So there we were, making skis with Home Depot equipment while crammed in a 12 by 20 foot room. Testing, building and calling suppliers: we did it all in a postage-stamp-sized space we had rented from Clarkson University.
College fire codes? Yep, we were breaking them. We’d regularly receive emails from the fire marshal warning us to get our act together — which meant stuffing everything into a corner and sweeping the inch of sawdust up off the ground.
As Renoun’s third summer unfurled, we knew we had to find a new space. Not because the skis were flying out the door — we’d sold exactly zilch at that point — but because when they did start flying out the tiny college-dorm-room door, we’d be dead meat.
I knew a guy named JF who’d been building skis for 13 years. But building skis with HDT is different from just building skis. Still, once I reached out, JF said his team could handle the odd construction.
We agreed to pay JF. A lot. Four times the total worth of Renoun at the time, in fact. But we signed the contract and began figuring out how we would afford this new level of construction.
While JF was building our skis, we began outlining a plan to sell that winter by visiting ski shops.
HDT was cool — or so we thought. But did other people think it was cool? Would they pay the inherently massive costs associated with it?
First stop: Tokyo.
Not exactly the ski capital of the world, but here’s a piece of trivia for you: one single, 4-block stretch of a particular Tokyo street sells more skis than all of the stores in North America.
Once we arrived in Toyko, we began showing off HDT, a little apprehensive of the language gap. We barely knew a word of Japanese, which left us frantically fumbling for the right hand signals to convey the coolness of HDT in a ski.
Then, something amazing happened. The people in Tokyo totally got it. Their eyes would light up and they would become really, really excited once they understood the concept.
At the same time, we had shipped out a pair to the judging committee at the worldwide ski conference of ISPO in Munich Germany. Their job was to review all new products and pick out who was best.
And ISPO, tasked with judging products from multi-million dollar companies, awarded Renoun with Gold Winner, the highest prize in the show.
Apparently, other people thought this was cool too. Question: answered.
That year, we sold 13 skis. Yep, just 13. Even with the accolades and positive responses, we were still getting a heavy dosage of the reality of the ski world. It’s really competitive.
And we were about to find out that our award meant we where about to be sued. People wanted in on the action. And they weren’t playing nice.