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Community Spotlight: Caitlin of Dank Banana Bread

Community member Caitlin shares her passion for banana bread, baking, and climbs.

caitlin
How long have you climbed? 
I started climbing in 2011. Caleb taught me how to lead climb at BKB!
Pro tip: take his lead class course, you’ll thank me later 😉
How long have you baked? 
My background is clothing design. I went to Pratt Institute for fashion and worked as a designer for the last 10 years. I’ve worked in every part of the industry – sewing at a factory, selling vintage clothes, assisting high-end designers, designing and making puppet clothes, teaching sewing lessons, working in corporate fashion. This is my first non-fashion related venture, but I’ve been baking banana bread for years.
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How has each passion (climbing, baking) affected each other? 
Climbing and baking are directly related for me – the only reason why this company exists is because I would bake banana bread to bring on climbing weekends. I’d bribe my friends with gas money and banana bread in exchange for a ride to the Gunks :)
My friends loved it and some of them thought I should sell it. That seemed like an insane idea but it planted a seed in my brain that started growing. Next thing you know, Dank was born.
 
Having the past experience of learning how to climb also prepped me mentally for the challenge of learning to become a baker and a business owner. Everything is scary when you don’t know how to do it. But if you just give it a shot and learn from your mistakes, next thing you know you actually get good at it. Practice and keeping your mind open to possibilities will take you anywhere you want.
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How did you come up with the brand name ‘dank’?
Dank started as a joke between my sister and I. We live together in a Bed Stuy brownstone and my downstairs neighbors hang out in the hallway and smoke weed all day. We’d walk in the house, sniff the air and say “ooh, dank”.
I had a completely different name in mind when I was thinking about selling the banana bread – different name, different logo, different brand image. One night, Dank popped into my head and it was all over. That name is everything. It’s the whole vibe of the brand – irreverent, fun, not taking itself too seriously. The imagery associated with the name just flowed out of me, it was like I was just channeling it from an outside source. Ultimately I wanted a job where I could make the calls that made sense to me and not feel censored. This seemed like the best way to do that.
When did you know how much you loved baking? 
Not until I started the company, ha! I never really thought about it as something I loved doing, but I do. I bake at night at a kitchen in Bushwick. It’s really peaceful being there and focusing on making the best product I can. I’m always trying to bake it better than the last time, always trying to improve it. I’ve learned so much by starting this company, and I’m still learning new things every day. I guess that is the part I like the best.
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When did you know how much you loved climbing? 

Oh, I knew that pretty much the first time I tried it. In high school and college I was a competitive cross country runner. I also raced XC skiing in high school. Sports were a huge part of my development – I like feeling strong and challenging myself. It also taught me a lot about self-discipline. At the time I started climbing, I hadn’t done anything athletic beyond commuting on bike for years. I had been focused on my career after graduating college, but after about 5 years I was in a major rut. Everything felt stagnant – my relationship, my job, my whole life.

 It was my ex’s idea to start climbing and we joined BKB and started getting guided outside (by Paul Curran of Vertical Gains – he’s the best!).

It was like flipping a switch – all of a sudden I was accessing a part of myself I had forgotten existed. I loved going outside, I loved learning about the gear, the knots, building anchors…ok, that part was really fucking scary at first but SO empowering when I looked back and realized how much I’d learned. Climbing has so many parallels to everyday life and it made me understand that I’m not happy unless I’m trying new things and challenging myself.

 The climbing community is incredible too. I’ve never met such a diverse group of people who all bond over a shared love. The sport attracts the type of person that I like – driven, athletic, interesting people who still like to party and have a good time.

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