Have you ever wondered about the creative process behind rock climbing holds? In an exclusive interview, Nathan and Liz Yokum (the founders of Rock Candy Holds) explained creating rock climbing molds and the entrepreneurial journey behind Rock Candy Holds, a company that started off small and now serves rock climbers worldwide.
As with every creative process, making rock climbing holds starts with an idea. “Sometimes,” Liz explained, “we see a unique rock formation while out climbing, sometimes we see a gap in our product line that we want to fill. We take that idea to one of our shapers and the brainstorming begins.” Nathan has been the main mover behind a large part of Rock Candy’s line, but Liz and Nathan have consulted other shapers nationwide, seeking advice to guarantee that Rock Candy offers a balanced product line.
Next, Nathan and Liz use carving tools and foam. “The foam is incredibly delicate and can be difficult to work with, but it produces the best prototype for the next step: molding.” After the foam is formed into the shape that Nathan and Liz had imagined, they make a mold of that piece and then discard the foam. When a mold is ready for production, they first make a few sets to increase their inventory, even though typically Rock Candy’s climbing holds are customized to each order.
“The process oftentimes comes back full circle when we evaluate the success of a particular set of holds.” Liz used their Coprolite Series as an example. It began as a few shapes. Liz and Nathan knew they needed to rapidly expand the series – people requested the Coprolite Series faster than Rock Candy could provide the holds. In fact, "we just launched two new sets to the Coprolites for a total of thirty holds in the series, and we probably won’t stop there."
Photo Credit Coprolite Hold Series
The FeedbackThe best companies listen to their customers’ feedback, and Rock Candy Holds is no exception. Nathan and Liz include their customers in a product’s development: “For example, a few years back we noticed a void in the route-setting world for a versatile setting bag that could take a beating. We worked with a local bag manufacturer in Columbus, Ohio to develop the Route Setter's Bag, a heavy-duty bag that fits around a standard 5 gallon bucket. The Route Setter's Bag has gone through many versions based on setter feedback and continues to be refined as the needs of this niche community change.” Rock Candy ensures customer satisfaction by involving their clients in their process.
In 2006, Liz and Nathan Yokum built their first garage wall. During the building process, they decided to start making their own climbing holds. Eventually they began selling their holds to their friends, and the business continued to grow. Liz says that when Rock Candy Holds first began in 2006, they had just seven sets in their line. “Today, Rock Candy is internationally recognized with over 900 holds….we are proud of what we have done and are excited for Rock Candy’s future.”
Their international reputation hasn’t put Nathan and Liz out of touch with their local community; “Rock Candy has been tied to the outdoor community since day one.” They sponsor local competitions, clean-up projects, and benefits. “Rock Candy co-hosts the REEL Rock Film tour with the University of Akron Outdoor Adventure program.” The date for this year’s film is October 27th at the UofA Student Union Theatre.
Rock Climbing in Your Local Community
Has this interview inspired you to do some rock climbing? Stop by Kendall Cliffs rock climbing gym for a few hours, or find the rock climbing gear you need at Appalachian Outfitters.