Outlaw Xpeditions — or “OX” as founder Jason Hamasu affectionately refers to the off-road excursion co-op turned family adventure team — began with an idea formed around that great 21st-century American hearth, the flat-screen digital television.
“Back in late 2013 I was watching a Discovery Channel mini-series called Klondike that focused on a real-life adventurer who traveled to the Yukon Territory in Canada during the 1890s gold rush,” Hamasu recalled. “In the segment I was watching, they were using wagons to transport all their gear across this really rough terrain. At the time, some buddies of mine and I had been talking about doing a guys’ off-road trip to Moab, Utah, but watching that show gave me the inspiration for a new idea — retracing the Oregon Trail from Oregon City to Independence, Missouri, in four-wheel drive trucks, sticking to the original trail as much as possible. After over two years of intense planning, in 2016 a group of five of us, each with different skill sets, ended up doing the trip in two off-road vehicles — a Ford Ranger pickup and an old Toyota Landcruiser — that were basically modern-day covered wagons in 2016. They were both our transportation and our homes for 44 days, 35 of which were off paved roads, where we did our best to stick to the original Oregon Trail.”
Throughout the planning and execution of their trip, Jason and his crew painstakingly documented their story on video for what would become a 15-part web series hosted on their own YouTube channel.
“The series has 30 episodes in all,” Hamasu explained. “When one of our original crew members, who was video guy, dropped out, the rest of us all chipped in. For my part, I ended up doing the editing and production on it.”
It was during the planning phase of their adventure that Paul Stoute of Stoute Web Solutions stumbled upon the group’s channel while surfing the YouTube app. An off-road enthusiast himself, Stoute was intrigued by the group’s story. But when he clicked on the group’s URL, he found a website that failed to grab his attention or tell the group’s story in a cohesive way.
“The original site really needed some love,” Stoute emphasized. “Where their web series was really focused and captivating, the site was really disorganized and failed to tell a clear story. There were no graphics, the menu routed to empty pages, there was no theme or color palette, and there were a lot of copy errors. I could tell they were trying to use the site to generate sponsorships, but I doubted it was very effective. They were also selling swag items — t-shirts and patches — but there was no functional eCommerce solution.”
Inspired to do his part to help the team accomplish their goal, Stoute reached out and offered his to design, host and maintain an entirely new site for the OX team pro-bono.
“Paul reached out to us on social media — via Instagram, I think,” Hamasu recalled. “We had built our site using Wix, and while we did the best we could, we knew it was too cluttered and needed to be simplified. It was messy, like a digital bulletin board, and we were trying to have it do too many things. When he offered to help, I admitted I had no idea what I was doing,” Hamasu laughed. “At that point it wasn’t even something I was pointing people towards. It was sitting there, but I wasn’t driving people to it because it was embarrassing. We were only using it when it was absolutely necessary.”
Stoute met with Hamasu shortly after the two connected. During the consultation, the two discussed Outlaw Xpeditions’ strategic vision along with their current brand and how they wanted to enhance it. Together, they developed a strategy to use the new site to increase potential sponsorships.
“One of our team members, Cauxby, and I sat down sat down with Paul shortly after he reached out,” Hamusu said. “We knew that when it comes to sponsorships, social media and word of mouth are great, but a good website is like a modern business card. We told him our goal was to be able to send potential sponsors to one place where they could find out everything about us and see everything we were doing, somewhere structured and organized that proved that we were serious. He was very consultative — he asked us a lot of questions to help him figure out what we were looking for and then made great suggestions. We knew we wanted to keep the site clean, simple and professional, and we wanted an online store that functioned well. He asked us for examples, so we showed him some other sites we liked to give him an idea of the general look and feel we wanted to go for.
Stoute proposed using the site to highlight their video series and building out a professional eCommerce platform they could manage on their end. He recommended a new site built with WordPress and WooCommerce — the premiere eCommerce plugin for WordPress.
“WooCommerce provides a good, solid base for online stores,” Stoute explained. “And it’s infinitely expandable. You can add plugins to do everything from selling digital downloads and adding videos to displaying products in 3D. It also offers simple payment management and inventory control.”
Once the consultation was finished, Stoute got to work comping up a new page to show Hamasu and his team.
“Paul had a preliminary layout in a week or two,” he recalled “and the consultation went so well that the design was pretty much spot on. The only changes we asked for had to do with the order of the pages.”
Once the new site went live, the impact was nearly immediate.
“Most of the sponsorships we received came after the new website,” Hamasu recounted. “We started driving people to it instead of away from it. We took what we were doing really seriously, and the new site gave us more of a polished look, so sponsors took us seriously as well. It’s a lot for them to risk, getting behind a trip that was two years out, but seeing something so professional put their mind at ease.”
The new eCommerce platform was also a boon for OX, as they began to get many more swag orders and were able to manage them easily.
“The new setup made it way easier for us to sell our product,” Hamasu emphasized. “Before the new site, we were advertising our shirts and patches on social media and directing people to our PayPal account. With the new site, we can just say, ‘Whatever you guys want, go here.’ Everything is automated; all we need to do is make sure we have the correct customer information. It makes managing our inventory easy as well — we don’t have to use different programs for different things. It’s pretty easy to miss an order when they’re coming from more than one place; the WooCommerce plugin makes it much easier for a couple of off-road dudes to manage.”
Once the Oregon Trail excursion was successfully completed, Hamasu’s mind began to wander to his next adventure. As the original team slowly began to scatter, moving on to pursue their own interests, Hamasu found himself musing on the passion for travel he shared with his wife Francesca and considering undertaking an epic adventure with their young family.
“When the guys and I started planning the Oregon Trail trip, it was just the two of us,” Hamasu recounted. “By the time we hit the road over two years later, our daughter Marley Jean had been born and Francesca was pregnant with our son Jaxon. When I got back and started wondering what to do with the OX brand I thought about how Francesca and I had talked about doing a big family trip before kids entered school full time. Things just kind of evolved until finally, OX became what it is today — a family adventure team. Our original plan was to do a trip across South America, but we go to thinking about how much we loved the trip to Thailand we’d taken before the kids were born and decided to do our adventure through Southeast Asia. Our truck is almost finished, and a company in Bend, Oregon, is in the process of building a trailer. We’ve been documenting all of our preparations in a web series on our YouTube channel. Our plan is to leave in November, travel for six months, and document the whole trip for another web series.”
As Hamasu and his family look forward to their epic Southeast Asia adventure, he feels confident that the OX website created, hosted, and maintained by Stoute Web Solutions will continue to tell their story in a way that elicits strong support from fans and sponsors.