The M22 Story
Welcome to our blog!
Founded by kiteboarders in search of epic wind and waves, M22 was created to express a common passion for Northern Michigan shared by our friends and family. Though our company began in Northern Michigan, the passion our brand stands for spreads beyond Michigan’s borders. The M22 lifestyle is marked by the simplicity and appreciation for natural wonders such as bays, beaches and bonfires, dunes and vineyards, cottages, friends and family everywhere. M22 is the feeling you get when you realize there is no other place you would rather be.
Matt and Keegan Myers, M22 Founders
Getting ready to write our first post, it was an easy decision that we wanted to begin by sharing our story. I’m sure you’ve heard of M22 if you’re already here but you may not know how M22 started or how it’s evolved to what it is today. Incredibly, it’s been almost 11 years since we began in 2004. Ever since then, I’ve saved clippings from magazines and newspapers where our brand has been covered in stacks of boxes. I’ve collected samples of every first shirt or item we’ve made, and archived thousands of pictures and memories. With everything sprawled out in front of me, I want to start from the beginning.
It all started with kiteboarding, and to be honest, kiteboarding was initially why we decided to plant our roots where we grew up, in northern Michigan. If you don’t know what kiteboarding is, google “broneah”. Better yet, image search that.
My brother and I lived and breathed kiteboarding. Not only did we kite as much as possible, we taught kiteboarding, owned a kiteboarding school, started a kiteboarding brand (Broneah), edited for a kiteboarding magazine, competed, photographed, were sponsored, and traveled for kiteboarding. It was our life and so we were determined to be in a place where we could kiteboard as much as possible in the most ideal setting.
“If you dont know what kiteboarding is, google “broneah.” Better yet, image search that.”
We were fortunate enough to be able to travel the world (literally) in our early twenties and when we got back to Michigan, it was clear to us that Michigan is one of the best places in the world for kiteboarding. Fresh, uncrowded water. Incredible beaches, breathtaking views. Miles of flat water, sandy bottom lakes. Waves when we are lucky. Seasons - which meant getting out of here in the winter and heading to the next best kiteboarding spot. When we did leave Michigan, our friends who lived in the tropics or in more mainstream hotspots for kiting always asked, “why in the hell would you live in Michigan?”. Clearly, no one had a clue and it was never easy to explain. As you know, if you’re from Michigan, you have to experience it to understand.
Kiteboarding connected us to Michigan in a unique way. We studied the weather like sailors, understood the waves and currents likes surfers and then put ourselves out there, miles off shore in Lake Michigan with nothing more than a board under our feet using the water to ground ourselves and a kite in the sky to pull us powered by nothing but the wind. We truly respected nature for this simple phenomenon which was our bliss.
As our kiteboarding business and reputation grew, so did our passion for northern Michigan as well as our sustentation for the area. We felt we were representing a lifestyle that we wanted to authenticate and attest through a brand so that we could share it with others. We knew that others in northern Michigan were already living a similar lifestyle in their own particular ways, maybe not through kiteboarding, but through other activities and ways of enjoying nature’s wonders as northern Michigan is not short on them. There was not yet a way to mutually identify this lifestyle, however.
Several of our favorite kiteboarding spots in northern Michigan are off of highway M-22. The road is marked by the black and white M-22 road sign, nothing more than a sign to help visitors and residents alike find their way around the most beautiful part of our state. To us, however, the image of the road sign meant more than just a road. More than directions. It became a symbol. A symbol of our passion, our lifestyle, and with that in mind, we put it on a shirt and wore it proudly. It became a brand, and while teaching a local attorney how to kiteboard, he suggested we trademark it to protect and share our idea.
Our intention was not to make a living or start a big business, we didn’t actually have a business plan but we were paying off our college loans and saving up for plane tickets to go to the Caribbean, so when friends saw our shirts and wanted them, we made them. We started selling them out of the back of our kiteboarding van on the side and from the very beginning we donated a portion of the proceeds to the Leelanau Conservancy because that just seemed like the right thing to do.
Then, as luck would have it, Traverse Magazine was doing an interview and photo-shoot with us for a story on kiteboarding and my brother happened to be wearing one of our M22 shirts during the shoot. That shot became the cover of the magazine and before we knew it, requests started pouring in for shirts from people we had never met. Without a doubt, the symbolism we had created, between the logo and the lifestyle, had caliber with more than just our kiteboarding community.
Risking it all, we refocused all of our resources on developing M22 into a business. We built a website, hired employees, started wholesaling, rented space in downtown Traverse City, re-did our website, rented a bigger space, franchised our store to a Glen Arbor location, added more wholesalers, hired more employees, re-did our website again… and we’re still growing.
“...from the very beginning we donated a portion of the proceeds to the Leelanau Conservancy because that just seemed like the right thing to do. ”
We’ve been busy adding products and co-brands to provide something for all ages and preferences. Our customers have expanded from kiteboarding friends, locals, and Michiganders to those from other cities, states, and countries. M22 goes beyond Michigan. People all over share this passion and lifestyle defined by M22 in their own special way, in their own towns. M22 is just the symbol that communicates it and if you’ve been to Michigan, it means even more.
We still kiteboard, not as often as we’d like, but we do, and now when we travel people see the M22 logo and ask us about it. Now we have a better way to explain why we live here. Even more often when we travel, we actually see our own logo and when we do we share a smile, a nod, or a wink, because between us and the logo, there is a mutual understanding.
Now time to put these boxes away and hang out with my baby boy.
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