Sarah Calhoun Found A Solution To The Problem Women Have When Trying To Find A Decent Pair Of Outdoor Work Pants.
Red Ants Pants, Sarah Calhoun, White Sulphur Springs, Small Business For Dummies
MRV: The Buzz, Your Outdoor Lifestyle Insider, Written By: Olivia Richman
why she wears Red Ants Pants
Sarah Calhoun Has Been The Savior To Women Across The Country By Creating Much Needed Heavy-Duty Work Pants That Last And Perform Well
Growing up on a farm in Cornwall, Connecticut, Sarah Calhoun has never been a stranger to hard work. Just like the boys, Calhoun moved hay bales, took care of the livestock... And just like the boys, she also wore men's work pants.
While she never let it slow her down, the men's work pants were not ideal... They didn't function or fit properly when worn on a curvier body. But men's work pants were the only heavy-duty pants on the market while she was growing up. And well into her adulthood.
That's when Calhoun realized that other women were probably facing the same struggle. From farming and ranching to landscaping, carpentry and welding, women were beginning to make their mark on these once man-heavy fields. Yet, there was still no heavy-duty pants on the market aimed at them.
With the mission statement that they aim to create workwear for women – the makers and growers, the builders and doers – and support them with humor and heart, quality and class, integrity and courage, Red Ants Pants was born. And it was met with support from all over the world.
Designed to fit curves and women of all shapes and sizes, the Red Ants Pants – which are made from heavy duty cotton canvas duck - have a different hips to waist ratio than men's pants and more room in the seat and thigh area. They also have contoured waist bands and a better range of motion in the crotch (“Better for jumping into a pick-up truck or over a fence or gate”).
And women have “gone crazy.” There was a high demand across the industries, noted Calhoun, and feedback has been “tremendous.” They're not only practical, but meaningful. One customer even wrote to Calhoun to tell her that she wore her Red Ants into surgery because she felt strong wearing them.
“That's the kind of stuff that blows my mind,” she said. “It's a great feeling. It's humbling, certainly.”
Then there was the wildlife biologist who was working in the Grand Canyon. She got struck by a rattlesnake while wearing her Red Ants. The fangs only got through the top layer of the material. So Calhoun likes to say that Red Ants Pants are saving lives.
And of course there are the dairy farmers who come up to Calhoun with tears in their eyes, telling her that they've been looking for women's work pants for years and years. They tell her they're so happy that someone finally understands.
Meeting customers like this has kept inspiring Calhoun to take the business even further. She recently started a Red Ants Pants music festival in a cow pasture right outside her current town of White Sulphur Springs, Montana with the purpose of meeting customers and connecting with the folks of rural Montana.
Last year there were over 16,000 fans at tiny little town. They listened to live music and celebrated for four days. Headliners included acts like Wynona Judd. There's been a lot of support and positive feedback for both Red Ants Pants and the local community.
Sixteen-thousand is an even more impressive number once you learn that White Sulphur Springs is a town of only 900 or so people. The rural, agriculture-based town is 100 miles from any other town. For Calhoun, this was the draw: “Places like this are similar to where I grew up. There's a strong sense of community. You all know and need each other. Strong work ethic. Self reliance is the norm in places like this, which I find really important as well.”
Most people wouldn't expect a successful business to be located in such a remote area. But for Calhoun, it was the perfect place to start her journey into the business world.
With no experience in business, marketing, textiles, clothing design or sales, Calhoun purchased a copy of Small Business For Dummies and made her way to Montana. She was actually reading the book when a man named Richard Siberell approached her.
They got to talking and she found out he'd done production and design for a big outdoor gear company, Patagonia. When he heard of Calhoun's idea to make workwear for women, he felt she was really onto something worthwhile. He became a mentor and an advisor, which he still is to this day.
Over the first two years of business, Calhoun had a lot to learn. But she also stuck with an authentic approach to business by visiting women in the United States and Canada door to door, which she called the Tour de Pants.
Being face to face with potential customers was what led her to her current success. Other women – and men – could feel the passion and recognized her authenticity. She wasn't just trying to make money. She was wearing the pants daily. She truly believed in their importance, in their necessity. She truly believed the pants would change women's lives all around the world.
Red Ants Pants are now a huge success. And the business continues to grow. They recently added shorts, belts, hoodies, shirts, hats, work aprons and wool vests. She started a non-profit to support women's leadership, working family farms and ranches and rural communities.
It's the strength in togetherness that Calhoun feels is another reason she's met such positive feedback and great success. Everything is made in America, which not only results in “high quality” and “quick turn-around” but allows Calhoun to have an actual relationship with the manufacturers, speaking face to face.
Following in her boot-steps, other companies have begun to design women's work pants as well. Calhoun believes this will only make the market stronger. And she's all for that. As women begin to branch out into more and more fields, there's more of a demand than ever.
“I think that women joining these industries and trades is great,” she gushed. “Women and men - and anyone - should be able to do whatever skill they want and whatever they're talented at. I'm glad those barriers are coming down a bit. There's still a lot of work to do in that realm, but it's great progress. Let's just do what we're good at and what we want to do.”
A graduate of East Connecticut State University in Journalism, Olivia has written for Stonebridge Press & Antiques Marketplace among others. She enjoys writing, running and video games.