From ski hires in Jindabyne and Japan, to a fine Merino clothing line, Matt Hampton has a real knack for seizing opportunities. Matt’s straight-shooting, red-hot approach to business and life has allowed him to dominate already saturated markets in the Australian ski industry. His brand Oyuki is enjoying solid growth thanks to the quality of its gloves, base layers, and accessories. However, even with an expanding family and portfolio, Matt somehow still manages to find the time to get on the hill and do what he loves.
CF: How did you get into skiing?
MH: I grew up in Cooma, NSW. My parents took me to Mt Selwyn a few times and then I joined the St Moritz Ski Club, which provided a bus from Cooma to Thredbo every weekend. It gave local kids a chance to ski the mountain with great coaches. Then when I was 14 I joined the Thredbo Freestyle team, we used to build kickers all over the hill and send it off anything that crossed our paths. A few of us used to drive up in Link Bohl’s Datson 1200 every Saturday and Sunday, skis loaded on the roof, going as fast as the thing would go. Good times.
What has kept you in the ski industry?
The bottom line is that I love skiing. I’ve also enjoyed building a career in an industry that a lot of people regard as being something you do before you get a “real job”. The ski industry is special because it gives you the chance to travel and have a lifestyle that most people would consider a holiday. And if you’re prepared to work hard and think outside the box, you can definitely make good money. Plus, you get to meet a lot of great humans also living the dream.
When and how did your passion for skiing turn into business?
I started working at Rhythm in Cooma for Mick Klima when I was 20. At the time I was very interested in how the back end of the business worked. This interest led to long discussions with Mick who became a mentor and we decided to start a shop in Jindabyne called Beats Snow Sports when I was 25. In 2005 I heard Niseko had great snow and a lack of quality ski shops, which sounded like a great opportunity to keep the business running during summer, and to also ski the best powder in the world with my friends. So we packed Beats into a container and shipped it over. That first winter in Niseko taught me a huge amount about risk versus reward. Basically, at some point in every business you have to decide if you want to have a real crack. We did, and so far it’s paid off.
When did you start Oyuki?
2009. After a few winters in Japan I saw an opportunity to create gear that was better suited to Niseko’s conditions compared to some of the products we were buying from our suppliers. We started with facemasks and balaclavas and today our real focus is our gloves and mitts.
Looking back, would you change anything?
Not with Oyuki. We are really proud of the brand, particularly the quality of our products, which are all made with the best materials possible. Our brand story is based on the fact that we are designed and tested in Niseko, which makes us unique and allows us to pay homage to a place that we are passionate about. For the retail stores I only wish we’d purchased more property in Niseko back when it was super cheap!
Do you still get to ski as much as you would like?
In Japan, yes. I go out whenever it’s good. Which is a lot. In Australia we haven’t skied as much as I’d like over the last couple of years because we have kids now and it’s not easy dragging them from Sydney, where we live, to the snow every time I feel like doing a few turns. But our two-year-old, Ashleigh, learned to ski in Japan this year so we will be heading to Thredbo and Perisher a lot more from now on. Yew!
We have really exciting things in the pipeline for the retail stores in Japan, including opening a new store in Niseko called Rhythm Summit, which will be backcountry focussed. For Oyuki we are super excited to have just signed two major international names, Maude Raymond and Pep Fujas. We are currently building signature mitts for both of them, which will be available soon. We also have some backcountry specific gloves in the works, which will be game changers to those who earn their turns. But most of all we’re looking forward to taking Oyuki global, and giving everyone access to their own piece of Niseko.
SWEAT EQUITY – OPTIMISM, INNOVATION AND AN OVERWHELMING FROTH TO JUST GO SKIING