In episode 239 of Total Retail Talks, Editor-in-Chief Joe Keenan interviews Michael Markesbery, co-founder and CEO of OROS, a performance outerwear brand that features product inspired by NASA technology. In this wide-ranging interview, Markesbery discusses his inspiration for launching OROS, why product innovation is at the core of the brand's ethos, the digital-native company's decision to expand into brick-and-mortar retail, how retail-as-a-service platform Leap helped that offline expansion, and what's next for OROS.
In 2013, OROS CEO Michael Markesbery was on top of the world … and freezing his butt off. Before his trek to the top of Mt. Santis, Michael outfitted himself with the finest outerwear technology that money could buy, which amounted to animal byproducts stuffed into a tightly woven shell. There had to be a better way. Michael was (and is) a self-described science geek. Like all true science kids, Michael dreamed of one day going to space. He was awarded a scholarship from the Mercury 7 Astronauts, the Astronaut Scholarship. Through that scholarship, he learned about Aerogel. Aerogel is the greatest insulation in the universe, and is still the lowest thermally conductive solid known to science. And yet, nobody had perfected an Aerogel insulation that could be used in apparel. Light. Bulb. Moment. After over $10 million in venture capital funding, a contract from the US Department of Defense, and four years of a science-backed "design, test, repeat" attitude, OROS and Solarcore (OROS’ NASA Aerogel insulation) has arrived to bring about the future of outerwear.