It was a few years later before we actually did. The first pair probably took about five days to make and now I’ve got it down to about ten hours work from start to finish. The labour is still extremely intensive and that’s the whole thing about them, there’s nothing high tech downstairs in the factory. I’m the only one who makes them so I do everything from the screen-printing, to the shaping of the wood cores, to fibreglassing, to polishing, waxing it up, all that stuff.
Wow. And they’re custom made aren’t they, so they’ll be different for every person?
Yeah, that’s right. That’s why I don’t make stock or do big runs and factory work. I quite like it that way too, you know. I still get excited at the end, when I’ve made a pair of skis for someone, to give them a flex and go, “Oh yeah, that’ll be good for that person.” Every now and then I go, “Oh gosh, they’re quite solid. I hope that guy’s a good skier.”
We get pretty good feedback. I’m really lucky, you know, we get a lot of props out there and everyone’s pretty happy with them. You obviously get one or two bits of good, constructive criticism as well.
Sure, you need that.
You do need that. I get quite … I think feedback is our best thing, because we don’t have systems in place to test everything and monitor it and know that’s it falling into exactly the right category and bracket … The best thing is just talking to people who know what’s going on.
And how did word spread? Was it just word of mouth?
Yeah it was. At first it was word of mouth, we didn’t have a marketing budget. I was actually having a hard time keeping up with demand because we were ordering such small amounts of materials and it was taking so long to make them. I’d get an order and then, by the time I’d got that complete, and had maybe a day or two off, then another order would come in. It was working out really nicely. Then you know, inevitably things evolve, and the thing that put us into the next gear was that basically our supplier ran out of materials … This has actually been our biggest challenge of all. We quickly realised that the manufacturers of the materials to make skis are all basically in Austria or Switzerland. They’re great companies that have been making good stuff for a long time for the ski industry, but their minimum order requirements were ridiculous – they were for big factories that were in China and in Europe. They didn’t want to have a bar of us because we were ordering a couple of hundred metres of materials when they’re normally selling container loads of it. We knew that to be able to continue we would have to borrow some money and buy a large amount of materials. Then, it was like, okay, we’ve got these materials, now we have to sell them, so then this sort of standard business model starting kicking in. We still didn’t order a container of materials or anything. We had to go to Austria and meet these guys from the companies, have beers with them and be like, “C’mon, you know, we’re just a small company from New Zealand, cut us a break, here’s a t-shirt,” and all that sort of thing. It’s still a problem for us. We’ll email them ten times before we actually get a reply. I think we’re kind of like a sand fly to them, you know …
More annoying than anything else?
So, it’s been eight years or so now?
Yeah. It’s been yeah, eight years, and really a proper business for five years with a website running, GST, and things like that.