A Candid Conversation with Caddis’ Tim Parr: Lifestyle Brands, Insights For Aspiring Entrepreneurs, and More

Tim Parr of CADDIS speaks on career advice for students and young professionals.

Tim Parr is a seasoned entrepreneur who has founded three successful lifestyle brands, and received global recognition for his expertise from renowned names such as Patagonia, L.L. Bean, Filson, Kona, and more. 

His talent has been acknowledged at esteemed institutions like the Stanford School of Design, the San Francisco Academy of Art, the California College of Arts, as well as major industry events like Outdoor Retailer, FlyFishing Retailer, and Interbike. In his exclusive interview with Fetti, Tim dives deep into his career journey and what it takes to be an entrepreneur. Here are some highlights of our conversation:

Could you tell us a bit about your background and career journey?

So, I am from Northern California, born and raised. My college was UC Santa Barbara. I got out by the skin of my teeth and spent years after that really not thinking about a career or profession at all. I was surfing, skiing, mountain biking, and rock climbing, kind of up and down the state. But from that, I actually started my first business. So that was around 1992. I started a clothing company and moved back down to the San Francisco Bay area. It was in the cycling industry called Swobo, and it taught me a lot about strategy, product design, distribution, and finance. It started the teaching process for me. Since then, I've had two or three companies. And before Caddis, I was a touring bluegrass musician. And then my wife had a business in the Bay Area, and I was helping her out with that as well. So I was doing all this stuff together essentially until Caddis.

What does a typical day in the office look like for you?

We don't have an office. So wherever I'm at is my office. I live down at the tip of Baja, Mexico. I share time between there and some time in New York City. So the average day is really getting on Zoom calls with [my] team for setting strategies and reviewing brand decisions that are made. I still do the product design. So, anything that has to do with product design, I'm dealing with it, once or twice a week. As an entrepreneur and starting your own thing, you have your toe in everything always. And then as the company grows, you have to force yourself to pull out of a lot of those areas that you have no business being in, because there's plenty of that.

What are the essential elements of building a successful lifestyle brand? How do you ensure that a brand maintains its authenticity and values over time?

Some people say authenticity is an overused word. I don't think it's an overused word. I think it's a misunderstood word. And I honestly think that if you can have a single point of view on your brand and it's consistent and you are consistently delivering that one point of view, over time, you're going to ensure that it's truth. And ultimately, all that you can hope for is that people think that what you're doing is truthful. And it comes from real human beings trying to solve a problem.

What advice would you give young people on overcoming self-limiting beliefs? 

Most entrepreneurs suffer from some type of impostor syndrome. I'm one of them. So how do you overcome that? I always go back to John Cleese. He's a British actor and a comedian. And he had this quote, which was: No one really knows what they're doing. And he says, not just the stupid people. No one knows what they're doing. And it took me to get to a certain age to realize it. There are experts in all fields, but those fields are constantly changing and what we perceive as being written in stone just isn't the next day. 

You really have nothing to lose. You're gonna get bruised, and you're gonna get beat up. And if there's one thing that can really hurt your success, it's your ego. So, putting your ego aside is job one with any endeavor. Just make sure that the ego is checked at the door because you're going to take some hits, and it's nothing fatal.

What’s one piece of advice you would give to your younger self?

I've always made a point to make sure that I'm always having fun. These are all high-stress days, a lot of work six days a week. But I love it, and I can't imagine doing anything else. I actually asked myself this question a lot. And the obvious one is to chill out but my 26-year-old self did not need to be told that he needs to chill out. So, just maybe that I should have thought of this whole career path a little bit better. Or maybe strategically. But so far, so good. I'm fine.

Can you share your approach to crafting compelling brand narratives and strategies that resonate with customers? 

I don't know any resource that helps create our brand story other than walking the streets. Just interacting with our core customer base always and listening to people. That constructs a strong brand, and I'm a huge fan of tone of voice. So, a lot of companies will hire a design firm to come up with some great designs, and you can just tell they all use the same agency. So they all have a certain look. But you can't get away from just being honest and transparent. And the more that you can be transparent, the better off the brand is going to be. And that's transparent with the stuff that you do right and with the stuff that you do wrong. So just starting to communicate—because that's all it is. That's all branding is—it's just communication.

What is your advice to young adults who are trying to figure themselves out?

It's sets and reps. You just have to write a lot. Start writing anything. Like start a fake business. Before I started Caddis, I was working for years on it before we sold anything. None of that cost money. So, if there's any interest in creating any type of business, sit down and start writing about it. And daily, sit down and write for 10 minutes about your idea and make journals and that content will be relevant whether that idea gets off the ground or not. But it forces a person to put ideas on paper. Ask questions like, "If I had to write a press release, what would it look like?" "What would it sound like if I had to write a product?" Just sit down and write it.

What are three books or podcasts you would recommend, and why?

I'm a huge fan of “how to write” books—they're super fun to read. So Anne Lamott has one called “Bird by Bird”. That’s great. Stephen King also wrote a book called “On Writing”. But they're fascinating, great reads because you get an insight into the creation of a sentence and what matters. It's really fascinating. 

To learn more about Tim Parr and his visionary creations, explore his brand at caddislife.com.

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