As a brand and as a company, we are blessed to have a fleet of international distributors who are not only good at what they do (supplying their country or region with Nutcase Helmets), but they are genuinely good people.  Paul Baetens, one of our two distributors in Belgium and France (the other is his wife) recently paid a visit to our Global Headquarters to meet with our founders Michael Morrow and his wife Miriam Berman and he, unsolicited, filed this report.
When we look back, we figure Nutcase Helmets is growing in Belgium and France and will become our top brand in the near future. So it was the right time for me to go and meet Michael, Miriam and the people around them. This would enable us to team up and prepare a challenging next year together. The first day was a Sunday, and Michael and his production team came back from their China trip, Miriam and the US sales team from a bike Show at the East coast, so we all needed rest.  I took some time to go and see Portland and joined many locals for the typical Sunday run along the Willamette River. Great refreshing start of this trip.

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The Willamette River at dusk

Two things immediately caught my attention. A beautiful surrounding definitely must be inspiring and probably explains in a way the many creative start-ups and small companies in and around Portland.  And the large number of bike commuters. We’re used to these Monday morning scenes in Belgium with crowds of youth and grown-ups cycling to their school and jobs, but honestly I didn’t expect to find this here.  Arriving at the Nutcase building, with many small companies as neighbors and people carrying their bikes up the stairs, I noticed the high ceilings, large windows with an industrial past, bright rooms and kiwis on the meeting table. The atmosphere was set. Having met Miriam, Michael and some team members a couple of times before, I didn’t expect anything else than a laid back and relaxed office, although, everyone was already fully concentrated in his/her tasks.

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Nutcase’s global map of dealers and distributors

I definitely arrived in peak season, just before Thanksgiving and the Christmas season.  I was invited to join the weekly Monday Meeting, and realized how this team only recently grew that much, and that this probably is the thing you want most for your own small business: having professionals around you, on which you can rely for production, national and international sales, finance, purchasing, product design, new product launches, marketing, social media topics and the website. Not so long ago Miriam and Michael were doing pretty much everything themselves (hmmm…sounds familiar).  Anyhow it must be hard to delegate and give power to the team, but King and Queen are doing this task very well!  The rest of the day was spent with more in-depth talks with Julie, Susie, and Michael, and it is fine and very constructive to work together this way rather than through quick Skype talks or hasty meetings at the trade shows. As one of their international distributors, you really feel part of the team rather than a customer. This is exactly what motivates us.  Meeting Michael, Miriam, their kids and friends around some of Portland’s best food was a great way to let this long day come to an end.

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Velo Cult: one of the best shops in the country

The next day, Chris Streight, Sales Manager for the United States, took me around the greater Portland area to meet a few of their local Nutcase resellers. I didn’t know I was going to bump into bike monuments!  Velo Cult is the place you have to see if you’re into bikes, and beer (a pleonasm, they say there). One day I’ll bring over our best dealers on a trip here, that’s for sure. Spending time with Chris made me realize how actually someone is doing virtually the same job as mine.  We could talk for days. Followed by even more meetings, Flip, Dave and Meghan answered all my questions on the branding, marketing and social media side, and clearly made these items jump to the highest positions in our to-do list. More subjects to go through with Susie and Julie. Time has come to go to the party Nutcase had planned way before.  Again a great moment:  At an American bar, playing shuffleboard (now I understand what a board meeting is).  Here we are forgetting about helmets for a few hours. The nutty Nutcase family at the bar. Feeling good.

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What trip to Portland is complete without beers and ‘board?

Time goes fast: the last day to talk next year’s strategy with Michael, and Tall Michael (Sloan), just arriving from Europe.  He is helping us to build the brand in Europe. A professional. Making me confident we have the world at our feet with this brand. Noon. You can see Mount Hood just through the office windows. I realize I’m leaving tomorrow…early. This trip is too short and hardly didn’t leave time to go and visit the area. I hop on Flip’s bike, and browse the city streets, feeling just as if I was cycling Portland every day. Yes I feel part of this city, and don’t even need my GPS anymore to find my way back to the office. Was this the first outdoor store in the US? It seems the windows didn’t change for centuries…The short stay ended in yet another great place, tasting great Oregon wine with top food and spend the last evening with great people. Describe Portland in 3 words? The Good Life.  Thank you all for your precious time. I’m proud to be part of your team. On take-off at sunrise I decided one thing: I’ll be back soon!  To celebrate the booming Nutcase sales. And take more time to enjoy the Oregon outdoors. And climb Mount Hood. And…

Paul Baetens
Nutcase Belgium & France