Stacey Pierce and Jules Weldon with The Wanderr convertible outdoor cart
WRITTEN BY Melissa Delaney
Having raised six children, Paul and Jerie Weldon well understood the challenge of hauling gear. Twenty-four years ago, while watching a mother of three wrangle her stuff after a day at the beach, they thought there must be a better way. “She was miserable,” explains their daughter Jules. “My parents went up and napkin-sketched out this lounger. If you flipped it up, it became like a dolly.”
Paul patented their idea and tried to market it, but after several starts and stops, he shelved the cart. Fast-forward to 2010: Jules had been working as a consultant for PricewaterhouseCoopers when she awoke in the middle of the night thinking about her dad’s beach cart invention. “I called him at 8:30 that morning and said, ‘Hey, Dad, what do you think about me trying to take your product to market?’” Weldon recalls. “He started crying. It was a dream come true.”
Paul assigned the patent to Jules, and she partnered with a manufacturing company, to which she signed over majority ownership. “It was great for the first six months, and then it turned out to not be great,” she recalls. “Our values didn’t align.”
After two years, she walked away from the company she created and took a job slinging shrimp for Captain Wayne Magwood on Shem Creek. “It’s what my soul needed to heal,” she recalls. After nine months, she started a career coaching firm with her partner and fellow entrepreneur, Stacey Pierce. Yet they kept returning to Weldon’s idea of transforming her dad’s product. “We said, ‘What if we try it again? Third time’s a charm,’” Pierce notes.
Local crabber Tia Clark, of the popular Airbnb experience Casual Crabbing with Tia, and The Wanderr, which converts to a lounger, high chair, low chair, and hauler for gear such as coolers and baskets.
They found a firm in Michigan that helped them create a design for The Wanderr—an outdoor cart that converts to a lounger, high chair, low chair, and hauler for kayaks, surfboards, and other gear—and they incorporated OME Gear (Ocean+Mountain=Earth) in April 2018—months before their August wedding—successfully funding the product on Kickstarter. “And then COVID happened,” says Pierce. Their manufacturer shifted to making personal protective equipment, and they couldn’t get funding during the pandemic.
The couple had maxed out credit cards, closed out 401(k)s, and drained bank accounts, and by December 2020, they were out of options. “Jules looked at me and—I’ll never forget this—she goes, ‘How much do you believe in this?’” Pierce recalls. “I said, ‘100 percent. I believe in it with my whole heart.’ And she said, ‘We need to sell the house.’”
Pierce and Weldon sold their Mount Pleasant home and used the equity to pay their new manufacturer, who had been storing their carts at a Utah warehouse until they could pay their debt. They borrowed money with interest until their house closed. “It was a shit show,” Weldon says. “But we ended up doing it.”
Since selling their house in 2021, they’ve lived out of an RV they call “Olive,” traveling to expos, trade shows, and festivals across the country. “Never in the history of my 50 years did I say, ‘I want to live in an RV,’” Pierce deadpans. While on the road, traffic on their website has doubled because Olive is wrapped in their branding, including QR codes. “The last 17 months have been, hands down, the hardest of our lives,” Weldon says. “It’s literally been the lowest of lows, but then the highest of highs.”
While on the road, Weldon and Pierce park their RV, “Olive,” at friends’ houses, campgrounds, and unique places such as wineries through an RV membership program called Harvest Hosts.
Among those highs was pitching and winning the TV show America’s Big Deal in October 2021. All three judges—the show’s executive producer and Miracle Mop inventor Joy Mangano, as well as senior leaders from Macy’s and Lowe’s—offered them deals. They chose Mangano, who was representing QVC/HSN. They also came in second at DIG SOUTH’s Wild Pitch 2022 in Charleston. “That was huge for us,” Pierce says, about getting recognition as female entrepreneurs in the outdoor gear space, a field dominated by men.
The duo is slated to give a TEDx Talk in Wilmington, Delaware, this spring and has a lineup of products, including an outdoor wheelchair, in the works. They also plan to use their lessons learned and proceeds from OME Gear to invest in other women-owned businesses so their roads won’t be as rocky, Weldon says.
Pierce and Weldon credit much of their newfound success to the “rock-star employees” who have been with them from the beginning. They also have an army of entrepreneurs cheering them on thanks to their podcast, GSD (Get Shit Done) Entrepreneur. “We’ve built an incredible community in Charleston,” Weldon says. “And Charleston’s home. We’ll be back.”
Cool Cart: See how The Wanderr transforms
Images courtesy of OME Gear