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Legend Biography

Jim Crumley


Creator of Trebark

Sponsors: Coming Soon

Jim Crumley, the president of Outdoor
Families, Inc. headquartered in Roanoke,
Virginia, is a man with an idea and the
courage to follow his dream. When you
look at Jim's story, you'll understand the
road you must take if you have a good
idea you believe can be grown into a
major outdoor company. Jim's love of the
outdoors, his entrepreneurial spirit and his
willingness to take great risks to find and
develop his dream charts the path others
must follow for success in the outdoor industry.
Jim Crumley graduated from Virginia Tech in 1969 and took a job as a marketing-
education teacher in Alexandria, Virginia. At about the same time he developed what
was to become a lifetime love for hunting deer and turkeys.
Crumley had grown up in Bristol, Virginia. During his younger days, the area where
he lived failed to support enough deer and turkey to warrant a hunting season. Not
until after college when the deer and turkey populations in Virginia had grown and
could support a season where Jim hunted did Jim begin to take up deer and turkey
Jim Crumley's initiation into deer hunting was as a bow hunter because he decided
his best opportunity to bag a deer would be during bow season. He learned to shoot
a bow and began to take deer with his bow. At that time, Jim was wearing both
forest-green and tiger-stripe camouflage but leaned more towards wearing the tiger
stripe rather than the forest green. Tiger stripe was the third generation of a slowly
evolving military camouflage. The first camouflage pattern to receive a patent was
developed by a Belgian researcher. Primarily composed of large blotches of three or
four shades of black and brown, the pattern was developed at the end of World War
II and was generally known as WWII camouflage.
The woodland-green pattern and the tiger-stripe pattern were introduced at the
beginning of the Vietnam War. These patterns featured more greens and not so
much of the browns and blacks the WWII pattern had.

As Crumley remembers, "I noticed as I watched down the hollow from my tree stand
for deer and saw the trunks of hickory, poplar and oak, the woods seemed to have a
battleship-gray dominant color instead of green. When I looked down at the ground,
I saw more brown color. I decided my tiger stripe camouflage didn't look like the
woods where I was hunting."
Jim Crumley left the woods and went home to try and make himself a better suit of
camouflage for his hunting. At that time in history, tie-dying, a process by which
clothes were tied in knots, dipped in dye and allowed to dry and then the knots were
untied, was a popular type of coloring clothing during this hippie generation. The
colors were splotched on the clothes in various patterns.
However, Jim did not want to make a fashion statement. He was trying to color
hunting clothes that more closely resembled the woods. He purchased a suit of gray
work clothes and used brown and black dye to try and recreate the colors he saw in
the forest when he was hunting. He tied the clothes in knots and dipped them in
both black and brown dye. When Jim presented his new hunting suit to his buddies,
they all agreed his new tie-dye camouflage looked terrible -- really terrible. But when
Jim went into the woods, those same friends agreed that Jim was hard to find and
difficult to see with his new, ugly camouflage.
Jim made his first tie-dye suit of camo in 1972. But this pattern had one problem Jim
couldn't seem to overcome. It still was made up of splotches and patches of color
that seemed to be more horizontal than vertical. Jim had noticed that not only were
the colors in the woods more grays than black and browns, but that the lines in the
woods, especially the lines of tree trunks and bushes, were vertical and not
horizontal lines.
Once Jim had his colors right for the fall and early spring woods, he next thought
about what a deer or a turkey walking through the woods saw. He realized in the
clean, big hardwoods where the animals normally fed and moved, they looked at
more tree trunks than anything else at their eye level. Jim reasoned if he could
resemble a tree trunk, he would be harder for the animals to detect and would blend
in better with the woods where he hunted.
Jim used odorless Magic Markers to add squiggly lines to his tie-dyed, camouflage
work suit. The squiggly lines gave the camo a more vertical look and made the camo

resemble a tree trunk more than the blotches of the forest-green and tiger-stripe
camos did. Jim's hunting friends started to look at his weird, ugly-looking camo in a
new and different light. They shot color pictures of him against trees and in the
woods. From the pictures, they could tell Jim's new suit better hid him in the woods
than the camouflage clothing they wore when they hunted. For six years, Jim
continued to buy gray work suits, tie-dye them and draw squiggles on them, each
time trying to improve his pattern.
However, Jim wasn't attempting to develop a new camouflage. He was simply trying
to have a better suit of clothes for his own personal deer and turkey hunting. He
believed by becoming more invisible, he could harvest more game. But a unique
factor that added to the eventual success of Trebark® camouflage was Jim's
educational background. As a marketing-education teacher, Jim taught students
daily how to find and recognize new products and sell them or how to take old
products and sell them in a better way.
As Jim's friends encouraged him about the marketability of his new camouflage, his
love of hunting, his newly discovered camouflage philosophy and his marketing
background meshed together like the gears of a high-speed racing automobile. One
day, Jim decided he could sell this new camouflage idea and pattern he'd been
developing for six years. By 1978, the dream of selling a new camouflage pattern
was so strong that Jim decided if he didn't try and sell the camo he'd developed,
someone else would.
At that time and place, the only camouflage hunters could buy was the camo that
had been developed by the military which contained splotches and horizontal
patterns. Not only was Jim having to sell a color of camo no one ever had seen
before with his grays and blacks, but he also was trying to sell a revolutionary idea --
a vertical camouflage pattern.
When camouflage meant the difference between life and death in a war, everyone
assumed the government had the best ideas. Men had survived conflicts in foreign
lands by wearing greens, blacks and browns in horizontal patterns. Now, this young
Virginian was coming to the hunters of America with a pattern not only radical in
color but that also went against the traditional horizontal lines that had helped men

live through wars. Too, Jim Crumley was attempting to change the way people
looked at the forest.
In 1978, turkey hunting was becoming more popular across the country as was
bowhunting. Jim Crumley hoped to target these two markets with his new idea and
unique clothing. However, Jim had another problem. He realized he couldn't hand-
tie-dye gray work suits and then put squiggly lines on them with markers and
produce enough suits to sell to the mass market. Although his process of making
camouflage had worked well for him, he realized he'd have to change his pattern to
have it printed onto fabric and then that fabric be cut and sewn into camouflage
clothing. Therefore, Jim Crumley, the teacher, became an avid student, learning all
he could about printing fabric and making clothing.
Jim drew his original pattern and shaded it the way he believed a tree trunk looked
to a hunter at a distance. He also made slides of tree trunks, projected the slides on
the wall, put paper on the wall and then traced the designs he saw on the trunks.
Too, Jim shaded his designs from the colors he saw in the slides of the tree trunks.
He then sent all of his sketches with the proper tree-trunk colors to his sister, Mary
Beth, who had a Master's degree in Art and was a portrait artist. His sister refined
the pattern and put it in a form the textile manufacturers could use to make a screen
from which to print.
The pattern was finalized in 1979. Once Crumley had his pattern, he called Dan River
Mills in Danville, Virginia, and told them about his idea for printing a new camouflage
pattern. He explained to them he had his pattern on canvas in a form that could be
utilized to make a screen from which to print the cloth. The people at Dan River told
Crumley they'd be happy to print his pattern, if he ordered 50,000 yards of fabric at
$2.50 a yard. When Crumley totaled up how much buying and printing the fabric
would cost, he quickly realized he didn't have the financing to pursue his dream. This
point often is where many potential entrepreneurs in the outdoor industry give up.
Jim had a good idea, his friends believed in what he was doing, and he had his
pattern ready to be printed. However, the volume of fabric he would have to
purchase to have Trebark®  camouflage material to build suits from was well out of
Jim's financial reach.

But a bulldog-like tenacity that had the ability to turn defeat into victory continued to
drive Jim Crumley. Rather than give up and quit, Jim continued his search for a
fabric- printing company that would print small orders of fabric. Finally, his
persistence was rewarded when he located Lida Manufacturing, a company in
Charlotte, North Carolina, that specialized in printing small amounts of yardages of
fabric for the fashion industry. The president of the company, Ralph Keir, agreed to
print Jim's new camouflage pattern.
However, as with any victory, this one had a downside. The only way Jim's pattern
could be printed was with a heat- transfer print. For this process to work, the
material had to be at least 80-percent polyester. In the 1970s, polyester suits were
the rage of the men's fashion industry. But hunters were buying either 100-percent
cotton or 100-percent wool clothing. No hunter in his right mind would purchase a
polyester suit for hunting.
Jim Crumley faced another major crossroad in the development of his company. He
didn't have enough money to have his pattern printed on 50,000 yards of cotton
cloth. But he could have his pattern printed on polyester cloth he felt sure hunters
probably wouldn't buy. Most would-be entrepreneurs would have given up their
dreams at this stumbling block -- but not Jim.
Jim recognized that unless he had his pattern on some type of cloth he couldn't
produce hunting suits and wouldn't be able to find out if his idea would sell. He
agreed to have his first Trebark®  pattern printed on 100-percent, polyester, double-
knit cloth. Although polyester was soft and quiet, it would fray and fuzz when caught
on briars and brambles. Jim decided to have 5,000 yards of Trebark®  polyester
printed, and then he could begin to sew his hunting suits. The fabric cost $2.10/yard
for the printed 5,000 yards of fabric -- a total of $10,050. Jim saw this money, which
in the late 70Õs was considered a large amount of money, as only another obstacle
to overcome if he was to test his new idea.
Jim went to the bank to obtain a business loan to pay for the fabric. However, the
bank didn't believe that Jim's new camo pattern was a sound investment. Crumley
was 32-years old, had never been in business for himself before and was trying to
get a business loan on a camouflage pattern that was radically different from
anything on the market. The bank required more security to recover its investment if

Jim's idea failed. At that time, Jim, who was single, had purchased a townhouse
some years earlier. The bank agreed to take a second mortgage on Jim's townhouse
and loan him $24,000. Jim believed this money would be enough to have his fabric
printed, cut and sewn into suits and hats. Also enough money should be left over to
buy an ad or two in national outdoor magazines.
Although this money was an enormous amount for Jim to go into debt for, he still
had his job as an administrator with the Alexandria, Virginia, school system. He was
convinced his income from his school position would provide enough money to pay
back the loan if his idea failed.
Jim Crumley had the same fears and doubts that anyone launching a new business
would have. He wondered if ... * people would buy his camouflage or were his
friends just telling him this idea was good to encourage him,
He could sell this new camouflage, á he didn't sell all the material what would
happen, á he wanted to do something different for his life's work from what he had
trained to do if his idea worked. á These fears are those experienced by everyone
who launches a new business. But only by conquering these fears and continuing to
believe in that idea could Jim Crumley or any other entrepreneur follow his or her
When Jim received his first sample of fabric from the company, he hired a
seamstress to cut and sew his first suit of Trebark®  camouflage that wasn't hand-
painted. He showed the suit to all his friends and the men in his bowhunting club. He
sold his first suit of clothing to a man he shot archery tournaments with -- Johnny
Buck. Buck ordered the suit on his charge card before Crumley ever had suits for
sale. The jackets and pants sold for $19.50/piece. As soon as the first suit was
made, Buck's order was filled.
Jim Crumley's marketing education and training had taught him that you first identify
a product and then identify the market you want to take that product to, which was
the bowhunter. Jim decided that to find out if the consumer was as excited about his
new camouflage as he was, he should go straight to the consumer and by-pass the
store owner.

Rather than having to convince a store owner or a sporting goods dealer to stock his
line of camouflage, Jim felt if he could convince bowhunters to buy his product
initially, then the store owners would be more willing to stock a product that already
had been tested at the consumer level.
"I wanted to build a track record of performance by selling directly to the consumer,"
Crumley explained. "Then when I went to a store owner I could say, `The consumers
are already buying my product. It's to your advantage to stock it in your store.'
"I felt if I could show a store owner I had sold a large number of Trebark® 
camouflage suits by running an ad in a national magazine and told him I had two
more ads coming out the next year, the store owner would buy my products. Then
he could sell a large number of camouflage suits in his store based on the two ads I
was running the next year."
In July, 1980, Jim Crumley ran an 1/8 page ad in "Bowhunter Magazine" that stated
simply, "Trebark®  CAMOUFLAGE IS COMING."
According to Jim, "I ran the ad to establish the trademark name and logo of
Trebark® . I wanted to put a tickler ad in to establish some interest and to make
people wonder what Trebark®  camouflage was."
Two months later in the next issue of "Bowhunter Magazine," Jim ran a full-page,
black-and-white ad. But because he didn't have enough fabric to build a second suit
to be photographed to show Trebark®  in the ad, Jim once again turned to his sister,
Mary Beth, and asked her to draw a pen- and-ink sketch of a hunter wearing his new
Trebark®  camouflage. When this first ad came out, Jim had spent all the money
he'd borrowed from the bank to buy fabric, have a thousand suits cut and sewn and
run his ad. Actually he'd spent more than the initial $24,000 by dipping into his
savings to support the idea of Trebark®  camouflage, which was yet an unproven
If Jim's idea was wrong, he not only would lose the $24,000 he borrowed from the
bank but also most of his savings would be wiped out. Jim risked not only what he
had saved but also his future earnings on the idea that a vertical camouflage pattern
that looked like a tree trunk would be bought by bowhunters. This type of risk taking

is required for success, not only in the outdoor industry, but in the world of business
as a whole.
However, Jim's first orders didn't come from the ad. They came from members of his
archery club.
One of the problems with Jim's first ad was the only way people could order this new
Trebark®  camo was by mail. Jim was still working for the school system, he didn't
have an answering machine, and he didn't take Visa or Mastercard -- only cash or a
money order.
After Jim received his copy of the magazine, he went to his post office box, and there
were no orders. For the next two or three days, not a single order arrived. Jim
wondered again if his camouflage would sell. Had he been extremely foolish? Was his
idea really marketable after all?
A week went by but still no orders. By now, Jim was really worried. But on a Monday
afternoon, a week after the ad came out, Jim's mailbox was bulging with 50 orders
for Trebark®  camo waiting to be filled.
"I felt like one of the 49ers during the Gold Rush who'd spent his entire savings to go
to California, looked for months in the hills and mountains for gold and finally
stumbled on the right stream," Crumley said later.
Each day brought more and more orders. The orders never quit coming. Jim was so
successful he had to have postcards printed up to send to his customers explaining
that orders would be delayed because he had only a limited supply of camouflage.
Since Jim couldn't have enough fabric printed and the fabric cut and sewn into
hunting suits in time to get the suits to the customers who had ordered them before
hunting season was over, on the postcard he gave his customers an option. They
either could have their money back or receive their suits prior to the next hunting
season. No one asked for a refund.
Jim Crumley received 2500 orders for that first Trebark®  camouflage. He made a
profit and reordered fabric.

Jim's first year in business was 1980. In 1981, he gave up his position with the
school system, which was another risky move. He lost his retirement program, his
health hospital benefits and the security that comes with a steady job because of his
belief that the camouflage business would continue to grow.
Although Jim Crumley's faith in his product was rewarded, his problems weren't over
as his business grew. The first and most obvious problem was using the 100-percent
double-knit polyester fabric which had a shine to it. Hunters preferred a dull finish to
their camouflage clothing. By this time, polyester-double-knit was out of fashion.
Some hunters just wouldn't wear the Trebark®  clothing because of the fabric from
which it was made. In warm weather, this clothing was very hot. But too it was very
quiet, stretchable, non-shrinking, and non-fading because it was heat-transfer
printed. However, when a hunter walked through briars, he looked like a fuzz ball
when he came out the other side of the briar patch. Jim had to change his cloth to
cotton blend or 100-percent cotton. Originally Jim had thought once he proved that
consumers would buy his product by mail order, he then would go to the retail
stores, show them the orders he'd received and hopefully, convince them to stock his
product on their shelves. However, Trebark®  was such a dramatic success that
retailers began to call Jim and ask him if they could buy his products. Jim had
created such a demand for this new camouflage through the vacuum system of
marketing that this demand was driving the sales of the product. Now the demand to
buy the product was greater than his ability to supply. Jim had to develop more
innovative ways to make camouflage suits than he initially had considered.
In the beginning, Bristol Products, a company in Jim's hometown, had agreed to
make Jim's first suits because of his friendship with Chris Horner, son of the owner of
the company. But this company was primarily in the team sports business and had
agreed to cut and sew the first suits to try and help Jim get his business started.
Jim's second year of business required him to not only find a new textile
manufacturer to print his pattern on 100-percent cotton or cotton blends but also a
new cut-and-sew company that would take his fabric and sew it into camouflage
Often novice entrepreneurs assume that as soon as their companies are successful,
all their problems are over. However, Jim Crumley learned the more successful he
became, the more problems he created. Even though Crumley had made back his

initial investment, now he needed to borrow even more money to buy more cloth
and to have more suits sewn. Once again Jim Crumley was willing to bet his future
on Trebark®  camouflage.
He took the money he had received from his 12-year retirement program with the
school system and invested it all in his company. He also contacted some individual
investors from whom he borrowed $5,000 each at 16-percent interest, because he
was convinced he could make enough money in his second year to pay off his
investors and still make a profit.
Fortunately for Jim, his second year in business, 1981, saw 7500 orders arrive -- a
tripling of orders. Jim was able to pay off his investors, earn a profit and once again
buy fabric and make suits to prepare for the third year of sales. At every crossroads
where larger amounts of money had to be borrowed to build inventory in hopes the
next year's sales would be enough to pay off the loans and make a profit, Jim
demonstrated courage and bet the farm on his idea.
The third year Trebark®  was in business, Pat Snyder, a buyer at Cabela's decided to
test Trebark®  camouflage in the Cabela's catalog. Cabela's gave Jim a programmed
order. The first order of approximately $35,000 worth of two-piece suits and
coveralls was to be shipped to them by the end of June. The second order of $35,000
worth of camouflage was to be shipped at the end of July. About four orders of
$35,000 each were scheduled to be shipped at the end of each month during the
But when the Cabela's Hunting Catalog came out at the first of July, the demand was
so great that at the end of July the company called Jim and asked that all their
orders be shipped immediately. The orders for Trebark®  were far greater than
Cabela's had anticipated. Even in the first month, the company was backordering.
Jim knew he couldn't meet the overwhelming demand Cabela's was asking although
he was racing to produce suits. Trebark®  had created a nightmare for Cabela's.
"And I really believe they didn't think we knew what we were doing," Jim said.
However, Cabela's and everyone else in the outdoor industry saw that Trebark® 
camouflage pattern not only would sell but was in tremendous demand.

Cabela's was only one of Jim Crumley's problems. Sporting goods dealers were now
calling every day wanting suits made of Trebark®  camouflage. The young man who
had hoped he could sell 1000 suits three years earlier was now having to develop
new and better ways to produce more suits to meet a demand he couldn't supply.
At that point, Crumley went to the Graniteville Company, a South Carolina textile
manufacturer of woven fabric, to have more of his fabric printed. Jimmy Jones, of
Greensboro, North Carolina, a representative for Graniteville, saw the tremendous
demand for the Trebark®  camouflage and recognized the potential. He suggested
that Jim and Graniteville consider a licensing agreement which would allow other
clothing companies in the industry to buy the Trebark®  camouflage pattern on cloth
and cut and sew their own suits for resale. Then, more consumers could buy the
Trebark®  pattern from more companies. Jim and Graniteville would make a profit
from selling these companies Trebark®  fabric.
The Graniteville deal was sealed in 1985. That same year, Precision Shooting
Equipment (PSE) was licensed to use the Trebark®  camouflage pattern its on bows.
The Trebark®  pattern now became established nationwide.
Towards the end of that same year, Jim Legette, the president of Fabric Distributors
(now Intex) in Greensboro, North Carolina, entered into a licensing agreement to
produce knit fabrics in Trebark®  camouflage. By 1986, all the makers of hunting
garments were informed they could buy the Trebark®  pattern to make hunting
Although 1985 was a tremendously good year for Trebark®  camouflage, the year
also had a downside. That same year, Jim had to invest a large sum of money in a
lawsuit against a textile converter who was using the Trebark®  pattern without
paying a licensing fee. In the past, the patterns known as camouflage, which were
military camouflage, were considered to be in public domain. Anybody who wanted a
pattern could print and use a military pattern without having to pay a licensing fee or
without having to obtain the permission of the artist who had developed the pattern.
But when Jim first invented his pattern, one of his hunting buddies who was a judge
suggested that Jim hire an attorney and obtain both a copyright and a trademark to
protect his pattern from being utilized by anyone without his permission. Jim realized
if his pattern ever caught on, he would have competition. Jim went to the extra

expense of hiring Burns, Doane, Surecker and Mathis, an Alexandria, Virginia, law
firm specializing in patients and copyrights, to represent him in obtaining both
copyright and patent protection on the Trebark® pattern and trademark protection
on the name. When the textile converter started using Jim's pattern on fabric and
attempted to sell it, Jim decided he would fight for his copyright and his trademark.
No other camouflage company ever had taken a step like this. The court's decision
would establish a precedent for all camouflage patterns that followed Jim's original
design. Jim successfully proved there had been an infringement on his copyright and
that an artist's impression of bark could be copyrighted even though the other
company argued that bark could not be copyrighted. But a Federal court agreed with
Jim. Now no one can use a copyrighted camo pattern without the permission of the
individual who holds the copyright.
Today, Jim Crumley's Trebark® appears in several different original camouflage
patterns and is the most widely distributed camouflage pattern in the U.S. No longer
a cottage industry in the hills of Virginia and North Carolina, today the Trebark® 
pattern is sold nationwide and in Canada, Italy, Spain and most countries that allow
When Jim Crumley first developed the idea of a vertical pattern for camouflage and
broke the barrier which dictated that camouflage was made up of splotches and
patches and color, mostly greens and browns, and of horizontal lines instead of
vertical lines, he breathed new life into the hunting clothing market. Because of Jim's
vast vision, boldness, and courageous entrepreneurship, he opened the door for
many other camouflage manufacturers and garment makers and created a boom in
camouflage that's helped produce a wider variety of patterns and colors than anyone
ever would have believed in the 1980s.
But Jim Crumley has not finished his course. He's not someone who sits back on his
laurels and talks about the good ole days. When Jim's company first began, he
experienced the excitement that came with initiating a new idea. Today the
Trebark®  Company is continuing to grow and to bring new ideas, patterns and
research, into every area of the hunting industry where camouflage can and is used
to aid the hunter.

With all the success Jim Crumley has had, you may wonder when he will slow down
and take a well-deserved rest. However, you don't know the man if you think that.
Jim Crumley will leave the hunting industry when he ceases to have new ideas and
no longer is able to fight for market share and better products for the hunter. As an
outsider looking in and from having known Jim Crumley for many years, I bet Jim
will retire when he's looking up from a hole 6 feet in the ground.

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