While barreling through the streets of Maple Grove on his bike as a child, Peter Dering daydreamed of designing and inventing.
The Maple Grove Senior High alumnus very distinctively remembers hoping to follow in the footsteps of his idol, Thomas Edison. “I always wanted to be inventor. This notion of being an inventor was always on my mind,” Dering says. Instead of following that passion through college, Dering decided to major in civil engineering at the University of Wisconsin—Madison and stashed the dreams of becoming an inventor in the back of his mind for a time.
However, he had no idea that his childhood dream would become reality in just a few short years—and all thanks to one of his other creative passions—photography. His love for photography began shortly after graduating from high school. “My graduation gift from Maple Grove Senior High back in 2001 was a digital camera. And that very much sparked my interest in photography,” Dering explains. “And the cameras have changed, but the passion remained there.”
At age 25, Dering decided to take a four-month leave of absence from work to travel; exploring parts of Southeast Asia and India with a backpack strapped to his back and a camera in his hand. While taking in the beautiful sights and capturing memories through photos, Dering couldn’t help but notice a clear problem. “When the camera was in the backpack, you don’t use it. And when the camera is not in the backpack, it’s around your neck, and it’s a total pain the butt,” Dering explains. Being out on the road and having that time to contemplate and think gave Dering the perfect opportunity to find a solution to that problem.
After quitting his job and putting all of his time and energy into creating something he felt passionate about, 10 months later, Dering was staring at a finished version of what he now calls Capture—a metal clip that allows you to carry your camera on a backpack strap, belt or bag. Wanting to grow his product, he started a Kickstarter for the project in May 2011, and it caught the eye of the public.
Growing to be the second most funded product on Kickstarter at the time, it allowed Dering to not only continue to produce Capture, but it gave him the opportunity to begin the company he had been dreaming about creating for a long time—Peak Design. After founding Peak Design, he quickly began hiring a team of people to help him carry out his vision. “We’ve doubled in size roughly every year for the past eight years. And so now, we have about 35 people,” Dering says.
Along with employees, Peak Design grew in products, too. The San Francisco-based company added even more for its customers to enjoy. “Clips led to straps, straps led to camera bags, camera bags led to bags for everybody,” Dering explains. It also launched a travel line on July 23, which includes a handful of unique bags.
Something that makes Peak Design so unique is that it continues to use Kickstarter to help fund products, launching a Kickstarter every calendar year. “That’s a trend that we will continue to stay on this year and certainly next year. We have no intention of ceasing that trend,” Dering says.
Along with the great products that it provides, Peak Design also offers a lot to the community of San Francisco. Staff members wanted to offer a space for other creatives like themselves to gather together and work, so they opened their flagship store in Hayes Valley, which Dering compares to Uptown in Minneapolis. “It’s just become a community hub for our network of photographers and creatives,” he says. “It gives recreational outlets, educational outlets. It’s just a way of connecting with our customers in a much greater depth than just our products.” Offering open studio times is just one thing that they provide, also offering classes like Photography 101: Gear and Techniques for Beginners and hosting events to help ease minds like Yoga for Photographers.
Juggling different aspects of the company is what Dering loves the most—whether he’s writing, shooting and directing a video that will go on the Kickstarter page or working with overseas vendors in Vietnam and China, Dering is enjoying it all. “It’s an extraordinary variety of types of work—both from a creative aspect and from a more human centered aspect,” he says.
Dering is also passionate about not leaving a carbon footprint behind. He gives one percent of all sales to environmental nonprofits, in hopes that it will help offset the waste that the company creates. “I think that every company … certainly ones that are in the business of making things, need to figure out how to do so sustainably,” he says.
While San Francisco has been where he has built his life and company, Dering says that Minnesota will always be his home. “My folks are still in Plymouth,” he says. “I get back pretty frequently. My brother lives in Minneapolis, and he’s got two kids.” Other than his family, Dering misses the changing of seasons and the lake culture that Minnesota provides. His fondest memory of growing up in the suburbs include the ability to have so much freedom as a child. “The best memory that I have is riding my bike everywhere,” he says.
Dering travels frequently for work—both nationally and internationally—and has found that his home state has much more of an impact than most people think. “I think it’s one thing, perhaps that, people in Maple Grove might not realize as much is that the brand of Minnesota is extraordinarily strong throughout the nation,” Dering says. “It’s a really cool place, and it’s somewhere that I’m really proud to be from.”
Peak Design products are available online at peakdesign.com and around the Twin Cities at Best Buy, National Camera Exchange and REI.