Photography News issue 23

Interview 21

Photography News Issue 23

Profile Greg Schern Tamrac bags have been around for nearly 40 years and last year the brand got a new owner, GuraGear, LLC and a new boss, Greg Schern. We caught up with the new boss, who also runs Gura Gear and Ogden Made, and asked about his future plans


How did you become president of Tamrac? Tamrac filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in early 2014. My business partner and I put in a bid, and ultimately, we acquired Tamrac in June 2014. I’ve been familiar with the Tamrac brand since forever, and as I looked into things I realised it was a solid brand with a solid heritage but what it needed was a solid business plan behind it. Was there much competition to buy Tamrac? Yesandthatwasoneofthechallenges for us, trying to understand what the competition would do. We were the minnow swallowing the whale because we are a small business and many brands in the business with much deeper pockets were looking at Tamrac too. So it was competitive and exciting too. What about Tamrac appealed? Well, there is the soft, emotional side of it. It was founded in 1977 so had been around for most of my life – my first bag was a Tamrac. Having that heritage behind a brand is something you can’t build overnight, so becoming part of that heritage was really appealing. And despite the bankruptcy and financial issues, customers around the world remained loyal to the brand and that spoke volumes to us. In the year that you have owned Tamrac, what have you achieved? We had to build our new team in Utah and new facilities had to be leased and built as well as our relationships with suppliers had to be expanded quickly. We also had to put world-class systems in place to manage that growth and to take the business where we wanted to take it. Literally on day one we started in product development. At any given time we have 50-60 development projects running and the Anvil line of pro rucksacks is the first of those projects to have come to a market ready position. Tamrac bags are very well known in the UK, so what’s going to be different with the new Tamrac products you’re introducing? We own a brand called Gura Gear and this has always been a high end, niche brand. We knew we had to take that model and apply it to Tamrac. The customers are different but that model can apply. So we looked at products through a fresh lens and took the best practice from Gura Gear to build products to really fit what Tamrac customers

Years in the photo industry? I was introduced to photography at high school, so since 14 years old. Current location Ogden, Utah Last picture taken A motocross stunt rider taken at an Ogden pioneer’s day event. When youwere younger, what did youwant to bewhen you grewup? I always thought that I’d be some type of zoologist. I grew up in Arizona and had my own back garden zoo with ten to 15 animals including snakes.

Dogs or cats? Dogs, definitely. Toast or cereal? I’m a toast man. Email or phone call?

Email or face-to-face. I‘m not really a big fan of the phone and I often travel halfway around the world to have an important conversation.

Above Building on Tamrac’s heritage, president Greg Schern led his team developing the new Anvil range of backpacks (right), which reflects all that made the Expedition range so successful for many years.

When you think you have the answer and make it and use it, and you find it’s not the right answer, you have to start again from scratch. That happened several times with that part of the bag. What aspect of the Anvil line are you most proud of? It’s hard to live in theworld of ‘mosts’ but I am proud of several aspects. I am very proud of the craftsmanship. I am also incredibly proud of the final result from a functional perspective. It’s a great bag to use and it’s comfortable and, ultimately, I think it sets the new highmark for the Tamrac brand and that’s a proud moment too. What has been the reception from retailers? Phenomenal. It has already exceeded our expectations from a production standpoint. From the retail side it is nice to have something fresh and new at a quality level that isn’t seen much in the market any more. What else can our readers expect from Tamrac in the near future? They should expect a phenomenal range both at the professional and consumer levels. The Anvil is just the first of four professional lines and what we are doing at the professional level will translate to our consumer bags.

need but to a much higher standard. So the Anvil line is the best product featuring the best materials and the best workmanship, backed up by great service. Tell us more about the Anvil. How did you work on that? The Anvil line took about 12months, which is six months quicker than what it would normally take us to develop a product. The original design philosophy for Anvil was to take a product line that had been a topseller forTamrac for 20years, the Expedition series, and learn what made it so successful, and without losing that make it completely new. We literally started with fresh sketches and a new design specification list. We had a list of things that this product has to do and a list of things we wished it could do, and hoped we could make the wish list happen at the same time during the design process. The removable belt and accessories that go with it are an example of this. We took into account not only functionality but also the look and feel of the bag. From there we went into 3D sketches and then made samples out of paper like a giant origami project. That allows us to see if the size, shape and placement of things make sense before going through to the effort of patterning it. During the process, were you getting feedback? As soon as we had design iterations

we handed them off to our trusted friends and professionals to try to get some feedback to make sure we were heading in the right direction. We also took advice from our entire supply chain, from our material suppliers down to the factory sewing level to ensure we’re not only building a product that looks great and works well but one that is also efficient from a production standpoint. Are you working with suppliers you were working with already? We do have fantastic partnerships throughout our supply chain and those partnerships are partly why the products are so great. They are smarter than us. The day we are the smartest people in the room, is the day that we’ve failed. We make sure that we are surrounded by people who are experts at every little piece of the business. What was the biggest challenge with Anvil? From my perspective, the biggest challenge was adding functionality to the side attachment points for the Arc and MOLLE (Modular Lightweight Load-carrying Equipment) accessories and the belt. It’s easy to add bits and pieces to a bag, but it is really hard to add them and then keep them clean. That was the biggest challenge and quite frankly that was sampled, resampled, rethought and started over multiple times.

The original design philosophy for Anvil was to take a product line that had been a top seller for 20 years and learn what made it so successful

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