How Hand Out Gloves has answered the call for functional gloves
By Nicole McNulty
It’s a blower powder day and, on the lift, you yank off your mitten and shove it under your leg while you snap a photo to brag about to your friends. You reach back for your mitten just in time to see it slide off the chair and fall into the cliffed-out area below. Most of us have been there. In comes a company with an innovative solution that provides not only utility but freedom from the confines of the mitten: Hand Out Gloves.
The crux of Hand Out is a patented innovative zipper technology that allows all five digits to exit the backside of the mitten or glove with ease. Founded in 2013 by CEO Jake Sullivan and his then-business partner, Don Wildman, founder of what is now Bally’s Fitness, the company began delivering product in 2014. Wildman, who was Sullivan’s mentor and friend, died in September 2018 at the age of 85. But in his later years, he approached Sullivan with a challenge: to successfully rebrand a now-defunct glove company that utilized amazing technology. While working other jobs, they rebranded the product as Hand Out Gloves and in 2014, Sullivan took over full-time. Now headed by Sullivan and CFO Jonny Murdock, the company has come a long ways from slinging product in the Brighton parking lot.
You may recognize the name: The company was featured on the TV show Shark Tank in 2016. On air, they took a deal with one of the sharks, but in the end, it didn’t work out.
Murdock insists the Shark Tank experience was a marketing success. The same year as they appeared on the business-themed reality show, they got their product into REI. Those two events in the same year really launched the brand, Murdock says.
When Sullivan was a junior high student, he recalls mowing lawns and packaging orders for the owner of Celtek Gloves. Sullivan, who attended Skyline High School and then took a few classes at SLCC, subsequently found work in the snow industry, ultimately taking a position at Black Diamond.
Murdock, meanwhile, grew up skiing and snowboarding, attended Brighton High School and received a bachelor’s degree in finance from the University of Utah. He credits the success of the rebranded company to two things: timing and smartphones. Ten years prior, Murdock says, they were consumers of the initial brand and saw the need for this technology. Murdock, who previously worked in merchandise planning at Backcountry.com, along with Sullivan, understood that in the age of smartphones, you need your thumbs free to utilize the one-stop shop of your smartphone. “[Smartphones are] just so functional,” Sullivan says, “there’s no going back.”
Though they entered a heavily saturated snow market, their product is unique in that it provides a simple solution to an almost universal problem, Murdock says. They immediately pursued a patent and were able to “gain market space and no one has been able to catch up,” Murdock says.
Ultimately, what sets Hand Out apart is the combination of quality—which matches or surpasses that of competitors, the digestible price point, the highly functional zipper technology and their responsiveness to the needs of the consumer. For instance, after customer requests, 2020’s Pro Model glove will include a pass pocket so electronic scanning is a breeze.
Sullivan and Murdock, as Utah natives, felt it made sense to base their brand here. From access to the mountains and other recreational spaces to the fact that other successful brands call Salt Lake Valley home, the location is ideal. For the first couple of years, they were based in Sullivan’s home, but for the past five, they have worked out of a Sandy warehouse with no plans to slow down. This year, they’re coming out with low-cuff models in addition to the standard long-cuff and will be adding colors.
But they’re not limiting themselves to snow: last year, they launched their Fish line, a neoprene waterproof glove that not only allows users to manage flies but to handle the fish barehanded so as to not harm them with abrasive material. This fall, they will launch the Hunt line, which features technical hunting gloves with an all-the-way-around zipper that gets the glove out of the way of the weapon along with a thin, sensitive trigger finger. Both lines were designed by two interns from Utah State University’s Outdoor Products Design and Development program.
Moving forward, they’ll continue to contract out design work. With their patent awarded in October 2018, they’re setting their sights on licensing with the goal of making forays into both construction and tactical industries.
As Sullivan now sits on the board of directors for SnowSports Industries America (SIA), a nonprofit trade association representing the snow sports industry, he’s optimistic about the potential for collaboration and licensing. Even still, Sullivan hopes that other outdoor segments can help them grow the brand.
Though snow will always be the core of the brand, developing products for hunting, fishing and other pursuits will help Hand Out Gloves customers live their motto: “Do what you want!”