Meet the ex-NFL player dressing Trump’s sons for hunting – CNNMoney

At 24 years old, Jason Hairston thought he had made a life for himself in the NFL. Then a neck injury ended a career that included playing for the San Francisco 49ers and Denver Broncos.

Forced to start over, Hairston fell back on his lifelong passion for hunting.

As he spent more time in the mountains, he became increasingly frustrated with the gear he was forced to wear. It was too noisy, too heavy or simply the wrong color.

“We felt like we couldn’t be the only ones that wished we had better performing products,” Hairston said.

That’s when he founded the hunting clothing brand, Sitka. After early success, Sitka ran into trouble when the economy crashed in 2008. The company was sold, and Hairston had to start over again — for a second time.

He launched another hunting gear brand, Kuiu, in 2010. Drawing on his experience from Sitka, he set out to create high quality performance gear sold directly to customers.

Hairston also created a crowdsourcing platform to involve customers in products from the outset so that Kuiu — pronounced “koo-you” — could give buyers exactly what they want.

“It’s that connection (with customers) that makes Kuiu so powerful,” he said.

Jason Hairston kuiu 2
With Kuiu, Hairston has involved customers in the design process so they get exactly what they want.

That relationship has helped grow annual sales to $50 million.

Kuiu has attracted some famous clients too, including President Trump’s sons, Eric Trump and Donald Trump Junior.

“I’ve actually had a unique opportunity to become friends with both of them and Don Junior and I are going on a hunting trip this coming summer,” he said.

Metallica’s James Hetfield has also wrapped one of his guitars in Kuiu’s camouflage material.

Jason Hairston Kuiu 2
Hairston became interested in creating hunting gear after he became increasingly frustrated with what was available.

“People just want to be associated with a cool brand — hunting has never really had a cool brand to be associated with until now,” Hairston said.

Hairston has big plans to grow his 34-person team and recently opened a small showroom in Spain. Kuiu also has representatives in New Zealand and Canada.

“There’s a big opportunity in Russia and also in the South Pacific in New Zealand and Australia and we will take advantage of that as the demand continues to grow for our product line,” he said.

Jason Hairston Kuiu
After his NFL career ended, Hairston set out to create hunting gear which did not compromise on quality or performance.

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