In our family lexicon, “Ortlieb” is a verb. Used mostly in the past tense, it is what happens to fruit (usually a banana) after being transported (and forgotten for a period of time). Various Ortlieb bags have been in constant use since their arrival in our household in the late 90’s. While Ortlieb bags are waterproof and virtually indestructible, bananas are not. Hence, “That banana (or apple or pear) has been Ortliebed.”
I had the opportunity to catch up with Ortlieb USA’s customer service rep, Hillary Washburn, to learn more about the company and it’s premium quality German-made products. Among Hillary’s many duties, she assists retailers with their orders, talks to Ortlieb users/fans, plans tradeshows, organizes events, and helps with marketing.
PBE What did you do before coming to work for Ortlieb?
HW I met my, now, friends and coworkers at Ortlieb while I was working at a bike shop in Issaquah, WA. I was the Retail Sales Manager/Buyer and brought Ortlieb to the store. I actually left the shop to go work in the tech industry. After about 6 months I saw an email from Paul, at Ortlieb, asking if I “knew” anyone that might be interested in a job opening. I was ready to get back in the cycling and outdoor industry. I have loved that decision every day!
PBE How long have you been with the company?
HW 2 years
PBE Can you give me some background/history on Ortlieb- (how the founders/creators came to choose this particular niche of the cycling industry)?
HW Hartmut Ortlieb is a creative, brilliant man. When he was younger he was on bike tour and it was pouring rain. He was super distraught when he would get to camp for the night and all his stuff would be soaked. While riding, he noticed the long-haul trucks all had this tarp fabric that kept their loads dry. Thus was born the idea of the first set of Ortlieb bags. Hartmut made the first set of panniers with his mother’s sewing machine out of tarpaulin. After this first model, he realized that the bags were still not truly waterproof because of the holes made from the sewing machine. Because of this, our bags are made through radio frequency welding to bond fabrics and create completely waterproof/dustproof seams. Our panniers are our legacy products and we are proud to have grown our offerings to so much more.
PBE What’s your favorite part of your job?
HW There are so many things, but what they all boil down to are the people I work with. Each one of them offers a lot to the company and to an awesome work environment.
PBE What’s your favorite ride?
HW Each summer my husband and I do at least one bike tour around the three, main San Juan Islands. Each is a magical place and some of my favorite rides and memories are from those islands.