The World’s Finest Powder Skis, Precision Crafted in the USA
I watched Casey create his ski building operation in the basement of his home in Silver Plume, Colorado. His passion for mountains, snow and skiing is contagious! Casey's approach to business is mindful, creative, determined, patient and sustainable - a beautiful template for wildpreneurs.
Q: What was your inspiration to get Powder Factory Skis going?
My inspiration to get powder factory skis going was to create a job for myself in my home state of Colorado, where I could work in an environmentally conscious studio, and have complete creative control over the skis I was designing and building.
Q: How long did you think about starting your business before you actually did it? What was the tipping point?
I had been thinking of starting my business for about 8 years, since I first learned to build skis, before I made committed to starting my own shop. After spending a few years designing a compact, state of the art ski factory as well as designing all the custom manufacturing equipment necessary to build skis, I was finally ready to set up shop. The tipping point for me was a few year later when I finally found a location and workshop where I could actualize my vision on the limited budget I was working with. It took over a year from securing a location high in the mountain so Colorado, until my studio was complete, and the first pair of skis were built.
Q: Is this work your passion? If so, when did your passion begin or originate?
Powder Factory Skis allows me to create as an artist and designer, as well as spend my life in the mountains as a dedicated skier. My passion for skiing began as young kid growing up in Colorado, and has given me a direction in life ever since.
As an artist, where do you find creative inspiration for your designs? I find inspiration for my designs in the environment that surrounds me, and the experiences that take place while skiing and exploring the backcountry.
Q: Have you made any personal sacrifices to get your business started? Any creative living situations? Any funny examples of living on a shoestring budget?
The first year that I spent building skis Silverton, CO, I moved 7 different times over the course of the year. I lived in everything from wood hearted miners cabins, to a doublewide trailer heated by coal, to a ski-in-ski-out condo, to a 17’ retro camper parked in a secret location by the side of the river. Another huge sacrifice that I’ve made over starting a business is sleep. Taking on other jobs during the day, and starting a business with the remaining time in the evening and nights doesn’t allow for much time to sleep.
Q: What is the biggest obstacle you’ve encountered as you’ve grown your business?
The biggest obstacle that I’ve encountered as I’ve grown my company is the lack of startup capital. The fixed cost of insurance alone has been a major hurtle to overcome. Our shoestring budget is still the main limiting factory in our companies growth.
Q: Have you had to adapt your business over the years? Have your original business plan/goals evolved with time?
My business plans and goals continue to evolve, as the industry demands change and the technology progresses. The ski design world is rapidly changing, and the market demand changes in our products on a yearly basis. Manufacturing equipment that was not available for small scale workshops is now available and getting cheaper and more sophisticated on a regular basis. By implementing new technology and manufacturing equipment, we have recently implement processes that were not available in-house upon our foundation.
Q: Do you strive to grow and expand your business down the road? Or are you satisfied with where your business is at now?
I would like to grown my business to a larger, more sustainable scale. By operating on a small scale, we have the ability to maintain the highest quality in our skis, but do not have access to materials, etc. in large enough quantity to have an efficient markup. Our current scale only allows for direct sales only, and we are working towards growing the brand to a scale where we can have outside retail vendors.
Q: What is the best piece of advice you'd give to someone looking to start their own unique business?
Get a job in a similar business to gain some experience first, then you can learn from others success and mistakes. The inevitable mistakes that come with any startup can be an insurmountable hurdle if your have limited budget. Once you’ve spent some time doing what working in a similar field, you will know if starting a business is really something you want to do.
Q: What do you wish you’d known prior to getting started?
I wish I knew a good partner or someone to help with the startup process, funding, and developing the brand. Starting a company from scratch is a lot of work for one person, and if you look at most successful companies it takes a good team of people to get thing off the ground.
Q: Being an entrepreneur is a lot of work. It’s important to take care of yourself along the way! What have you done to invest in yourself, and keep yourself balanced?
It is easy to spend all your time working on growing your brand, so luckily I chose a field that allows me to get outside, and exercise on a regular basis for work. Getting proper nutrition is also huge, and hard to come by where we are located, so it takes a little extra effort to make sure you are eating properly. That, and remembering to sleep are my primary focus for keeping myself balanced and healthy.
Q: Where do you find support? Friends? Family? Who keeps you motivated?
I have been very fortunate to grown up in an entrepreneurial family, and my dad and his dad both started a number of there own businesses in Colorado over the last century. In addition to the support of my parents to go after my dreams, my friends continue to support my company through encouragement, purchasing skis, and spreading the word.
Q: What’s your favorite part about being a wild entrepreneur?
Answering to nobody, and having complete control. If you make a mistake there is no-one else to blame but yourself, and any success you achieve is extra rewarding. If you need some vacation time, there’s nobody to ask. You have complete control and freedom to choose your own path, and control you own future.