A skier and hatmaker reflects on the turns life takes that get us to here and now.
Bri Moore always planned on having a so-called real job: Growing up in Maine, she thought she’d become a nurse or a teacher. But while working with kids at a nonprofit in Montana, she realized she wasn’t living the life she was encouraging those kids to live, one that felt fulfilling and happy on her terms. So, she found a new path in a creative field, making and stitching hats that has now become her full-time business, called Bri Moore Creative. For five years now, she’s been making embroidered, handmade headwear, from fedoras to beanies to snapbacks, stitched out of her home in Victor, Idaho. We called up 30-year-old Moore, a Flylow-sponsored skier, to talk about being your own boss, learning to ski at age 19, and living life outside the box.
My parents owned a gas station in Maine for 18 years, but they lost the business when I was 10. We lost our car, our house, we moved into grandma and grandpa’s house. My parents split over it. That sent me down this thinking that things can blow up at any moment, you can lose everything. So, what’s a job with a ton of job security? Nursing or teaching felt like safe options, so that what happened to my parents could never happen to me.
I don’t know how to explain why I felt like I could still do anything. At 19, I moved to Bozeman and started at Montana State University. I look back at that time in my life and over the course of a few years, I had growing confidence in myself, and thought, ‘I’m going to become a skier.’ I was 19 when I bought my first skis. I’d probably skied less than 10 times before that. I could pizza down a blue run. Bridger Bowl is an intimidating mountain to suck at skiing at.
After college, I was working for Big Sky Youth Empowerment, an adventure-based after-school mentorship program. We worked on social-emotional growth with the kids but also took them rock climbing, skiing, and rafting. Two years in, I realized I hadn’t been practicing what I was preaching to the teens I was working with. As far as life mottos go, I kept saying, ‘At the end of the day, if you’re making yourself happy and not hurting anyone else, that’s what it’s all about.’
I lived with Rachel Pohl in college. She skied and painted every day. She was in school for art, and she was constantly trying new things. My teaching degree required me to take some sewing classes, and at our house, we were always making earrings, adding patches to our clothes, and hand-stitching things. I bought a blank snapback hat and stitched a mountain landscape onto it. People started asking me for hats. Rachel and I were on a trip together, and she said, ‘Start a website. You could make those hats. This is what’s happening in the world now: You can just do this.’
It’s a big leap before you start comfortably calling yourself whatever that identity is that’s just below the surface. Calling myself an artist still feels hard. But I knew if I could be in a creative field that I would feel the most fulfilled. What would it be like to not have to live in the healthcare or mental health world and just create? That was so outside the box.
Five years ago, my partner, Olin, and I ended up having this epic year, where I sewed and sold hats wherever we were. We went all over the Pacific Northwest, did a bike tour, went to BC for a while, went to Colorado, spent the summer in Hood River. We were never anywhere for longer than two months, just sleeping on friends’ couches or the back of Olin’s truck. I would sew hats in the passenger seat. I was embarrassingly broke. But I was happy.
We moved to Teton Valley, and I was like, I’m sick of being broke. It’s cool to do all the things, but I wasn’t paying anything on my student loans. I didn’t go to business school, so I was talking to friends and trying to figure it out. I knew I needed some hats that had less involved stitching so I could price them cheaper. I started looking for companies that sold wholesale hats, ideally in the U.S. I started getting different styles of hats, doing simpler designs, so I could have more of a range. I’m three years into having five or six products at a time.
I’d like to get to a place where I’m giving a portion of my profits to nonprofits. But for now, I work for myself. I have a garage with buckets of fleece. I’m the manufacturer, the marketer. So, if I stop working, nothing is happening.
Skiing, despite starting later in life, has become one of my biggest passions. It’s one of the biggest things that fulfills me. I’ve done some good work around it, not feeling selfish or self-serving by going skiing. Because joy matters. Taking care of yourself matters. That has been the place where I feel most connected to the outdoor world, and to my friends.