Published: Jan. 19, 2022 By

Matt Holmes - Vela Apparel Meet Matt Holmes, a CU Boulder Alumni, and founder of Vela Apparel! Vela Apparel creates comfortable, versatile activewear from high-quality sustainable products and materials.

Matt was born and raised in Greenwood Village, Colorado. He attended CU Boulder where he received a degree in Philosophy and German in 2006. While in school, Matt was heavily involved with The Honors Journal, an interdisciplinary, student-run journal published annually by the Arts & Sciences Honors Program. He worked on the editorial board and later became the editor-in-chief! Matt also spent a semester abroad in China and Europe where he became passionate about traveling the world. 

While in school, Matt met his wife, Elise. After graduating, Matt and Elise moved up to the mountains. While living there, they began a small business making ski map jigsaw puzzles, eventually leading to the beginning of Vela Apparel!

About Vela Apparel

Vela Apparel is an outdoor lifestyle brand dedicated to embodying the spirit of the mountains. The clothing, made from high-quality sustainable products and materials, can be worn casually in your day-to-day life, or while participating in athletic activities such as skiing, hiking, yoga, and biking. Each design is hand-drawn by Elise and reflects her personal experiences in nature.

The Latin word ‘Vela’ means ‘to sail’. Matt and his wife selected this word because they live by ‘following the wind’ wherever life takes them! Additionally, they felt that this word truly represented the adventurous spirit of both their clothing designs and customers.

While the couple created a business selling ski map jigsaw puzzles, Elise played around with placing her artwork on merchandise. She uploaded these branded items to their website, where they began to sell! Together, Matt and Elise shifted their focus from creating puzzles to building a clothing brand. In 2016, Vela Apparel was officially established. The couple now owns a physical store location in Avon, Colorado!

Experience with Demystifying Entrepreneurship Workshop

Vela Apparel LogoIn 2017, Matt attended a workshop hosted by the Deming Center for Entrepreneurship. At this workshop, Matt was able to have discussions with Erick Mueller, distinguished faculty members, and other entrepreneurs. The goal of this workshop is to motivate, teach, and provide aspiring entrepreneurs with new tools to be successful. Upon completion of this course, members are awarded a University of Colorado Leeds School of Business Certificate of Completion!

Matt believed that the workshop was extremely educational. He found the collaborative activities and discussions to be beneficial. Matt adds,

“One of the best things I learned was how much a business needs to be structured before it can grow. I developed a clear sense of understanding when to allow a business to grow organically and when to step in and create structure.”

Challenges Faced

A constant challenge Matt and Elise have had to face is being taken seriously. Matt comments,

“We always have this challenge about being taken seriously, especially since neither of us has any experience in fashion, business, or any of the other industries that we've entered. In the beginning, when we would explain our business to people, they would write us off and not really take us seriously.”

Additionally, with a store location in Vail Valley, Matt and Elise have struggled with finding employees to work at Vela Apparel. If you are interested in working at their retail store, reach out to Matt and Elise here!

Advice for Current Students

Matt provides the following advice for current students,

“Get used to making mistakes and failing because it’s something that will happen often. It’s important to make these mistakes and not only learn from them but also turn them into potential opportunities. You need to make a decision- are you going to pull the plug and call it quits, or are you going to start working harder until you figure it out?”

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