Butte Company Spotlight: UPTOP Clothing Co.
Ask anyone: Butte business was built on the principles of hard work and perseverance. The copper miners who put Butte on the map in the early 20th century are a fine example of sheer grit, dominating one of the most dangerous industries of all time — if only to put food on their family’s table.
Though copper is no longer Butte’s leading industry, Butte residents seem to have passed their legendary work ethic down through the generations. We see a lot of it in the companies we work with at Montana Connections. Butte’s not working underground anymore, but we’re certainly still working; from manufacturing top-of-the-line industrial mixers to developing aerospace propellant to training military units in extreme wilderness conditions, modern-day Butte successes continue to ring in the ears of people across the country. It’s called Butte, America, after all.
And even the National Football League has taken notice. Around 2012, professional football players began showcasing the earliest t-shirt designs from Butte’s own UPTOP Clothing Co. But how did UPTOP get there?
UPTOP Clothing, Butte Branding
Opposite of most success stories, UPTOP Clothing Co. started with a celebration. While playing safety for the University of Montana, Butte native Colt Anderson and his teammates would celebrate each defensive victory by launching themselves and connecting in the air — a sort of enthusiastic, mid-air hip bump that pumped up players and audience members alike. Colt’s brother, Luke, took note of the excitement such a moment generated, dubbing the move an “up top.” The term caught on amongst Luke and Colt’s friends, and the two began casually creating t-shirts to wear to games … or whenever the crew wanted to remember that feeling of truly living in the moment.
The Anderson brothers and their friends developed a brand based on this feeling — even if they didn’t know it yet. After an all-conference career at the University of Montana, Colt worked his way to the Philadelphia Eagles. He played for the Eagles from 2010 to 2013. As it turns out, “up top” celebrations existed on the pro level, too, and Colt soon commissioned his brother to design and create UPTOP t-shirts for the team. From there, the simple rally cry turned into a prolific brand, a display of Butte entrepCreneurship and tenacity.
“You know,” Colt told ABC Fox Montana in 2014, “my teammates know me as the guy that has my own little clothing company.”
Montana Retail Company Continues to Grow
After establishing recognizable merchandising and messaging, UPTOP Clothing found a niche in the Montana market. Well acquainted with their target demographic, UPTOP quickly tapped into regional pride. Many of its products are Montana-inspired, featuring phrases like “Montana Til I Die” or “Montana Over Everything.” The company also began customizing their clothing for specific sports teams in the region, including high school teams often limited to only gear printed by the school. Though most sales come from a network of retailers within the region, UPTOP finds national success online as well; Philadelphia represented only their first taste of popularity on the east coast.
All in all, total company sales have doubled each year since its founding.
Striking Gold in the Mining City
UPTOP previously operated in both Missoula and Butte, but has since moved all operations back to the founders’ hometown. As CEO and lead designer, Luke now manages a large distribution center in downtown Butte — not just for the sake of coming home, but also for the unique Butte atmosphere.
The UPTOP website explains,
Butte represents more than a hometown for founders Luke and Colt Anderson, it represents a way of life. For those uninitiated, Butte represents self-reliance, hard work and a no BS type of attitude.
Sentimentality isn’t the only reason successful companies are settling in Butte, though it’s certainly a reason so many have stayed. Businesses in industries ranging from retail to distilling call Butte home because the hardworking community supports local business, because the scenery is beautiful and because the tax and cost advantages are numerous. What will your reason be?