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Last Update: Thursday July 29, 2021

Key Idea: Spot A Niche

Maragret Quenemoen started a company to make affordable clothing for extreme mountain, rock and ice climbers.  Her  first product line included sizes for petite women.

Key Question:


The safest way to begin is with what you know.  

People throughout time have said that the idea is only 2%, the execution is 98%.

Q: What was the initial idea for their business? What drove Margaret to begin?

A: Survival? Margaret said, "... I needed outerwear. And so I started sketching up ideas of things I wanted to make." Yet, in virtually the next breadth, she pleaded with Paula (who was over in Mount Everest base camp), "... it's going to be good; it's going to be as good as Eddie Bauer." Then Paula added, "She was trying to put across to me that this was not some rinky-dink thing; this was going to be first-class from the beginning." Even though she didn't have money and didn't have technically correct clothing for technical climbing, Margaret had a huge vision right from the start.

She wanted to take on and compete with Eddie Bauer.

Q: We do dream dreams about starting, running and growing a business. Most of us can itemize several business ideas that we've had. It is profoundly part of the American spirit to want to start a business. It's that drive for freedom and independence. We do not want to "... go get a real job." We want to create our own.

And, it is profoundly interwoven within our history.

In school -- high school, college and even business school -- most of us do not study the history of the concept of a corporation. However, today's concept has its roots within the American Revolution and those roots go deeply into the politics of the Massachusetts Bay Colony and the founding of Harvard University.

Oscar Handlin, a Pulitzer Prize-winning historian and the Carl M. Loeb University Professor Emeritus, Harvard University, reveals within 10 pages (Chapter 1: "The Development of the Corporation" of the book The Corporation: A Theological Inquiry, edited by Michael Novak and John W. Cooper, AEI) that starting corporations is deeply rooted within our heritage. It is in our blood. It is an extension of the way we define ourselves.

We learn that in 1636 the colonists issued their own charter to start Harvard University. That right to grant charters was held by the King of England. So angered was he that these early colonists issued their own charter, the king revoked the Massachusetts colony's charter and made it very difficult for the colonists anywhere to form a legally-chartered company. By 1775 the need for corporations had become so pent up, it was, without question, part of the "shot that was heard around the world."

In Handlin's words, this story is quite remarkable:

"In 1800 the United States was only beginning its history as an independent nation. It was an underdeveloped country, primarily agricultural, with a population of perhaps 4 or 5 million along the Altantic coast. Already, however, the United States had more coporations, and more explicitly business corporations, than all of Europe put together ... ." (our emphasis)

Today American's start any where from 250K (legal corporations) to 3M (including all sole proprietorships, many unincorporated) businesses every year. However, most go out of business in their first year.

One of the purposes of this show is to change that statistic.

Notwithstanding, this passion to start a business is a uniquely American phenomena. And, we are highly competitive and many of us have a similar idea at the same time, so there will necessarily be a lot of failure.

Think about it

What kind of business have you dreamed about?  What action have you taken to research the idea?  Who do you know in the industry?  Who would you like to know?

Clip from: Jagged Edge Mountain Gear

Enjoy your summer while you have it!  Winter will return!

Telluride, Colorado and Moab, Utah: Deep-seated within every American is the dream of starting and owning a business. Most of us are barely aware that this concept is deeply ingrained in our culture. The modern concept of a corporation actually has its roots in the American revolution. This drive to start a business -- to incorporate under a name -- mystifies much of the world and it has a lot to do with one's sense of purpose or "calling" and also one's process of self-actualization.

In this episode of the show, you meet many very special people, but the stars are Margaret Quenemoen and her sister, Paula. It will become quickly apparent that they are identical twins who share a huge love of life. Their honesty and integrity, their openness and their achievement, their vision and their tenacity, over-qualify them to be our MasterClass teachers.

So, let's drive into the deep mountains of Colorado to look at their foundations, business plan, financing, direct public offering, and so much more.

We'll learn what went right, what went wrong, and what their vision of the future is.

Jagged Edge Mountain Gear (MQ)

Margaret Quenemoen, Founder

223 E. Colorado Ave.
PO Box 2256
Telluride, CO 81435

Visit our web site:

Business Classification:

Year Founded: 1991

Spot A Niche

HATTIE: Hi. I'm Hattie Bryant. Running a business is alot like climbing a mountain which is why I think we can learn so much from Paula and Margaret Quenemoen. The professors in our MasterClass today started their business because they couldn't afford the clothes to stay warm while trekking the highest places of the world. Learn from these veterans how to start run and grow a company. Step into our MasterClass.

(Voice Over) "Cold Mountain is full of weird sights.
People who try to climb it always get scared.
At a touch of rain, the whole mountain shimmers,
but only in good weather can you make the climb."

- Sixth-century Chinese poet Han Shan,

whose name means Cold Mountain, serves as a spiritual mentor to the founders of Jagged Edge Mountain Gear.

They make clothing for mountain sport enthusiasts.

MARGARET QUENEMOEN (Jagged Edge Mountain Gear): This is our mountain vest. We set the zippers in a way that you won't have any raw edges to rub against your face.

Shopper: Oh, yeah. Very nice.

MARGARET: These are great. These become our uniform of life, because you can wear them anywhere.

HATTIE: (Voiceover) To find Jagged Edge, we drove to the end of the road, Telluride, Colorado, which sits at the base of one cold mountain.

Margaret and Paula Quenemoen are twins who separately fell in love with cold mountains. Together they are building a business, as so many of us have, on dreams.

MARGARET: I moved to climbers' paradise here in Telluride, Colorado, and I needed outerwear. And so I started sketching up ideas of things I wanted to make.

HATTIE: Wait a minute. Are you saying in this beautiful place that has thousands of tourists every day walking through, you couldn't find anything to wear?

MARGARET: I couldn't afford anything to wear. It's a very expensive town, and outerwear is tremendously expensive.

And so part of my idea was to make headbands.

There's a lot of different ways they can be worn. They can be worn high, or they can be pulled down over the ears. The beauty of a headband is, it can cure a bad hair day. You're so much warmer with a headband on, it's a fashion piece, and if you have a ponytail or long hair, it keeps your hair out of your eyes.

I didn't have oil in my crankcase, I was out of gas, I was torn between the oil and the gas, and food. And so I sewed up thirteen headbands and I took them into a restaurant, and thought, `Well, here goes.' And I asked if anyone would like to buy a headband, and it was really fortunate that all thirteen of them sold. So then I had $130, and I realized I could make money doing this, and that was my start.

I wanted to create something. I never knew this was going to become a business. It's funny, because I almost feel like there's a destiny in it. I had made statements: some day maybe I'll have a full line, maybe some day I'll have a store. But I never really thought they were going to become reality.

PAULA QUENEMOEN: I spent five years in China and Tibet, and I spent a year and a half in a Chinese university learning Mandarin. Margaret and I, we were both doing the sports outside.

I was doing extreme solo long-distance trekking in Asia. Margaret was climbing. But we couldn't afford the gear that we needed.

The first time I walked into Everest base camp, the climbers were absolutely blown away. I was wearing a skirt and a Tibetan yak jacket. I didn't have a Gore-Tex jacket or a down jacket.

HATTIE: Were you freezing?

PAULA: Yes, but that was the nature of Margaret's and my existence. We were always cold. But we continued to do our sports and our dreams and adventures and excel regardless.

For instance, Margaret was invited on a photo shoot with a very well-known professional climber, and in the climbing magazine shots, she's been cropped from the pictures, because after they did this approach that took two hours, the photographer looked at her and her outerwear and said, `My God, is that duct tape keeping your pants together?'

HATTIE: And the answer was `Yes.'

MARGARET: And he was very angry.

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