Many college students studying business have aspirations of starting their own business, few have the drive and resourcefulness to make the idea a reality. Colin and Ben Wayne from Denver, CO have created a startup ski pole company called Sick Stickz, focusing on the newschool-freeski market as their primary customer. Their initial product offering was a pole epitomizing their love for the great State of Colorado, featuring a Colorado Flag inspired graphic. The brothers attend the University of Denver, a top 100 school as rated by U.S. News & World Report. A education focusing on business from DU is considered by many as a good starting point to operating a company, but there is only so much one can learn in the classroom. This is something the Wayne Brothers can attest to, having to juggle school, jobs, owning and operating their own company, and still finding time for a personal life.
What originated as a classroom project has evolved into a legitimate business over the course of the past few years. The challenges of distributing their product across the nation and other regions of the world have become an everyday concern amongst other issues. I had a chance to shoot their 2010/11 product lineup from Sick Stickz last week, as well as talk with the brothers about the direction their company is taking.
First featured in the Sick Stickz 2011 product catalog is THE MONEY pole. The Money is made of a 5083 grade aluminum and features a matte black base coat with a graphic of metallic gold dollar signs and reflective silver Sick Stickz Logo. An inexpensive pole that oozes street cred.
Next is THE ZEBRA. Zebra patterend with a vibrant blue and green color-scheme, The Zebra is constructed of a 7075 grade aluminum, strong enough to handle the abuse of park skiing.
THE HIGH FIVE is my personal choice of graphics, bringing back the neon green rubber grip that was featured on last years Ant Eater Pole. This graphic contains loud shades of yellow, purple, and green, which is than wrapped around a piece of tubular 7075 aluminum.
Lastly, THE CO-ARGYLE POLE celebrates Colorado with a CO state flag/argyle pattern encompassing the majority of the pole. Designed to be versatile wether your ripping pow or slaying the park, this set of stickz includes an interchangeable basket system to switch between park- and powder- baskets. The Foam grip accommodates larger, insulated gloves commonly used when backcountry skiing, while the shaft features the company standard 7075 aluminum.
All models of poles run from 95-130cm
How did the idea for Sick Stickz come about?
Colin was the one who came up with the initial idea. He thought of the idea a few years ago when we were freshman in College. We are seniors now. I believe he had some weird project for a marketing class and had to think of a business idea. Then, a few months later I heard about this business plan competition that was going on in school and we decided to enter a business plan on the ski pole idea Colin had from his class. Long story short, we failed miserably and our business plan sucked and we didn’t even come close to winning the competition. Although our business plan needed a lot of work, we were pumped on the idea and wanted to try it anyways. Who makes up the company?
The company is owned by me (Ben Wayne), my identical twin brother Colin, and our friend Patrick Wessels. Our buddy Nate is also a big part of the company and helps out with all sorts of stuff including product development, grass roots sales, and repping the shit out of Sick Stickz. Colin has always really been the brains behind the business and is the back bone of Sick Stickz. He usually makes most of the important decisions. I help pick up Colin’s slack and do a lot of sales work and other basic things. Patrick is pretty much the nerd behind Sick Stickz, he is an engineer and a computer wizard, so he does things like maintaining the website and graphics stuff.
This year appears to be a big step forward for Sick Stickz. Your increasing the size of your product line and have new graphics on every model. Where did this decision come from?
We are actually quadrupling the size of the product line! The last few years we have only made one new pole each year and we are doing four new poles next year. The last few years we haven’t been able to dedicate as much time as we’d like and have been trying to learn as much as possible and figure out how everything works. This year we are all seniors in college and decided to really put everything we have into the company to see how much we can grow it before we get out of school. Last summer we made the decision to present at the SIA tradeshow and really be aggressive with obtaining more retailers. It has been a lot of work, but it seems to be paying off!
Who can we expect to see on the Sick Stickz team for 2010/11?
We have a pretty talented group of guys (and a girl or two) repping our poles. We look for skiers that are stoked on the product and are really looking to rep hard. A lot of these kids are incredible skiers, but haven’t necessarily had a break-out season yet. Guys such as Kolby Ward and Will Berman, who have had bad luck in the last year or two with injuries and other things, are definitely people to keep your eyes on. Most notably Dylan Natale and Aidan Sheahan are representing our product, along with Cody Ling, Marshall Lacroix, Willie Borm, Mads Baker, Kjell Ellefson, Jordan Elmgren, and others. We will have a few more additions towards the start of the 2010/2011 season.
Every small company has its own share of problems to overcome, what are some setbacks that you guys have had to get past starting your own company?
Some of the issues that come to mind are time management, bad economic times, keeping our designs creative, having an overseas manufacturer, etc. The hardest thing for us is without a doubt trying to run/grow a business while being full time students. We are all studying fairly rigorous subjects in school, Patrick is an engineer, Colin is a marketing major, and I am studying finance. On top of our busy school schedules we all have part time jobs too. A typical day for us is to wake up early and work on emails for Sick Stickz, then go to school for 4-5 hours, then go to work for a few hours. We are busy, but we still manage to live pretty normal college student lives. Having a manufacturer overseas is very difficult too and we have had issues with communication, shipping, producing samples, etc.
Do you see more competition from longtime, major manufacturers such as Scott, Kerma, Leki, etc… or from the smaller companies out there like Joystick/Armada/etc…?
The bulk of our competition is with the big manufacturers such as Scott, Leki, Swix, etc. It is extremely hard to compete with them because they have much better margins and can offer shops bigger discounts. They are bigger and can spend a lot more money on key factors such as marketing, product development and design, trade shows, regional reps, athletes, etc.
How are sales looking for the 2010/11 season? Will you be selling primarily online, through retailers, or an even mixture of both?
We are currently scrambling to get preorders from retail shops. It has been super hard trying to get orders and dealing with school at the same time. We have been pumping out emails with our free time during the week and traveling to local shops on the weekends. We will have a better look at how sales are going to be in a few weeks. So far it seems to be going well though and we are really excited for next year. We plan on selling mainly through retail shops, but will have online sales as well because we still haven’t expanded too far outside Colorado/the Intermountain region. In fact, we are looking to add some reps in areas such as New England, the Northwest, Canada, and Tahoe to increase our distribution.
Any last words?
“Pole Plant With Style”