Jim Heiden, Teko's CEO and founder, has left the company as Anatom Ltd., its new U.K.-based distributor, acquires a majority stake. Teko's VP of operations, Owen Hammond, has been named general manager in a move to ensure “a smooth ownership transition.”
Hammond said he could not disclose the size of Anatom's stake, but noted that both their investment and expertise are designed “to take the brand to the next level” as Teko continues to see growing momentum in the specialty sports, outdoor, comfort footwear and natural products markets.
Hammond noted that Teko saw 40% growth over the past year, helped by increased distribution to REI and MEC and new independent retailers. That growth required more capital support to meet demand and properly service customers. Specifically, Teko will use the investment to increase on-hand inventories, accelerate product development, and strengthen back-end systems for improved customer service and market penetration.
“Once you start getting bigger, your infrastructure gets bigger and it just takes more capital,” said Hammond.
Hammond also expects to benefit from the management of Anatom, which has expertise in the outdoor and footwear markets and a track record of growing small companies in niche markets. Since January, Anatom has been Teko's distributor for Europe.
Anatom has also been the distributor for Superfeet insoles and The Brannock Device in the UK and Ireland for 14 years. It expanded its distribution of The Brannock Device to include the whole of Europe 4 years ago. Anatom had been distributing Smartwool socks in the UK and Ireland for the last six years until that arrangement ended at the end of last year.
Hammond said Anatom, which is based in Edinburgh, Scottland, also fits Teko's principles around sustainability. The shared principles will enable Teko to continue its mission of providing the best technically performing socks with a minimal level of impact on the planet.
“We have great integrity around the environment and sustainability and thats really been key to our growth,” said Hammond, who is also involved with OIA's Eco Working Group. “There's three tiers to sustainability planet, people and product and we need to maintain that commitment.”
Speaking to The B.O.S.S. Report, Heiden, who founded Teko in 2004, noted that the opportunity became available and he thought it was a good time to leave, knowing that the company would be left in good hands. “Anatom will bring capital needed to take Teko to the next level and sales and management expertise,” said Heiden. “Anatom will provide Teko with a huge growth opportunity in Europe.”
While Heiden plans to take some time off, he admits that he might wind up working in the outdoor industry again. “I've been in the industry 37 years, so there's a good chance that's where I'll end up,” said Heiden.
Hammond said Heiden told him it was “just time” to go at this stage in Teko's development. “Jim's an entrepreneur and a great visionary, and he had taken Teko through its first stage of growth,” said Hammond. “Jim basically felt he'd taken Teko as far as he could in the CEO position.”
Anatom has no plans to fill the CEO post, with Hammond running Teko from boulder. But, he sees Anatom particularly driving Teko's growth in Europe though also helping with the companys U.S. strategy, as well. “I have a phenomenally strong team of people here in Boulder and with Anatom's help, I see us being able to grow and expand,” said Hammond.