Made in MN: Forage + Roam Lifestyle Goods
All photos by Forage + Roam
The Made in MN segment of the Minnesota Miles Blog shines the light on small, independent, local makers and entrepreneurs who craft the things we use to explore our state’s great outdoors.
This time we’re talking to Bri Bruchmann whose home-based Forage + Roam Lifestyle Goods in Buffalo, MN is coming up on its first anniversary and has already received rave reviews.
I grew up in a commercial fishing family in Cordova, Alaska and spent big chunks of my childhood summers on the docks with my dad, on the deck of his boat picking jellyfish, sorting salmon, stripping and stacking nets and in his warehouse.
I met my husband Glen when he came to visit Alaska and I worked for a whitewater rafting company. We’ve had a little bit of fun along the way being guides for all kinds of outfitters, living in a camper in Southeast Alaska, and several road trips between Alaska and Minnesota before we officially made Buffalo, MN our home in 2014. We now have two kids. Our 8-year-old son follows in grandpa and dad’s footsteps of being absolutely obsessed with fishing, loves mountain biking, camping and building. Our 3-year-old daughter has zero fear and an instant curiosity to try anything that looks dangerous and exciting.
What do you make?
The Multihood is a multi-functional fleece hood that takes the place of an attached hood, scarf and face covering. All sizes will accommodate a beanie underneath. You can wear it multiple ways, very similar to a sweatshirt hood but with a little more warmth and comfort. I make them in three sizes, from Youth to a larger helmet-friendly fit for any sports that require head protection. My main line of hoods is made with a high quality antipill fleece. In the dead of winter, I make a Luxe line that’s a denser material and more structured and nearly windproof.
What inspired you to start Forage + Roam?
I think we all know how cold it is here in the Winter, and how much that affects how much someone will choose to get outdoors or not. I mean, I was a huge winter person before moving to Minnesota. Coastal Alaskan winters are pretty mild and the snow is amazing, but coming to where it was flat and just colder, I didn’t find myself getting outside as much as I used to.
Somewhere during mid-Winter 2022 I just started brainstorming, thinking about simplifying the process of actually getting outside or enhancing the experience in some way by providing something versatile. Especially when it came to layers and just being so bundled and restricted. Starting a product-based business with a toddler at home was a little intimidating. But during Covid, everyone was tapping into hobbies and interests and making a living from home and things just kind of fell into place.
What’s your process?
I always start with a hot cup of coffee because, I just have to. I am usually pulling from a stack of pre-cut hoods and working through a stack at a time. If I don’t have any hoods cut and ready to sew, I’ll start by cutting an entire bolt of fabric, then move onto sewing. I get about 16 hoods from a bolt depending on the size. I’ll sew those up, sew the labels on string and toggle and onto the shelf they go.
What tools do you use?
If anyone was going to get a gold star for having the most sewing scissors, it’s probably me. I’m left-handed, but have always used right-handed scissors so left-handed blades just feel off and weird to me but the handle is uncomfortable when I’m going on several hours of cutting. I have probably gone through close to 15 pairs of scissors in the last 10 months alone. Happy to say I finally landed on a favorite and those are made by Kai. I started making my hoods on a Brother sewing machine, which I still use for my drawcord hem and labels, but I recently upgraded to a Juki MO-1000 serger and it has been a game changer.
What do you do when you don’t work?
One thing I don’t do well is sit still. Growing up in rural Alaska, we didn’t have immediate access to resources that most did, including shopping for clothes and bulk groceries. We grew up making, and those skills have always stuck with me and have paved the way for so many creative outlets of mine where my love for the outdoors and creating collided. I also really enjoy cooking and baking and this immediately translates to anything I could possibly make to shove in a pocket or a pack or pre-make to bring to our off-grid cabin. The past few years I have gone off the deep end learning to garden and working towards growing as much of my family’s food as we can in the small urban space.
What does being outdoors mean to you?
It’s always been about disconnecting and re-grounding and being in a place where you just feel like you. The one constant I’ve always had when I just really needed some time to myself was to get outside, get active, shut my mind off and re-balance. It’s also a place where my thoughts are my own. They’re not influenced by what I’m scrolling on my phone. On the flip side, it’s the best playground to see my kids be kids and I’ve had the best days of my life with my friends with lots of big smiles and high fives all around.
What was the biggest obstacle you had to overcome?
I’m still working on it, but finding a work-home-life balance, especially when my studio is in my house. Eventually moving out of my basement and into a mixed warehouse and retail space would be amazing.
Why should people buy from small businesses like yours?
The design and execution of my brand is built on a lifetime of living and working in the outdoors, where weather didn’t matter, your gear mattered and making smart gear choices made or broke your day. A decade and a half in high end outdoor retail gave me a testing and learning ground for technologies and processes I hope to utilize in the future and early success in my business will help get me there. But in the meantime, success in my business means a thoughtfully built and versatile product, an example for my kids to see what following your talents can bring you, and being part of the growing space of what it looks like to be in the outdoor industry in Minnesota.
What’s your best advice for someone who has an idea and wants to turn it into a business?
Do your market research but don’t let it take away from what is driving you in the first place. Follow the little fire that is making you excited and build from it. Find the gaps in your market space and fill them. People love a connection with a product. Tell the story. Share the process. Be a voice for your brand and be always appreciative of your customers.
Anything else you’d like to share?
I’m a huge advocate for supporting my fellow makers, small businesses and local talent. I source as many of my components as possible from other domestic and/or local small businesses.