Success Story: Gilson Snow & Ski Co.

Company description: Gilson Snowboard & Ski Co., based in Winfield, designs and builds snowboards and skis that enhance users experience on the mountain. They believe in the value of American artisan manufacturing. Their wood-cores are shaped from locally-grown and sustainably-harvested Pennsylvania Poplar trees. From start-to-finish, their boards and skis are crafted under one roof at The Gilson Snowboard & Ski Farm, located in the Appalachian foothills. They merge the woodworking heritage of our region with the precision of modern technology, building snowboards and skis that are of the highest quality in construction.

Problem/issue that required assistance: Nick Gilson, CEO, wanted to start and grow a snowboard and ski company.

Solution/outcome & future potential: Over the past four years, Bucknell’s Small Business Development Center (SBDC) has been a resource for Gilson in every phase of his business: from concept to capitalization, and from creation to product launch. From the earliest days of his firm, Gilson and his team worked with SBDC consultants who advised him in business planning, industry research, and market analysis. In addition, the SBDC critiqued Gilson’s investor pitch, and helped him refine his financial projections. In 2014, Gilson succeeded in securing over $150,000 in private investments and equity contributions.

The SBDC was also instrumental in connecting his firm with other resources within the university and throughout the community. These introductions helped Gilson access the resources of many other service providers. Elected officials throughout the region and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania have championed Gilson for his commitment to American manufacturing.

Gilson also received assistance from the center’s Engineering Development Services; collaborating with students and faculty in research and product development. Through a partnership with Bucknell’s College of Engineering, Gilson investigated the potential of his unique board geometry via 3D modeling, computer simulation, and materials analysis.

The Bucknell SBDC also nominated Gilson for the Eastern Pennsylvania’s Young Entrepreneur of the Year, and in May, the U.S. Small Business Administration named Gilson the 2018 recipient.

SEDA-COG’s Export Development Program has helped the company historically and provides ongoing assistance. Gilson’s international presence has grown in the United Kingdom, Korea, Australia, and New Zealand with SEDA-COG’s partnership. Gilson previously leveraged SEDA-COG’s expertise to export to Australia to spread their sales year-round since their winter is during the summer months here. Gilson currently is the highest growth snowboard search term in Australia, up over 500 percent.

Gilson recently went on a trip to China to discuss distribution, partnerships, and retail sales from a tip he got from Noelle Long, director SEDA-COG’s Export Development Program. A state Global Access Program grant helped to fund Gilson’s fact-finding sales trip. The Pennsylvania trade representative in China helped identify contacts and arrange meetings. The U.S. Commercial Service provided insight into various concerns such as e-commerce and intellectual property.

Gilson found that China is serious about this push, and intends to get 300 million people into winter sports by the next winter Olympics. He’s planning a follow-up trip soon to China.