Ski Startup Biz Questions!
December 6, 2009
I have a ton of respect for the members of this board and was wondering if you guys had some information I could use to my advantage. I am trying to start my own ski manufacturing company. I am trying to get into it rather quickly so that the 2010-2011 season will be my first year of production. I have been talking to a lot of people online about how to go about this process. It seems to me that I am going to have to get a manufacturer to build them for me as I do not have the time to press them myself. I have been searching for a manufacturer either in Austria or Switzerland. Anywhere but China. I would love to make them in the good ole USA, but my quest has left me with limited information. Does anyone know of a good manufacturing company that won't let me down with bad edges or poor P-Tex etc.? These would be sold primarily on the east coast for now as I am local to Maryland and DC. I am trying to create some new Jib skis and some good all mountain/powder skis. Custom graphics a plenty. Trying to start up a company that will not sell out like K2 has done by sending manufacturing to China. Plus I want to keep it real and sell only to local ski shops, no big box stores.
It has also been my experience talking to several ski shop owners that some of the big manufacturers have been setting the standard sale prices for local ski shops. I noticed that they are allowing big box stores like Sports Authority and Dicks Sporting Goods, etc. to buy mass amounts of skis and sell them at a discounted rate. A rate that they will not let the ski shop owners sell them for. This is hurting local ski shops and is only doing one good thing. Mass marketing the product and promoting ease of purchase to the customer. This is promoting the sport for a short period of time while the big manufacturers are keeping up with their quota, but it is only selling skis. This is not really pushing the sport forward in most cases simply because the quality of information you get from a big box store is not as good as what you will get from a ski shop. Maybe not all ski shops. Most of the shops I frequent have knowledgeable staff members and are happy to put you in a ski that fits you and your sliding style and ability the best. As a manufacturer I would like to set prices that are realistic and also practical. I would like for everyone to make money on the deal, and I would like to save the buyer some loot as well. This seems like a utopian idea, but I think it is a possibility. I would be doing this to grow the sport and to give back to the ski community as a whole, not to make tons of cash and drive a Lambo. I really enjoy skiing and have some great ideas that I think I could put in to use in my final ski designs. I just need to get them built now. My first prototype will be finished in 2 months and I hope to start searching for my liability insurance this coming winter as well. I hope to hear some of your thoughts on my venture as well. Any inside information given would be greatly appreciated, and I look forward to hearing what you guys and gals have to say. Pros and cons.
Hi Jamie, Your "hook" is the uniqueness of a custom ski, dimensions, graphics. I'd think you would have a hard time doing this with a "good Manufacturer". Maybe you partner with someone who is already pressing custom skis? This guy krp
has discussed his attempts and the challenges over on epic. This is one thread, I remember there being more.
Good Luck have fun n'at.
It has also been my experience talking to several ski shop owners that some of the big manufacturers have been setting the standard sale prices for local ski shops. I noticed that they are allowing big box stores like Sports Authority and Dicks Sporting Goods, etc. to buy mass amounts of skis and sell them at a discounted rate.
Usually those are -far- lower in the manufacturer's line than the bulk of the stuff sold in ski shops. Often they are re-badged or re-numbered 'private' models.
A rate that they will not let the ski shop owners sell them for. This is hurting local ski shops
Because the manufacturers
are not advertising the product in such a way as to create a clear distinguishment between the stuff in discount stores and the stuff in shops.
As a manufacturer, you would have to do this.
Mass marketing the product and promoting ease of purchase to the customer.
To the *beginner* customer.
This is not really pushing the sport forward in most cases
simply because the quality of information you get from a big box store is not as good as what you will get from a ski shop.
but I have far bigger reasons than ^this^ one.
I have been searching for a manufacturer either in Austria or Switzerland.
How about the Czech republic?
Talk to Sporten or Lusti:www.sporten.czwww.lusti.cz
They build *gobs* of skis on contract to other mfgs
Let me know if you need a Czech translator...
I admire the altruistic side of Jamie, but this sounds like a poor guy going to Atlantic City. Don't bet more than you can afford to lose.
Is Bluehouse Skis a recent example of this sort of thing?http://www.bluehouseskis.com/blog
Sort of. BH is on a direct sell-to-consumer business model, and they source their stuff in China.
Jamie wants to sell to ski shops. That's OK, except I'm not really satisfied that the -type- of ski he wants to sell (park) to ski shops is the type of ski a ski shop's advice and backing is suited for.
krp's skis (Pilote Custom) are -extremely well- suited for ski shop sales and advice. Unfortunately, he has yet to be able to take advantage of that.
First, I respect the interest in starting something up. I started my own business up four years ago and have never looked back!
Needless to say, this business, like others that would be 'cool' to enter (as opposed to non-cool, like me in insurance), can be very tricky and has a plenty of tombstones planted before it. You've got to differentiate to survive. Most importantly, and without much thought until this thread, I think you'd have to go direct to the consumer - skip the ski shop.
They're dying - as seen locally. Who of us looks ahead to this time of year to go to the ski shop and see all the latest skis for the first time and ask the kid who likely snowboards anyway about which is which? We don't. We go online. We read reviews on epic and elsewhere. Even if we go to the shop, we eagerly head home to see how much cheaper we can order it online. (I know this isn't everyone, so please don't flame this too much!)
I think you'd have to develop a good guerilla marketing campaign. I'm surprised how little open sponsorship there is at Park & Pipes in our area, and likely throughout PA, NY, WV and regional hills. Be seen on the local hill. Sponsor a Friday night session, have some skis to demo and be eye candy. Give them the web link. Don't tell them to go to a shop possibly 70 miles from their house to find out if they have the desired graphics and size in stock.
If anything, from my read of mags like Freeskier, there are plenty of brands out there that I've never heard of (ie they're not the Dynastar, Atomic, K2s of the world). So it seems to me it's an open field of opportunity, but find out how to be different.
...my two bits!
I don't think you're wrong, but direct-to-consumer is going to be a lot more risky to Jaime than ski shop sales.
Thanks for all the good info guys. I really appreciate the input on all of this. For the most part I have really noticed that there are a lot of ski companies out there pressing their own skis. In fact I have a set of Surface Live Life 2's coming my way on Monday, just to check out the competition. I know about Bluehouse and they had a stigma from putting out product with horrible edges, so I know to look out for how they are manufactured and for quality control measures. The hardest thing is getting someone to do them for me, checking and field testing my prototype, and to make sure that when I produce them that they do what they say they are going to do. Then the next hurdle is the insurance, the incorporating or LLC., and then off to hustle these to the ski shops.
I am on board with sponsoring local riders, and to promote my company with trips and rail jams etc. at all of the local mountains. I live and breathe skiing, and I have been waiting all spring and summer for the fist flake to kiss the ground! I am flying out to SLC this winter to meet up with the guys from Nimbus and I have already been in talks with Benchetler to try out my ski prototype and he is on board as long as he gets to keep it for himself if it rips. I am pushing this as far as it will take me. I am not trying to name drop, but I am on point with making this thing happen. I am not the poor guy in Atlantic City either, as I have a decent amount of money to play with for a while. I just want to watch it grow and not float away in the ashes! LOL. I really do thank you guys for all of the help you have given me here. Everyones information was great. PS I will let you know if I need a Czech translator. I think it will be great to have a ski made in the east for us east coast guys.
Jamie.. props for sticking your neck out there and going for it; i really do wish you the best of luck!
I would definitely agree about the major advantages of sponsoring even small scale events at local mnts or paying (probably a nominal fee) to have your name around the park/on jibs at a few resorts. If I had to guess that would be the quickest method of start up.
Random question, what price range is your goal for your skis? That will make a major difference for whom your target audience may be and the size of the population interested in your skis.
Either Powder or Skiing did a story on this last year featuring Liberty (skis, not the area), IIRC. I can't remember all the details but I'm fairly certain they actually found a manufacturer in China and use bamboo as their core. The author of the article seemed to like the skis.
One thing I would do is to video as much of the process as you can and then edit it down; create a "Birth of a Ski" type of video that could be used for promo, youtube, Powder, etc.
Right on guys. I am going to actually make a video showing me making the ski press all the way to the birth of the ski. Should be rocking with an Australian Urban Hip Hop soundtrack for the kids!
I would like to price the skis around 500 or so. Not too much as I am in it for the start up and success but not for the money right now. Maybe later though. I just have to find out what the costs are and go from there. I really wanna do this to promote the sport and make a living. I don't need the mansion and the heli pad stuff, although some playboy bunnies in the tight Lycra Ski suits would be nice.
although some playboy bunnies in the tight Lycra Ski suits would be nice.
If you can gurantee this I'll be your number 1 investor...
You should contact me asap. I was involved with a start up from it's infancy and had some great successes. Long story short, I was in business with the wrong guy. We manufactured skis here in the good old USA, first in Denver, then in California. I will leave the name of the company a mystery for now.
I commend you for your desire to start a socially responsible company and am glad to hear that you are not in it for the money. If you are doing this for the love of the sport and to make great skis....you will need lots of money. That is not to say there is not maney to be made, there is, but the niche market has become more and more competitive.
Not sure how you can get in touch. I am a little uneasy about posting my email. I am new to this site and not sure if I can send an invitation with contact information. Any ideas? A good friend of mine who I have known since I was 13 told me he saw your posting and I in turn searched for it.
Welcome to DCSki! You can go to "My Stuff" and post a private email for Jamie.
Just an update. Mantis Skis has been born in Frederick, MD. Look for me on some prototypes this season around Whitetail, Liberty, Roundtop, Wisp, 7 Springs, but never, never ever ever Massanuthin! LOL.
"Czar of Gnar" Dimensions 176cm 118/104/114. 100% Bamboo wood core w/ ABS sidewalls. Custom topsheets.
Just finishing up the build on the heated press with PID Controller. Should have these Powder Hounds done by Christmas.
Look for me on Facebook to keep up with the progress. I have a bunch of pictures of core profiling. press building, and also my company logo's. I would love the feedback from the DcSki community!