No, the name is not Scandinavian; it’s the phonetic version of the word “explore.” It’s also the name of an innovative, Jackson-based, family-owned business with the mission of outfitting little ones in proper adventure wear. Iksplor helps families get outside and create lasting memories.
“We had a very active, outdoor family growing up,” says Karissa (Tuthill) Akin, co-founder of Iksplor. “When we look back on our childhood, those are the moments we remember—being outside together.”
Growing up in Colorado provided ample opportunity for the Tuthill family to ski, mountain bike, fish, kiteboard, windsurf, hike and camp together, with each adventure drawing them closer. This deep bond formed outdoors helped Karissa and Kailey (Tuthill) Gieck, her sister and business partner, through some of life’s major ups and downs. From the tragic loss of their brother, Michael, who was in his twenties when he passed away, to the adjustment of becoming parents themselves, and, most recently, to the loss of their beloved dad, William Tuthill (affectionately known as “Wild Bill”), the sisters turned to what has always grounded them—their family’s connection to nature. Now, both neck-deep in the throes of motherhood, they aim to cultivate this value in their own families by encouraging others to unplug from everyday life and connect during outside activities.
Still, as any parent can tell you, nothing spoils an excursion into the wilderness faster than a wet and cold kid. These mamas discovered that quickly, as they sought out options for dressing their two young daughters for ever-changing weather in the mountains. This fostered their desire to create essential adventure wear for children in an industry where the pickings were slim. In fact, the more Karissa and Kailey explored the various fabric options, the more they were repeatedly drawn to a material they’ve had for years in their own closets—merino wool.
Karissa and Kailey are no strangers to entrepreneurship. With small business owners as parents, the sisters learned firsthand what it would take to start and run a successful family business. Bill, confident in his daughters’ abilities, offered encouragement and the financial backing to their endeavor. While their mom, Barb Tuthill, offered more practical guidance.
The two women chuckle as they recall Barb’s rather direct advice: “If you want to work with me, you’d better figure it out!”
Focusing on essential pieces for kids size 0 to 6, Ikslpor was launched in 2018 with the help of a Kickstarter campaign. The company became incorporated in January 2019 on what would have been their brother’s 29th birthday.
“Michael embodied such an entrepreneurial spirit,” says Karissa. “He loved kids; he loved volunteering and giving back. This [spirit] has developed the whole framework of our business. It’s about kids. About family. About getting outside. It’s about being together.”
Iksplor is bluesign® certified, meaning they are part of a conglomerate of businesses who practice responsible and sustainable textile manufacturing. The company is female-owned, employs a U.S.-based, female-owned factory and utilizes a female-owned packaging company that delivers products in biodegradable packaging.
When asked if working as a family has ever posed a challenge, Karissa and Kailey look at each other quizzically. “Not really,” they say simultaneously.
“We’ve been hit pretty hard by the universe,” says Karissa. “The only way we know how to get through is together.”
Hardship, though painful, seems to have woven a silver lining into the Tuthill family’s fabric. The ladies focus on what matters most. They don’t sweat the small stuff, and they don’t want you to, either. That’s why they pride themselves on leaving a minimal impact on the environment, while creating a great big impact on your littlest wanderlusters.
For kids, the benefits of merino are endless…
- Kids fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer when wrapped
in merino wool.
- Merino reduces irritation, which is beneficial for skin sensitivities.
- Wool has been shown to calm kids with sensory issues.
- Merino is stain resistant. (Can we get a fist bump, parents?)
- Woven merino wool provides a natural sunscreen, up to UPF 50.
- Merino is season-less (contrary to popular belief)—it’s temperature regulating, breathable, and quick-drying.
- Merino does not release microfibers into the environment during washing.
- Merino is compostable within six months of discarding.