Liberty Skis is a growing independent ski brand that recently closed a round of funding that brought in $2.2 million in financing, with hopes that a second round will bring the company up to $3.5 million.
The Colorado-based company has experienced at least a 20 percent annual sales increase for the past five years, has had its skis featured as a POWDER Skier’s Choice and have signed a roster of promising young freeskiers. And the company owes a lot of that success to one lucky night on a craps table in Las Vegas.
“Jim Satloff and I had dreamed up the company a year prior to the annual SIA Snow Show trade show out in Las Vegas in 2003,” Dan Chalfant, who co-founded Liberty Skis with Jim Satloff, told GrindTV. “But we hadn’t done too much planning for the brand or its path and we didn’t really know what we were going to do with it.”
“In fact, the reason we went to the trade show was to learn the lay of the land as far as production and find people to teach us what to do,” said Chalfant. “And next thing you know, we went out at the Mandalay Bay Casino, had a pretty good night, and were able to finance our first run of production skis off the winnings.”
Calling the night Chalfant and Satloff had on the craps tables “pretty good” is just a slight understatement by Liberty’s current president: The duo turned a little more than $500 into $30,000.
“I was never a big gambler, but Jim had actually taught mathematics and had this system he wanted to try out,” Chalfant told GrindTV. “He was just teaching me on the fly, and that roll of the dice kind of led to the creation of our company.”
And, in typical Sin City fashion, Chalfant said that big night at the tables allowed the duo to pretend like they were high rollers to schmooze other members of the industry.
“Back then we didn’t have the financing we do now, hell we weren’t even members of SIA so we didn’t have a booth at the trade show,” said Chalfant.
“But once we started playing and winning big, the casino comped us this huge suite and this fancy dinner so we were able to take everyone from the trade show up to the suite to show them our ski prototypes and then wine and dine them,” said Chalfant. “It definitely made for a good intro.”
While the company might have been birthed on the winnings of a long, lucky Vegas night, the company’s continued growth is a testament to their business model.
Back in 2003, when Chalfant and Satloff started the company, there weren’t many independent ski companies and they wanted to make something different, so they decide to make twin tip skis that were able to perform in all conditions, and made their ski cores out of bamboo.
“We were the first and are still the only ski company with a bamboo core laminate in all of our skis,” said Chalfant. “Beyond the environmental aspect, bamboo just performs incredibly well, and we were making skis that people wanted. We made twin tips that could rip groomed but still handle powder and park. I think that’s what most people want.”
As the company started to grow Chalfant noticed industry giants like Solomon beginning to take cues from some of his design aspects. While the growth was quick, Chalfant notes it wasn’t a cake-walk.
“You could write a book about everything I didn’t know about when I got into the industry” Chalfant tells GrindTV. “But that’s the beauty of being an entrepreneur.”
With the new influx of capital, Chalfant says he is hoping to scale up Liberty’s production abilities to keep up with the growing demand for its products while looking to expand into new foreign markets.
And while he’s focused on growing the company, Chalfant says that everyday he feels a sense of awe at just how far Liberty has come.
“It all started from two guys skiing together a lot, having a bunch of beers and saying, ‘I think this is a good idea,'” Chalfant joked with GrindTV. “It required a lot of foolishness on our part.”
Foolishness, and a few lucky dice rolls.
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