Rebecca Long, the founder of HotLeaf camo, favors the pink thang in her newly developed camo print. A seriously hot pink oak leaf pattern swirls throughout her camo, which is intended to blend in, yet stand out.
The birth of HotLeaf happened a few years ago when Rebecca started bowhunting. “I went into the stores, just like everyone else, to buy equipment and look for high performance clothing to wear. I was seriously unimpressed with the selection of apparel for female hunters,” recalled Rebecca.
Having served in the Air Force as active duty for 7 years, and now on Reserve status, Rebecca knows about how camo should function. She wore it a mechanic on the flight line at Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri. “Serving in the military, I wore camo every day during periods of my life, which I loved, and I experienced firsthand what it was like to wear unisex designs. I am proud to wear the Air Force uniform, but during my free time, I’d like to wear comfortable clothes that make me feel like a woman and represent who I am in a daily life as an active mom with recreational interests,” said Rebecca, mother of a 2-year-old girl and an 8-year-old stepson.
“During this time, my husband and I were on this build-everything-ourselves-kick, so I asked, ‘Why don’t I just make my own camouflage clothes?’ I guess you could say I had a ‘Eureka’ moment,” said Rebecca.
She combined her personal experience in the military with knowledge of how deer perceive color to create the concept of HotLeaf. Ungulates – deer, elk, antelope, any animal with a hoof – are red and green color blind. Therefore the hot pink in the mix shows up as gray.
Rebecca and her partners Kaeley Duncan, Jennifer McManus and Heather O’Connor have launched a high-performance base-product that other companies feature in their product lines. “I never went into this business hoping to be the next Tumi or North Face. I wanted this to be all about the raw material, which is a camo print that appeals to the female hunter, but also holds credibility scientifically, functionally and aesthetically,” said Rebecca.
As a savvy businesswoman, and presently attending the University of Missouri in Columbia, Mo., majoring Textile and Apparel Management, with a minor in Business, Rebecca knows what her customer looks like: “She is a savvy huntress with impeccable taste and she needs her gear to perform.”
Jennifer McManus serves as the company’s president and brings nearly 2 decades of expertise in global product development and operations for US trading companies. Her experience spans a wide breadth of industry sectors, including OEM components, fitness products, television, soft goods for the equine industry, jewelry/accessories and home decor. She founded and continues to run Source by Design, Triple Creek and Loulabelle Jewelry. Her knowledge of full-service sourcing and private label manufacturing, heavily specialized in the area of soft goods, “cut and sew,” enables her to deliver on product quality as well as profitability from a finance standpoint. Jennifer has an M.S. in International Management Studies from the University of Texas at Dallas.
The HotLeaf team also features Heather O’Connor as marketing director. Heather’s background includes more than 15-years of experience in eCommerce and online marketing. She’s worked with some of the most recognizable brands in apparel, retail, cosmetics and consumer packaged products helping them define brand strategies, measure and interpret consumer behavior, cross-sell and up-sell and optimize eCommerce sales channels. Heather has a B.A. in Marketing from Southern Methodist University.
HotLeaf recently signed agreements with major outdoor clothing/gear companies that will debut the HotLeaf products in January. “To have these iconic brands embrace our product validates my ideas and personal experience as a female who enjoys the sport and art of hunting. I’m hopeful you soon see evidence of this progress as we’re anticipating upcoming engagements – such as vehicle wraps, HotLeaf material purses, saddle bags, bedding sets, neoprene items, footwear and apparel and so much more in 2015. We can’t announce the brands, which are contracting with us yet until after the SHOT show, but it is very, very exciting!” said Rebecca.
HotLeaf provides a highly technical pattern for retail partners, not for the end-consumer … yet. “We will be in large and small retail stores, and as we grow, we may sell direct,” said Rebecca.
Fresh from the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation’s Hunter Christmas Expo in Las Vegas, Rebecca reported a very warm reception toward HotLeaf camo products. She will be at the annual Shooting, Hunting, Outdoor Trade (SHOT) Show in Las Vegas in January, and expects to heat up the camo world with her new design.
This outdoor woman loves to bow hunt, duck and dove hunt. When possible, her family camps and hikes together. “I am starting to focus more on firearms and have even recruited my mom to buy a gun and learn to shoot with me. I’m excited to be able to share that experience with her,” said Rebecca.
“I want people to know that our company is dedicated to something really authentic. I am a woman who hunts, and I understand the dichotomy between being in traditionally ‘manly’ situations and being a female with just as strong a heart and will. I really believe in what we’ve done here, and I want my fellow female huntresses to know that I made this business in direct response to what they face: fashion and technical integrity do not have to be mutually exclusive.”
Visit HotLeaf camo.
Contact Rebecca Long at email@example.com.
Publisher/Editor Barbara Baird is a freelance writer in hunting, shooting and outdoor markets. She is a contributing editor at "SHOT Business," and her bylines are found at several top hunting and shooting publications. She also is a travel writer, and you can follow her at ozarkian.com. View all posts by Barbara Baird