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Talking Shop with Caleb Ulffers from Haven

Luxury memberships, sourcing stuff from Portugal, Drunk Elephant and an interview with the founder of Haven Athletic

Some housekeeping 🧹 

I hope everyone’s January is filled with brand success, gorgeous aesthetic surroundings, and unbridled creative ideas.

In this edition of HYPER, we are excited to share a conversation with Caleb Ulffers, from Haven Athletic, on his journey to bringing a rapidly growing athletic bag brand to life.

Before that, a few highlights from the week.

Social 🤳 
If you missed last week’s 2024 Social Media Tactics Report on what you should be considering for TikTok and Instagram, you can find it here.

Factories 📦️ 
If you saw Oren’s videos on making streetwear in Portugal, you can find the factory mentioned here: https://asbxstore.com/ and more info on sourcing in Portugal here.

Content 📹️ 
Oren looks at one of the new generation of luxury brands, creating thoughful menswear collections for a select group in this video on luxury via membership.

Skincare brand Drunk Elephant has been dominated the online conversation as they become increasingly popular with Gen-Alpha, causing some… complications at retail.

Interview with Caleb Ulffers from Haven Athletic

How’d the idea for Haven come about?

I was in the gym in 2016 looking for my headphones in my circa 1995 Nike duffel bag, couldn't find them, and had to shake it out and pull the plastic piece out of the bottom to find them.

That’s when I realized how ridiculous it was, how much time I was wasting, and how upset I was getting trying to grab something from my bag.

It should be easier.

We started with a baseline understanding of what needed to be fixed (organization, durability, ventilation) and started designing. Along the way, we talked to people to verify we were on the right path (using design thinking principles).

We got our first prototype and almost couldn't believe it after a year of factories turning us down and tons of people telling us it was literally impossible to manufacture what we wanted.

It's a really cool, really long story with a bunch of magical moments and a heap of grit.

You make a hero product that stands out in a market with so many loyal patrons and followers. Why go niche with product development from the start, versus making a bunch of other products?

“Riches in niches.”

Coming from the lean startup generation, it’s ingrained in me that you have to focus on a niche audience to build momentum before going wide.

We have built a loyal following in the athletic space and now can work with those athletes to help us expand into other categories.

Also, designing and building new products is cost-prohibitive; we're still up against that now with our product plans. I would build 20 new products this year if I could.

Tell us more about the products and how you design them.

Our focus on reinventing the gym bag was easy because of my background.

I am our target customer.

I'm a high-performance athlete. And I’m a high-level founder who lives an incredibly optimized lifestyle.

3 for 3.

We looked at every angle of the bag – the material, the stitching, the zippers, the pocket design, whether the dividers should be sewn in or not, if the opening should be clamshell and be on the front or back, how deep the compartments should be, what products go into each compartment, and how are those products best stored and easily accessed.

We spent weeks working through all of these questions and thinking through every angle and what is the best solution for our audience, and then tested those designs with athletes throughout the process.

I could talk about this all day - build better products, be more intentional, and reap the rewards. 

And that intention has brought some resonance with some pretty big athletes? 

Bingo. We're working with 100+ professional athletes with over 80M followers on social in all major sports. We have bags in the hands of the biggest athletes in the world and are talking to entire professional teams about collabs.

They reach out to us because the product is incredible and resonates in a way that no other product does. They see it, they get it right away, and they want it because they're the type of people who are looking for any and every edge to move their life forward.

They don't have time for wasted minutes looking for lost gear or the mental fog that comes with that.

You decided to bootstrap the business early on. Was that by design or necessity? What've you learned by going this route?


We talked to a few people, but my network was all tech, and this was a crazy idea. "Reinventing the gym bag" just wasn't a compelling idea, no matter what the numbers said.

We have often compared ourselves to Yeti in how they reinvented the cooler; no one asked for a new cooler, especially one that cost $300+.

Now look at them. I see our paths very similarly (except we're not going to get into drinkware, ha!).

What’s your philosophy around brand-building? 

Being bootstrapped makes it hard to do a lot of brand-focused activities. We built the company on our products up to this point, and now, 3 years in, we're ready to start pushing into the brand side.

Whenever I talk to people about what Haven stands for, it resonates deeply. People have started asking for shirts, hats, merch, and to make athletic gear because they trust us and know we make superior products.

2024 is the year we get more public about the brand and what it means to have a Haven, a safe space you can go for your daily practice, whether that's running, CrossFit, walking, yoga.

Life is chaotic, and we're here to fight off the time wasters and space invaders and give you space and time back to flourish. (<-- sneak peek of where we're headed, it gets even better) 

HYPER Reports

Check out our market reports. We spend many, many hours researching markets, categories, and brands & products within the consumer space–all so that you don’t have to.

How to Source Blanks 101 — HERE​ 
A guide to finding and producing your own merch

Market reports on Running, Golf and Tennis — HERE
A guide to each sport, the market opportunities, and how to launch your own brand

Looking for brand strategy, research, or merchandise support?

Shoot us a note here: [email protected]

We’d love to chat!

Oren ​& Clayton ❤️ you