Roy and Ryan Seiders, cofounders of YETI Coolers, build on their love of the great outdoors.
By Andy East; Photo by Rudy Arocha
Co-founders of Austin-based YETI Coolers, brothers Roy and Ryan Seiders are keeping Austin cool in more ways than one. With fall around the corner and enough football, festivals and fun to satiate a Texas-sized appetite for the good ol’ outdoors, the autumn months are certain to be high season for cold beverages. ATX Man sat down with two of Austin’s most driven impresarios to uncover their inspirations and ambitious plans for the future.
“I don’t think there would be a YETI Coolers without our love for the outdoors. We grew up in the outdoor industry, watching our dad run his own business,” says Roy Seiders, co-founder and CEO of YETI Coolers. “And just watching him made us want to start our own business. Actually, when I came out of college, I didn’t even make a résumé. I knew I wanted to find my own path and run my own business.”
In fact, the entrepreneurial pedigree in which the Seiders brothers grew up predates their father’s business ventures, stretching as far back as the Republic of Texas. Even after Texas joined the Union, generations of Seiderses have been carrying on the family’s entrepreneurial tradition, inspiring future generations to start their own businesses.
“In Austin, we have relatives that go back to 1836,” adds Ryan Seiders, co-founder and president of YETI Coolers. “Near where 34th Street crosses Shoal Creek today, our relatives had a bath house. Later generations ran an Austin grocery store chain called Kash-Karry.”
Consequently, it came as no surprise that both brothers decided to undertake their own business ventures after college, with Ryan Seiders making fishing rods and Roy Seiders, shallow-water bay boats. However, it was a problem they stumbled upon that would later transform their personal and professional lives.
“During my first attempt at running my own business, when I was building aluminum boats, we noticed that the ordinary coolers didn’t really match up with the quality of the boat,” Roy Seiders says.
“We found out that they would break easily, and we quickly realized that we weren’t the only ones who felt that way.”
Fast-forward seven years and the Seiders brothers’ idea to manufacture premium coolers has blossomed into a cutting-edge company with a cult-like customer base. And the success of YETI Coolers has allowed the brothers to grow together, both professionally and personally.
“It’s been great working with my brother,” Ryan Seiders says. “We both have our own individual strengths, we collaborate well together and we’ve been able to work well as a team.”
“When you work closely with someone you trust, you can share the risk of running a small business,” Roy Seiders adds. “You’re willing to take certain risks that you wouldn’t normally take on your own.”
Although the brothers’ Austin roots run deep, the future could not look brighter for the pair, as YETI Coolers has already made significant inroads into the Texas, Southeast and Rocky Mountain regions while also making its initial forays into the international arena in Japan, Australia and Europe.
“When we started YETI, our laser focus was strictly on the markets that interested us the most: hunting and fishing. But we learned it spilled over into other markets like agricultural, industrial and tailgating,” Ryan Seiders says.
“The sporting-goods market makes up less than half of our business. Everybody uses coolers, and if you build a quality cooler, there’s a need for it across a bunch of industries. It’s about building a great company that’ll be around for a long time. We want the YETI name to liv e on forever.”
Founded in 2006, YETI Coolers has quickly become a major player in several industries. Known for their durability and ice retention, YETI Coolers are built with a one-piece, polyethylene rotational-molded construction, the same technique used to construct whitewater kayaks. They are equipped with two inches of PermaFrost insulation to keep contents cold longer. In 2009, YETI Coolers became the first line of coolers to be certified Grizzly-proof by the Inter-agency Grizzly Bear Committee after surviving a series of simulated bear attacks and an hour-long encounter with two hungry adult Grizzly bears. In addition to coolers, YETI also offers a wide range of accessories and gear.