Kennewick couple hope Kickstarter gives business a kick in the pants

Loretto J. Hulse, Tri-City HeraldJanuary 16, 2014 

smooth strides jeans riding horses horse pants inseam

Désirée Johnson, top, and her husband Eric own Smooth Stride, which makes comfortable riding jeans featuring stretch denim and no inseam. She's seen here with professional barrel racer Kelli Barichello and Barichello's horse Dats A Frenchman. Barichello is one of the models for Smooth Stride and is wearing full-seat riding jeans. They're launching a Kickstarter campaign to help get the business off the ground.

KAI-HUEI YAU — Tri-City Herald Buy Photo

A Kennewick couple are hoping to give their start-up business a kick in the pants via a crowd-funding Internet campaign on Kickstarter.

Desiree and Eric Johnson are searching for investors in their new venture, Smooth Stride, which will make jeans for women specially designed for horseback riding.

They plan to post their proposal on the Kickstarter website in hopes that investors worldwide pledge their dollars. The money isn't collected until the entrepreneurs' financial goal is met.

"It's called crowd-funding and is a concept that's been around for ages. We're just doing it on the Internet now. Mozart, Beethoven, Twain and other artists funded their works not just through wealthy patrons but by soliciting money from ordinary people, often called subscribers," Eric Johnson said.

The jeans they want to sell are designed to eliminate the heavy inseam that usually runs up the leg of standard jeans. Instead, a soft microfiber fabric replaces the denim across the entire seat and down the inside of each leg in one style. The seams where the denim meets the microfiber are shifted to either side of the leg so the seams won't rub when the rider is in the saddle.

A second style features knee patches of the microfiber while still eliminating the heavy inseams.

A third style, called Just Jeans, is made entirely of stretch denim, still with no inseams.

The Johnsons' riding pants haven't been made yet, which is why they're turning to Kickstarter. They need $30,000 in seed money to buy the fabrics, thread and buttons and to pay for the sewing, packaging and shipping. In return, investors get premiums ranging from a coffee cup with the "Kick in the Pants" logo, to a two-day riding clinic with a nationally known instructor.

Desiree Johnson is a professional riding instructor and competitor.

"I still hold the record as the youngest woman on the U.S. Eventing Team which competed in the World Championships in 1978. I was 18 then," she said.

When you spend hours in the saddle, the thick inseams on many jeans can chafe thighs and knees and the big knot where the seams come together in the crotch hits right at the pubic bone, she said.

"Not comfortable at all," she said.

That's why Desiree Johnson was constantly changing between English riding britches -- comfortable for riding -- and her jeans to work around the barn and run errands.

"I needed a dual purpose pant and thought, 'I can't be the only one.' I began scouring the Internet," she said.

That's when the Johnsons discovered some old magazine articles about Smooth Stride jeans.

"They had been invented by a woman in Boise who then sold the company. The new owners moved production overseas," said Eric Johnson. "They didn't know anything about the clothing business and were floundering, about to close down."

The Johnsons bought the business and began researching the market.

The learned that 90 percent of the more than 20 million amateur horseback riders in the U.S. are women whose average age is 35 or older, Desiree Johnson said.

"I said, 'Honey, that's our target.' We're not after the teenage girl. We're after her mom," Desiree Johnson said.

The Johnsons had the jeans redesigned to improve the fit, even adding a special cell phone pocket. They found sewing contractors in the U.S. to make them and sources for the fabrics.

You'll pay more for their jeans. They range from $115 to $145.

"You have to look at them as a piece of equipment. Ladies going on horseback riding vacations in the middle of nowhere don't want to develop a sore. Same with women who compete in endurance riding or rodeos," Desiree Johnson said.

Smooth Stride jeans are available for pre-order on their website, www.smoothstride.com.

A limited number of jeans produced by the previous owners of the company also are available.

The Johnsons plan to offer them for sale at horse shows, rodeos and other riding events.

Check them out by searching for Smooth Stride on Kickstarter.com and Facebook. Or go to www.smoothstride.com.

Tri-City Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service