CASPER — When the pandemic rocked Oregon in the spring, DMOS Collective’s production came to a halt.
Born in Jackson, the company faced restrictions on output due to Oregon Gov. Kate Brown’s mandates to stop the spread of COVID-19. Customers waited between three and four months for their orders.
Founder and CEO Susan Pieper realized that in order to fulfill demand and let DMOS grow, she needed to make a change.
After fulfilling holiday orders, workers filled two semitrucks — one 52 feet and the other 53 — with raw materials and tools, and the move to Alpine from Portland, Oregon, was officially set on Dec. 23.
“It wasn’t just about social distancing; it was about a mandate that closed businesses,” Pieper said.
The trucks landed in Alpine on Tuesday, but not without facing any hurdles — an airborne pandemic, Christmas and a snowstorm that covered Wyoming in snow and ice — ultimately delaying a trip that should’ve taken a few days.
When it was all said and done, 41,000 pounds of finished goods and packages were unloaded by just two workers.
“Those guys worked in traditional Wyoming fashion,” she said. “It was like negative 12 that day.”
Pieper started DMOS with two things in mind: to tie herself and her family to Wyoming and to create a tough, portable and purposeful shovel that could withstand any backdoor or outdoor experience without compromise.
DMOS, which stands for Do My Own (Stuff), has grown from a single invention — a shovel highly regarded in the ski and snowboard community — to a recognized company in the automotive and outdoor industry.
For three years, Pieper traveled from Jackson to Portland on a monthly basis to oversee research and development, prototyping and production. After all, she was operating out of an office in Jackson and didn’t have a shop. So, when the opportunity to partner with a recognized factory near downtown Portland occurred, she jumped at the chance.
“Between 2017 and 2020, we launched all of DMOS’ mounts (and) we launched the Alpha series shovel,” she said. “When we started, we only had the Stealth. We had like one shovel when we started. Today we have, depending on all the different variations of steel and aluminum and finishes, we probably have 10 different models of shovels and three different models mounts and six different models of bags.”
But when COVID-19 cases began wreaking havoc throughout Oregon in March, Brown issued strict regulations on businesses to curb the number of coronavirus cases hitting the state.
At the time, Pieper was still flying from Jackson to Portland, but she recognized the increasing difficulty DMOS faced going forward.
“Prototyping is kind of hard to do by just email; you need to be hands on in a machine shop, you know?” Pieper said. “You need to stand with your engineering team and look at a part, and even if you’re wearing a mask or social distancing, being able to be on site is critical.”
For a time, the factory went offline and DMOS couldn’t produce anything in a timely manner. Work bubbles were created to enhance a safe work environment, but the pandemic had already done its damage.
“We had customers waiting between three and four months for their Delta shovels,” Pieper said.
Pieper didn’t want to put people through that, so when businesses were allowed to get back to work, Pieper and her team produced its fall line and began warning customers to get their orders in by Dec. 18 to receive their shipments before Christmas. Some days later, the move was official, and DMOS would be doing it all on its own.
It would be easy to blame the pandemic for DMOS’ move, but the opportunity to grow at home was ultimately the deciding factor for Pieper.
“I want you to know that for most people, a shovel is a grudge purchase, right? You’re like, ‘Oh, I need to get a shovel,’” she said. “But like, we make a shovel that you want (and) we want to empower you to enhance outdoor experiences. We want to help get you organized. We want you to feel empowered to go explore more, go work more, have all your gear always at hand and never in the way.”