics and features are rugged enough to withstand field testing. We field test our gear extensively, and may need to revise the lines after that point. The upswing is that we know the product we are putting forth is top notch.

FS: And some of the rewards?

KP: There have been so many rewards. First, I have loved entering the “underground sisterhood” out there that is comprised of female hunters, women in the hunting industry and media. I have made SO many friends through this process. I also find it very rewarding to hear the praises of our gear. It means a lot, especially when it comes from women who are ardent hunters.

FS: How did you get into hunting yourself?

KP: Like many others — my husband introduced me first to shooting and archery. I then moved into hunting and was hooked.

FS: What’s your hunting life like now? And does running a company make it harder to get out there?

KP: Less than ever!! Seriously!! Due to family and kid commitments like coaching and 4-H, I find my archery season almost non-existent. The business keeps me running. However, because of the business I have been invited on many hunts (one I missed because of an emergency appendectomy) that I would never otherwise get to do. It has also opened doors to different hunting than the elk and muley hunting in Colorado.

FS: Could you pick one product and take us through the production process? How does a piece of gear get from your head to our sales rack?

KP: Well, anytime you start digging in my head it gets scary! Seriously, let’s say we start with our new Eliminator rain jacket. The very first step is fabric sourcing. We take a lot of time and scrutiny when it comes to our fabric selection as the fabrics must be perfectly silent, durable, and functional. Once we source the fabric, I sketch the piece and add the features I feel are important to the hunt. We constantly look for innovative features that make women say, “Oh my God, that is such a great idea.” That said, we also work hard to avoid any unnecessary gimmickry. I then ship my sketces to my patternmaker who turns the piece around for review. We work back and forth on the fit, the components and the function until we nail it. We then get a final prototype to field test. We make final revisions and run to production. Once the piece is on our shelves, we load it into our website and catalog.

FS: What’s your field testing process like?

KP: I have all of my gear made into my size for prototypes. I then take it out — shoot in it, crawl in it, try it in cold, try it in warm (often sweaty!) situations, stress the fabrics and components to ensure they will withstand the elements. I have made many changes from all this. One main change is that we line all our gear with nylon to ease layering and movement — we decided we needed to do this after one field test. It is now signature for our gear. We have changed out different snaps to relieve the tensile pressure on the fabrics. We have added sleeve lengths to best accommodate our thumbholes. We have reconstructed our hoods due to this process as well.

FS: What excites you most about Prois?

KP: The fact that it is so well received in such a short time. It is very satisfying to know we are appealing to women hunters who are unwilling to settle for less than the best. It is also exciting to learn more about the industry. We plan to keep moving forward. Next up, we are in our prototype phase of our upcoming shooters line! So fun!