DAM, THAT’S A CATCHY NAME
Byline: David Caplan
NEW YORK — A motion picture cameraman’s passion for fashion and environmentally friendly sensibility prompted the launch last year of Beaver Power, a Los Angeles-based line of tops emblazoned with an animated image of a beaver and the slogan “Beaver Power!”
Joe Ritter, the company’s president and chief executive officer, owned a farm in Upstate New York (which he sold two years ago) and became disheartened by his neighbors’ treatment of the local beaver population, whose dams were responsible for the flooding of nearby residents’ properties. Ritter’s silent partner, who owns a farm in Massachusetts, shared Ritter’s sentiments.
“We love beavers and our neighbors were killing them because they dam the water and flood fields,” said Ritter, whose film work includes “Starship Troopers,” “Pulp Fiction” and “Dracula.” “[Beavers] are a nuisance to farmers, but we always made sure our beavers were safe.”
So the duo set out to inform the public of the beaver’s plight by creating a line of sexy tops, including cotton T-shirts, camisoles and tanks that retail for $20.
“We just thought it would be wonderful,” Ritter said. “I’m really into fashion and so is he, and we were both tired of environmental zealousness, as well.”
Ritter teamed up with Los Angeles-based T-shirt manufacturer American Apparel and in early 2001 Beaver Power paddled into its first retail account: Santa Monica’s State Beach Surf Co., owned by Steve Eustace and located a stone’s throw from the beach and the site of numerous volleyball competitions.
“It immediately took off as the volleyball players and girls of all types discovered it,” Ritter said.
Of course, a sexually suggestive moniker helped boost the brand’s profile.
“Sure it’s funny+it’s about the animal, it really is, but obviously there has been a reaction and the thing that really surprised me is the reaction has been incredibly positive,” Ritter said. “There’s a couple of people, of course, who for their own reason, have had what might be called an adverse reaction, but they are so overshadowed by the people who love it.”
Shortly after Beaver Power landed at State Beach Surf Co., Ritter launched beaverpower.com. All of the line’s offerings are available for purchase on the Web site, as is information for landowners about alternatives to destroying menacing beaver populations.
In an attempt to attract out-of-town, eco-friendly women, Ritter headed to the Internet, where he located the e-mail addresses of women whom he thought would embrace the company’s principles.
“A couple of computer experts and I did a search on the computer for my customers, which are sexy college girls, rock ‘n’ roll girls, women who are into sports, women who are proud of themselves and certainly, gay women,” Ritter said. “We found hundreds of pages of Web sites and thousands of e-mails. I just figured that it’s an equation. If there are ‘x’ amount of these women who buy on impulse, which there are, all I have to do is show it to them.”
Nick Bischoff, a Los Angeles commercial artist, then created an e-postcard featuring photos of the line’s pieces that was sent to the women.
Beaver Power in February landed its second retail account, Elisabetta Rogiani on Beverly Boulevard in Los Angeles. Ritter said the company’s goal is to have the line in at least 50 stores by yearend. He said the firm’s projected volume for 2002 is between $100,000 and $250,000.
“My plans are now to be wherever the girls shop, whether it’s Hot Topic, Ron Herman or Bloomingdale’s,” Ritter said. “What we need is a fearless American rep willing to go out on a limb for Beaver Power.” Ritter found such an enterprising individual last week, when Los Angeles rep Magnolia Sarshar picked up Beaver Power.
Ritter said the company plans to expand into the bottoms arena, offering denim jeans and shorts, as well as swimwear.
On the consciousness-raising front, Beaver Power places ads in Home Power magazine, which bills itself as “The Hands-On Journal of Home-Made Power,” targeted at land owners that offer alternatives to killing off beaver populations.