24: Mike Wallenfels: Scout & Launch Your Next Channel Successfully

[On the challenges of DTC and wholesale coexistence] “There winds up being this little conflict between who they’re serving first – their own brand and their direct sales and consumers. Or are they serving the wholesale customer?”

– Mike Wallenfels


You know how “multichannel” sounds all great and sexy and how you really impress your Board, your CEO, your team when you say it’s part of your strategy? Then you know how you silently throw up a little when it’s time to put action to words? Understanding why new channels are good for your business is a whale of difference from knowing HOW the  #[email protected]% to make ‘em happen.

Today, my friends, we’re talking about HOW to open new channels. Yep: you’ll hear that there’s a lot of work. You’ll hear that timing changes, needs change, and mistakes are inevitable. But you’ll also learn from one of the grand-poo-bahs of the outdoor industry (and multichannel wizard and consultant) the steps and non-negotiables and suggestions to making these adaptations as seamless as possible.

And for all my self-professed technophobes out there, the foundations of a multichannel business aren’t built entirely on data and algorithms from the IT department. Those are important, but they’re not ground zero. It’s starts with priming your organization supporting your people. You can do this.


Mike wallenfels

Mike Wallenfels is a legend in the outdoor industry – having clocked a solid 35+ years for some of the most respected brands around. Throughout his illustrious career, he has been in retail, wholesale management, sales, marketing, and the C-suite. Beyond outdoor, his market exposure includes: travel, bike, consumer electronics, and collegiate. He’s put his vast experience to work also for the Outdoor Industry Association, where he served as a board member for a decade.

Mike led Mountain Hardwear and Timbuktu as CEO. He’s currently slaying it as VP of Sales at Hydro Flask and runs Outdoor Pursuits Consulting.


opening and developing new channels, how to decide which channels to open; coordinating sales, marketing, operations teams; resource management and allocation; four points of multichannel management; organizational buy-in, planning, timing, over performing; expectation management; go-to-market channel differences and timelines; the opportunity of adjacencies; cross-functional teams; adding wholesale to a DTC start-up, crowdfunding as a channel,


“It’s critical to get your functional leaders on board with [your multichannel goal]: understanding it, knowing that it’s a strategic priority. And then, understand from them what sort of resources they might need. Then, form that cross-functional leadership team around that plan.” 

“Get sales involved, product involved, marketing operations, finance: so everyone’s aware and there are no surprises.”

“When you look at developing a new channel, you cannot take your eyes off the ball of where you already have things lined up and [where your business is] successful. Make sure that your core business is not going to get hurt so that you don’t take a step backwards just to make half a step forward.

“Find ways to spread that around the organization so there’s multiple ownership, but also shared responsibilities for trying to get that channel developed.”

“Don’t expect it to be organic. It really needs to have somebody particularly driving it.”

“Make sure you realize that everyone understands, especially at the leadership level, mistakes will happen.”

“Make sure that the values and buy-in are there to say, ‘It’s not just an opportunity, but is it something that’s right for the company?’”

[On the challenges of DTC and wholesale coexistence] “There winds up being this little conflict between who they’re serving first – their own brand and their direct sales and consumers. Or are they serving the wholesale customer?”

“And the unique element that I find here is that when businesses start selling directly to the consumer first, the benefit is they know who their consumer is. [In opening wholesale channels], they find they lose the ability to be nimble. They lose some of that connection with the consumer, because selling a wholesale customer is a different thought process.”

“There needs to be a new school approach by some of our retailers in the industry to start learning from this new generation of startups. These [companies] know their consumer super well; they know what works. [Retailers] have to start trusting those companies and their insights in helping to make their product decisions for their stores.”

“Having channel diversity can also guard against upturns and downturns that happen within any particular business. Channel diversity can be the savior of a company.”



Have questions or ideas for Kristin and the Channel Mastery podcast? Email: [email protected]

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