Staying cool

Putting a Canadian spin on the Yeti craze, Maple Mountain looks to get a handle on ­distribution strategy

Photo: Maple Mountain founder, Dom Mazzuca

EVERY YEAR, DOM Mazzuca and his buddies rent a cottage for a weekend. They arrive loaded down with food and drink, and invariably find they are short on fridge space.

Back when they were planning their 2020 getaway, Mazzuca recalls, “I figured maybe this was year I’d bite the bullet and buy a top of the line cooler.” He wanted to support a Canadian company with his purchase, but as he researched the options, he found that the coolers that appealed to him were all U.S.-based brands.

Then the pandemic hit. The guys’ getaway was cancelled; Mazzuca moved back to London to continue his college courses remotely; and then he was laid off from his part-time job. Which left him lots of time to think about the Canadian cooler situation.

“It sparked this idea,” he says, which quickly progressed to a plan, product design, sourcing and the launch of Maple Mountain, a company that retails high-end coolers and drinkware, but at a lower price point than similar brands.

“We are selling premium products that people identify with the Canadian lifestyle. I think Canadians take pride in supporting that and supporting a small indie company” ―Dom Mazzuca

“These are made to be a once-in-a-lifetime purchase,” says Mazzuca, referring to the durability of Maple Mountain products. He chose the name to capture the ruggedness of the Canadian climate, and notes that not everyone who buys Maple Mountain items is using them outdoors. “Coolers are seasonal for sure, but even in the colder weather we are ­selling a ridiculous amount of insulted tumblers, coffee mugs and water bottles. Our drinkware seems to be really popular with students.”

Initial sales were driven by family and friends, who Mazzuca says have been incredibly supportive. “We had a launch date of September, and sold out in pre-launch sales in August,” he says. “Since then, we’ve been getting orders from complete strangers on a weekly basis.”

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The majority of the orders so far have been in Ontario, but Mazzuca’s goal is to be in households across Canada. “Our biggest challenge right now is that we need a distribution channel. Our target demographics are 21- to 29-year-old ­singles and 30- to 40-year-olds with kids. We are looking at different stores that cater to those groups,” he says.

Undoubtedly, Mazzuca would like to steal away even the smallest sliver of sales from the king-of-coolers brand Yeti, which turned the mundane ­commoditized item into a status symbol and billion-dollar brand when it went public in 2018. And to try and do that, his branding is aimed squarely at the Canadian experience.

“We are selling premium products that people identify with the Canadian lifestyle. I think Canadians take pride in supporting that and supporting a small indie company. Word is getting out through social media, people are talking.”

At the end of the day, though, it is the quality that Mazzuca wants people to see firsthand — and that can prove ­difficult for a young startup without deep pockets or a substantial marketing budget.

“People like to see and feel the product, that really wins them over,” he says, reasoning that happy customers are his best advertising. He tells the story of when his father bumped into an acquaintance with a Maple Mountain coffee mug in her hand and commented on it. “She told him it was the best one she’d ever had.” Staying cool Maple Mountain Startup Kym Wolfe

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