CANIS: The Beginning
CANIS was born on two different continents, by two men that chose different career paths but shared the same values of hard work, determination, and innovation. Marcel Geser, award-winning technical apparel designer/tailor and Ryan Efurd, Arkansas born and bred entrepreneur and hunter, co-founded CANIS and introduced their initial collection of tactical hunting apparel to the world in January 2020. The brand leans on the experience and background of the two founders. Efurd, a life-long hunter that has hunted all over the world, provided the practical, real-world needs a hunter has for versatility and protection and Geser, a master of innovation, fabrics, and functionality, provided the technical chops to set CANIS apart from its competition.
The CANIS Team has spent the last 2.5 years designing and engineering in Switzerland then testing our gear all over the world. The result is a line of products that is truly Best in Class. The gear is extremely lightweight, it’s tough, and it is loaded with technical features new to the hunting industry. The technical pieces are all wrapped in CANIS’s proprietary Alpha© camo pattern that was designed to be versatile and work anywhere in the world. Efurd, a US Air Force veteran, had a Tech Sergeant in the military ram home the K.I.S.S. principle (Keep It Simple Stupid). That is the same Direct to Consumer approach taken at CANIS. We set out to make incredible gear, sell direct, stand behind the product, and let the company grow by sharing our customers’ stories.
Hunting is about adventure, it’s about making memories in the field with family, friends, and your dog. It’s about traveling to faraway lands, deep into the wilderness to push yourself beyond your limits. This is your life and your adventure, and we exist to help you tell your story. And here is ours...
From Marcel Geser:
I’ve always been an outdoor kid and loved to go for adventures, spend time in the outdoors and in the mountains with my family. My mom grew up in a mountain village in Switzerland. So as a boy, we spent most of our vacations in the mountains, camping, hiking, and skiing in the wintertime.
Those early days really gave me so much of an appreciation for the outdoors, family time, and set the course for how I would live my life. Never could I have dreamed that I would get to make a living creating, manufacturing, and innovating apparel and gear in the outdoor space.
It was in my teenage years when I discovered competitive mountain biking. As with most kids, I had a little teenage angst, and biking was the perfect outlet to keep me active and most importantly, out of trouble.
I learned early on that hard work, practice, and persistence could take me very far in the sport. A lesson that has stayed with me throughout my professional life. In a short amount of time, I was rewarded for my work and became a member of the Swiss Mountain Bike Team, competing at the highest level in World Cup Races. Hard work = success. I was and still am extremely competitive and know that as long as I stay the course and work my tail off, success is inevitable.
Family Business to Side Hustle
Tailoring was part of our family tradition, as my mother and grandmother were tailors. I grew up in-between bales of fabric and had the chance to learn from them and create a lot of clothing back home.
At the same time, I was also becoming very busy as I was setting up the warranty and repair service for the local snowboard store, as well as, a repair service for all of Switzerland for Westbeach apparel, the hottest brand in snowboarding. As I grew older, I spent more of my spare time snowboarding and got my first opportunity to mix my passion for being outside and sports with a way to make money. Snowboarding and skateboarding culture was picking up momentum in Europe and I was able to cash in on a new trend. Just before the baggy snowboarding pants were mass-marketed in Europe, I began manufacturing micro-lots of independently designed pants for local snowboarding and skateboarding crews. The line took off and gave me the idea I could actually become successful doing something I love. As the old saying goes, “find a job you enjoy doing and you will never work a day in your life.” Not necessarily true as there is a lot of hard work, but if you are passionate about your job at least the hard work is enjoyable.
So daytime tailoring school, night time I was in the studio busy with getting all the repairs done to have mom send them back out the next morning. In no time, we had so much work to get done, I had to employ some of my snowboarding friends that could half-way work a sewing machine.
That early success gave me the confidence to start a street-wear brand for snowboarding and skateboarding while still just an apprentice. 90’s rap, hip-hop snowboarding culture, and a teenage tailor from Switzerland...what a great combination.
On to Canada
My connections to the people from Westbeach Switzerland allowed me to go to Vancouver, Canada for an internship at Westbeach headquarters. Westbeach was founded by Chip Wilson, who sold the company in 1997 and went on to try a new venture in athletic/leisure wear that he called Lululemon. Though Chip was gone by the time I arrived at Westbeach, I still got to hear plenty of stories about him, his thoughts, innovations and to this day, serves as a role model for me as an innovator and designer.
Ski Bum to Mountain Force
Man, what an eye-opener. The only thing I truly knew how to do was to tailor and operate a computer. Now, not only was I responsible for the tailoring of the garments, but also for all product development, design, sourcing, and production. One thing about startups, you get to wear a lot of hats. I continually looked around for someone else to assist me only to find an empty room and it was up to me to propel the brand forward. After a truly amazing year of learning and working in Vancouver, I had the good fortune to co-found a high-end, technical skiwear brand in Switzerland called Mountain Force. With youthful energy and tons of confidence from my early successes and training with some of the best in the industry, I moved to a ski resort in the middle of the Swiss Alps and officially began my professional career.
Those early days were extremely tough. Tons of late nights, a few failures, and a lot of resiliency. I was forced to learn the whole trade from soup to nuts. Concept, design, prototyping, factory selection, and spending many weeks at a time in factories all over the world.
Once again, my dedication and hard work paid off as we had a pretty smooth launch of the brand, and introduced the first stretchable skiwear to the market, a real innovation for 2006.
It was a dream life- Swiss Alps, work I was passionate about, living and working on the mountain, skiing over lunch, and constantly pushing innovation in the category.
Development Never Stops
After some strategic and creative differences, I decided to move on from the brand I help build.
Having dreamed about doing more hands-on product development, I wanted to build a company that could assist other brands to push the envelope and innovate their lines. At the time, only a few companies had this competency. I wanted to build this up with my former company, but the investment seemed too great, and none of us would really know how to get this started.
So, after finding two business partners with the same background in tailoring and sportswear, we decided to “JUMP” and created Development Never Stops. Soon after, our first development studio was operational.
There was no other studio in the world equipped with all the latest technology and the ability to leverage that technology to push the boundaries. After some initial ups and downs, Development Never Stops became a very well known product development studio in the field of technical sportswear and innovation - serving global brands.
In short order, we were not only working with professional athletes and brands in mountaineering but contracted to work with military and special forces units globally. I was fascinated by the similarities and needs of these two different segments-it was all about the pure essence of functionality. Through working hand-in-hand with athletes and leaning on my own experiences as a sportsman, I was able to use that knowledge to select fabrics, materials, technology, and fit to create highly functional garments.
Very happy to say since our inception, Development Never Stops has won over 25 coveted ISPO awards given to the most innovative products in the sports and outdoor space and worked with some of the biggest brands in the world.
A Guy from...Arkansas?
My work found many parallels between mountaineering and military applications, and I always had the idea in the back of my head that hunting must be the combination of both of these worlds. If we could harness all we have learned from the two industries, we could create the ultimate, performance-based line of clothing unlike anything else in the marketplace.
We worked on some smaller trials in the hunting business but really couldn’t find any momentum as we lacked practical knowledge of the space. Sometimes life has a funny way of working itself out. Out of the blue, I received an email, followed by a call from a hunter out of Arkansas of all places.
After a few conversations with Ryan and understanding his passion and real- world experience hunting all over the world, we realized that this could be the missing piece we had been seeking. So Ryan and I set out to meet over the course of 3 days in Zurich where we would pour over current offerings in the market, define the fundamentals of the brand’s vision and CANIS was born. We realized we shared so many commonalities in terms of work ethic, quality, and striving for the best in life and business.
From Ryan Efurd:
Into the Wild
A family ski vacation at a young age exposed me to Colorado and the Rocky Mountains. I was instantly in love. Skiing the steeps of Colorado made me feel so small but so alive at the same time. I dreamed of coming back one day and chasing elk in the Aspen trees. I’ve made it out west to ski and or hunt every year for the last 25 years. I’ve been hunting and fishing since I was old enough to walk. My father and my grandfather had me out hunting every chance we could. I grew up in the small town of Greenwood, Arkansas, and spent my days as a young boy roaming the woods with my fishing pole and mountain bike. I always felt alive and free in the woods.
As a teenager, my eyes were opened on my first waterfowl hunt. I was instantly addicted. There was a magical sense of adventure and accomplishment boarding a boat in the early morning darkness in sub-freezing temperatures. It defied logic, involved inherent danger, and I loved it. I was out in the rivers, swamps and marshes chasing ducks with friends every chance I had.
Friday Night Lights
I grew up in a football town. From a young age, I dreamed of becoming a Greenwood Bulldog. I learned more life lessons than I can count in athletics, and I still use them today. It taught me mental toughness, physical toughness, discipline, sacrifice, teamwork and it gave me an extreme competitive drive. Most importantly, it taught me that I could push myself further than I ever imagined. Our coaches demanded a tremendous amount from us. If you didn’t perform, you didn’t play. Your teammates depended on you and you couldn’t let them down. I’m actively involved in youth sports today coaching my sons’ teams. I was given the opportunity to play for wonderful coaches that made a positive impact on my life, and I believe it’s a simple obligation and a duty that I do the same.
I joined the Air National Guard and left for Basic Military Training in June of 2000 at Lackland Air Force Base. I found Basic Training and Technical School easy relative to high school athletics and being raised by a coach / high school principal (father) and a first-grade teacher (mom). Meeting guys from all over the USA really opened my eyes. I went in with a small-town mindset, and I graduated with a different perspective. In 2001 I attended Air Force S.E.R.E. school in Spokane, WA. S.E.R.E. was an absolute gut check. We learned to survive in the wilderness, escape and evasion tactics, and how to survive as a prisoner of war. It was an experience like no other. Anyone that has attended S.E.R.E. has had to overcome and shatter mental obstacles they didn’t think possible. Like hunting, this also made me further appreciate the technical gear we were issued and how fabrics and materials serve a purpose and ultimately, can keep you alive. The next five years of my military career were awesome and days I will forever cherish. I met some of the best people and some of the most elite warriors in the world. I learned life lessons that are invaluable, and I am forever grateful.
After graduating from the University of Arkansas, I was fortunate to meet my business partners, and we formed a commodity food trading and distribution company called Blackhive Corp. At Blackhive, we buy and sell food products and ingredients from farmers and manufacturers, and we distribute those products to food processors, food distributors, and retailers in the USA and around the world. Blackhive has been an invaluable teacher of global trade, logistics, and finance. I’ve often said that Blackhive gave me a master’s degree in business. Over the years, I’ve been involved in several other businesses, some winners and some losers, but I was always giving 110% and trying to innovate. I’ve always been a big believer in the “fail fast” mentality so that you can learn from those mistakes early, pivot, and prevent more expensive mistakes down the road.
The Genesis of CANIS
I consider myself a life-long student, always trying to learn something new, taking mental notes, and finding ways to improve. As a hunter, an athlete, a military man, and a businessman, I have always attacked everything head first and dedicated myself to be the best. When not working, coaching or spending time with my 4 kids, hunting has always been my “go-to”. It's my passion and always had the idea in the back of my head to find a way to create a business in the hunting arena. I’m 100% a gear head. I’ve worn it all, tried it all, and have closets full of clothing, footwear and accessories. When you are sitting in the deer stand for hours on end or on a 15 mile stalk, you have a lot of time to think. While a lot of the gear I was wearing made sense, I saw a lot of opportunities and I thought, given my resources, I could assemble a team to do it better.
In 2016, I started digging into who was making and designing the best technical apparel on the market. I didn’t want to just look at the hunting segment, but skiing, mountaineering, special forces, etc. What were the guys who were climbing Mt. Everest wearing? After a lot of research and a lot of phone calls, I zeroed in on Marcel Geser and his company Development Never Stops. While Marcel was highly decorated as an innovator and had been working with the largest mountaineering and ski apparel brands in the world, he wasn’t a hunter. I saw that fact as an asset because he would be looking at this project with an unbiased set of eyes. After we traded a few emails, had a few phone calls, I set out on a trip to Zurich where we would spend 3 days talking, planning and that is where the idea of CANIS was born.
As of this writing, CANIS is 6 months into existence and in a short time has built a loyal group of customers who appreciate the quality of our gear, experiencing everything life has to offer, and sharing their stories with the CANIS Team. For Efurd and Geser, CANIS is a welcome addition to an already overflowing personal and professional life. While “work” gets a lot of their time, its focus on family and finding time to get away in the outdoors further connects the duo and provides a perfect work/life balance to keep the mind and body fresh for new ideas and innovation.
For Efurd, CANIS is the passion project he has always wanted. It is a dramatic departure from his “day job” as CEO of the commodity trading company Blackhive Corp, also based in Fayetteville, AR. After he clocks out at the office, Efurd goes into full Dad-mode to his 4 kids as coach of both a travel baseball and hockey team for his oldest son, assistant baseball coach for his youngest son, and #1 fan in the stands to his two girls’ dance, cheer, and other activities. Throw in a morning and noon workout and a few weeks a year to hunt, and the plate is full.
Marcel burns the candle at both ends as well as his company Development Never Stops continues to live up to its name by consistently innovating for brands all over the world. In addition to CANIS and Development Never Stops, he also runs several other companies in textile development and distribution and spends about 3 months a year in garment production factories around the world. For balance and to recharge, Geser lives with his girlfriend, Tina, and their 8-month-old daughter in between Zurich and Bavaria. As a former competitive athlete, he still makes time to mountain and road bike, ski, golf, and spends as much time in the mountains as possible.
“I love all of it, and I want to do it all and more daily,” says Efurd, “So you just have to make time for it, start early, end late, get some sleep, and charge hard again the next day.”
Time waits for no man. Be the Wolf.