Forget singing that catchy little song “Mustang Sally” by the Committments. Established in 1967 by Irv Davies, the inventor of the world’s first Floater Coat, in the paddling world it’s all about Mustang Survival, which has been committed to manufacturing lifesaving solutions for more than 54 years.
Headquartered in Burnaby, B.C., Canada, it has more than 250 employees across the U.S. and Canada, recently acquiring and adding Ocean Rodeo and MTI to its growing portfolio. Paddling Life catches up with recreation division vice-president Josh Horoshok to discuss the company’s growth, making acquisitions when other companies are downsizing, and bringing its offshore safety role into new markets.
PL: You’ve been on a buying spree, picking up MTI and Ocean Rodeo…why the acquisitions? When the Wing Group acquired us in 2019 we were fortunate to join an ownership group that was keen to invest in the growth of Mustang Survival. Our strategy on the recreation side is to grow within our key activities of sailing, paddling and fishing. We plan on doing that through product development, but also keeping an eye out for acquisitions of brands that will help us to accelerate the growth plan.
What does each bring to your overall business model? MTI and Ocean Rodeo were two brands that had quality product lines that added to our existing portfolio. MTI added a big gap in foam flotation for us and accelerated our product development in that space. Ocean Rodeo’s dry wear business gives us some interesting patterns and innovations to integrate within our line, which will help us to accelerate our dry suit product line.
Any synergies Mustang brings to each brand? The design team will review each product line and make the necessary adjustments to both MTI and Ocean Rodeo’s line to bring it into alignment with Mustang Survival’s design, materials, and construction values. The intention is that all product lines will eventually be integrated under the Mustang Survival brand.
How easy of a jump is it to go from the military/survival sector to the rec paddler/consumer market? We’ve been in the outdoor industry for 54 years, but it’s true that we had been focused on the professional survival sector until the last five years. In terms of product construction, it’s been aligned from the start. We build product for the most demanding professional users: Coast Guard, Search and Rescue, and Navy Seals. These users are badass and beat up their gear on a daily basis.
Vancouver, BC, where our headquarters is located, is a hub for the outdoor industry. Arc’teryx, MEC and LuluLemon are all located here, so there’s a high degree of talent within the industry that understands the paddler/consumer market, so getting connected to users and having users design and build the gear has been relatively easy. The crux has been getting involved in the community, especially during COVID. We’re looking forward to partnering with paddling events, ambassadors, and just generally connecting to the grassroots outdoor community more.
Where do you see the paddlesports market headed? COVID has seen paddlesports boom. We feel the way to keep it going is to offer users the support and education needed to stay with paddlesports once COVID ends and the lure of other ways to spend dollars compete.
You made these acquisitions during the pandemic…did that affect anything? The biggest advantage for us was that we zigged when everyone was zagging. We immediately jumped onto PPE and built medical gowns in our Canadian manufacturing center, which kept cash flow going while everyone cut spending and ramped down. Our ownership group didn’t shy away from merger and acquisitions during COVID and kept moving forward on the recreational strategy. It would have been easy to ramp down but we were confident in our brand and strategy and kept the pace of growth up during COVID.
How was your business during the pandemic, and any big supply side or labor issues? The PPE project was huge and allowed us to keep humming during those initial months of uncertainty. Once the outdoor boom was fully on, we definitely felt the supply crunch. We seem to be in the same boat as the rest of the industry – chasing capacity, material lead times, and shipping challenges. We’ve been able to be agile enough for the most part, but keeping up with demand is a challenge. But it’s a good problem to have compared to those early days of COVID uncertainty.
Any new technologies or products consumers can expect to see? We’re excited to keep pushing the limits of marine apparel. We feel that there has been a bit of stagnant thinking in regards to paddling, fishing, and sailing gear and we are excited to bring some fresh thinking to market. On the PFD side, we continue to push the limits of what’s possible from inflatable solutions… lighter, more comfortable, and easier to use.