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Knoxville Business News Tennessee Mountain Scenery Background
May 02, 2013 | Tom Ballard

Humble comes to cycling start-up naturally

EscadrilleThe winner of the University of Tennessee’s (UT) “Spring Vol Court” competition is driven by a passion for cycling and a desire to ensure as much comfort as possible for those who are regular riders.

Jordan Humble, Founder and Owner of Escadrille Cycling Apparel – a name change from the original Privateer used in the competition – graduated from McCallie School in Chattanooga in 2009 and spent that summer riding in Germany. “It was an awesome experience racing against some of the sport’s top riders,” he said. At the same time, Humble said that he “hated the equipment,” including the apparel that he described as “low quality materials” without any innovation other than a switch to spandex.

The idea of his new company was hatched by that fall when he enrolled at UT, Knoxville. Over the next two years, Humble did a good deal of research into cycling apparel. He decided that he could design and manufacture a much higher quality line of clothing and, in the process, help bring manufacturing jobs back to the U.S.

“We’ve lost our textile industry,” Humble noted, adding that one of his goals for Escadrille is “to rebuild the textile industry in Tennessee.” He recognizes it as a big challenge, but he’s doing his part, starting with a decision to have his inaugural apparel acquired from California-based companies rather than Chinese manufacturers.

“There’s a sportswear manufacturing hub in the state,” he explained. Escadrille will utilize standard-sized apparel and initially customize it for cycling teams. In essence, the company will be producing logo merchandise.

Humble has a few unique design features for his products. One example is an asymmetrical zipper that he had moved from two inches from the center of a cycling shirt to the right side. Why? His own experience told him that it was more comfortable for riders.

He’s also added a front pocket that he’s dubbed the “tactical pocket.” Cyclers can store cell phones and other items for easier access.

Humble “officially” launches the business in early August, just ahead of his final semester at UT, Knoxville before graduating in December with a degree in Global Politics and Economy. When we interviewed him shortly after the “Vol Court” finals, he had already secured $60,000 to $80,000 in orders from “word of mouth” marketing and an absence of samples.

Even as a fledgling entrepreneur, Humble is already quoting Steve Jobs’ philosophy – set a clear and compelling vision while “surrounding myself with those who know more than I do” – and developing a 20-year plan. Like Jobs, he wants to be the trendsetter in the field and have others follow Privateer.

In developing his plan, Humble “sees apparel going to multi-functional gear,” meaning it is worn for several different activities, not just one sport. “I want to close the gap between cycling and the general outdoor market,” he says.

We asked Humble about the origin of the company’s initial name. He explained that it was a tribute to a McCallie classmate and his father, David Meek, who owned a Chattanooga company called Privateer Bicycles. The company was a custom frame maker, and the elder Meek rode his bicycle to work every day. He was struck by a truck and killed on March 6, 2009 while riding to work.

With a grand vision, a passion for the customer base and a company named as a tribute to someone, how can you not expect great things from Humble?

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