Asana Climbing founder Jamey Sproull thrust his arm into a cardboard box and removed a green and red chalk bag used by rock climbers to keep their hands dry. The box, standing inconspicuously in the Asana warehouse in Garden City, was full of chalk bags, no two of which were alike. Climbers, Sproull said, prize the uniqueness of their gear.
"For climbers, that's a big deal," he said.
Sproull founded Asana as a hobby in 1999, when he spent $1,250 on a sewing machine and a few tables to sew custom yoga mats. Today, Asana is an internationally known manufacturer of crash pads and other rock climbing and bouldering accessories. The company has four sponsored climbers and provides materials for climbing competitions around the world. Its presence in Boise is growing along with its prestige abroad: As of March 2013, Asana also runs a local climbing wall in Garden City.
"[The Asana Climbing Gym] was a great way to get known as a Boise company," Sproull said.
Boise and the Mountain West have been kind to Asana, which built its first custom bouldering crash pad systems for Boise State University's climbing gym and for Entre-Prises of Bend, Ore., in 2004. Asana had tripled its sales from 2004-2005, and Sproull left his job as a teacher at Eagle Middle School to dedicate more time to his expanding business.
"It was taking up way too much of my time to do both. We're talking about the very slow, organic growth of a company," he said.
Remaining a healthy business through tough economic times demanded that Asana understand its customers better than the competition did. Climbers, Sproull said, are a "tight group," and Asana reflects their sense of community while still producing big things: Asana's largest crash pad systems are up to 10,000 square feet, but the company only employs a total of 14 people between production, marketing and the climbing gym.
"The idea is that we build big padding systems. People who walk through the door are always surprised at how small we are," he said.
Sponsorship has been essential to achieving the equilibrium Asana has found as a small company with a big name in its industry. Asana sponsors four climbers--Paul Robinson, Sierra Blair-Coyle, Kevin Jorgeson and Nina Williams--and its products are featured at major competitions like the Bouldering World Cup in Vail, Colo.; the American Bouldering Series; and the Idaho Mountain Festival at the City of Rocks, now in its second year.
"From the beginning, we've always supported our community," Sproull said.