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SBA Names Eastern Pa. 2018 Young Entrepreneur of Year

Advisory Date: 
Friday, April 27, 2018
Advisory Number: 
20180427-001
Contact: 
robert.goza@sba.gov
Gilson Snowboard & Ski Co. introduced with CEO Nicholas Gilson April 30

EASTERN PENNSYLVANIA – U.S. Small Business Administration Eastern Pennsylvania Director Antonio (Tony) Leta officially introduces Eastern Pennsylvania’s Young Entrepreneur of the Year, Gilson Snowboard & Ski Co., with firm CEO Nicholas Gilson on April 30 at 1:30 p.m. Media are invited to attend.

WHO:   Antonio (Tony) Leta, Director, U.S. SBA Eastern Pennsylvania District

              Jennifer Black, Executive Director for Export Assistance, Office of International Business Development, PA Department of Community and Economic Development

             Kim Bierly, Regional Manager, Senator Robert Casey Jr.

             Steven Stumbris, Director, Bucknell University Small Business Development Center

             Dennis Hummer, Business Consultant, Bucknell University Small Business Development Center

             Nicholas Gilson, CEO, Gilson Snowboard & Ski Co.

              Invited: Local, state and federal officials

WHAT:   Gilson Snowboard & Ski Co. introduced as Eastern Pennsylvania Young Entrepreneur of the Year; media tour of business with interview and photo opportunities

WHEN:    April 30 at 1:30 p.m.

WHERE:  Gilson Snowboard & Ski Co., 6985 New Berlin Hwy, Winfield, PA 17889

Gilson Snowboard & Ski Co. designs and builds snowboards and skis that enhance riders experience on the mountain. While other snowboards and skis are flat on the bottom, Gilson’s feature a three-dimensional profile that fundamentally changes how its surface interacts with snow. Protected by three patents, Gilson's designs are described by riders and industry experts as the most advanced and playful snowboards and skis in the world.

“It’s wonderful to have the privilege to recognize the achievements of leading Pennsylvania young entrepreneurs and their businesses, like Gilson Snowboard & Ski Company,” said Antonio (Tony) Leta, U.S. SBA Eastern Pennsylvania Director. “Small businesses like these are where the rubber meets the road, helping drive our nation’s economy – or in this case, where the skis hit the powder. I’m proud that SBA and our lending and resource partners, like Bucknell SBDC, have a role to play in helping them start and succeed.”

Over the past four years, SBA-funded resource partner Bucknell University Small Business Development Center has been a resource for Gilson through 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. Additionally, the SBDC critiqued Gilson's investor pitch, and helped him refine his financial projections.

“The Bucknell SBDC has been an invaluable resource. They’ve rallied behind our effort; welcoming us to the community and guiding us with sound advice,” Gilson Snowboard & Ski Co. Founder/CEO Nick Gilson said. “We merge the woodworking heritage of the region with the precision of modern technology, building snowboards and skis that are of the highest quality in construction. We source locally and focus on sustainable growth that benefits the organization, their people, and the community.”

“Excited to get their snowboards on the market, the team came to the SBDC, where they received guidance in business planning and capital formation. The center's Engineering Development Services also helped them explore the limits of their unique geometry through computer-aided modeling and analysis,” said Director Steven Stumbris, Bucknell University SBDC. “Gilson’s is a small business making a big impact in their industry. At Bucknell’s SBDC we’re happy to have played a part in their achievements and it’s great that they’re doing it in central Pennsylvania.”

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 University's College of Engineering, Gilson was able to investigate the potential of his unique board geometry via 3-D modeling, computer simulation, and materials analysis.

Just over five years ago, Gilson and one of his earliest team-members, Austin Royer, began building the first snowboard prototypes in a basement workshop. With the formation of the company, they began using a repurposed barn on Austin's family's farm, but very rapidly outgrew that space. Today the "Snowboard & Ski Farm" is a 5,500 sq. ft. facility that efficiently houses the company – including design, manufacturing, shipping operations and a retail store. While still early in their penetration into the snowboard and ski industry, the sales growth of the company tells the story of their business model. Gilson’s has increased sales over 2.5 times every year since launch. The company has grown from the early days of being just Gilson and his co-founder Austin to a current employment level of 17 and ultimately has set its sights on being a $30 million dollar snowboard, ski, and winter sports gear company. At this early stage, the company invests in systems, technology, and people that will position the company for sustainable growth into the future. Prominent in his portfolio is developing relationships with his customers and the community. Word of mouth for Gilson's brand in the snowboarding and skiing communities is incredibly strong: both in-person whenever Gilson or one of his team members are on the slopes; or online, where millions of fans like, share, and comment on their YouTube video channel and social media posts.

“I was honored to have the opportunity to highlight such a deserving business owner and it’s great to see him win,” said Business Consultant Dennis Hummer, Bucknell University Small Business Development Center. “Gilson’s believes in the value of American artisan manufacturing. The wood cores are shaped from locally grown and sustainably-harvested Pennsylvania poplar trees and their boards and skis are crafted under one roof at The Gilson Snowboard & Ski Farm, here in the Appalachian foothills of central Pennsylvania.”

Nick Gilson is Founder and CEO of Gilson Snowboard & Ski Co., a manufacturer of snowboards and skis located in Winfield, Pa. A 2011 graduate from Johns Hopkins University with a degree in Earth and Planetary Sciences, he attributes his motivation for starting his company to the middle school students he was teaching in Nashville. Inspired by the design of catamarans, he created the first prototype of his snowboard in his father's boat building workshop when he was just 14. He now holds several patents for the innovative design of his snowboards and skis and the science behind the company’s products was featured in a video distributed nationally by PBS. He has received numerous awards for product design and leadership, including the 2015 "Innovation in New Product Development Award" from the Bucknell University SBDC. Regionally, the company was recognized as the Small Business of the Year by the Greater Susquehanna Valley Chamber of Commerce in 2017. On the national level, Gilson made WIRED Magazine's "Gear of the Year" list in 2015 and in 2016 the company was named as one of Outside Magazine's favorite brands born in America.

SBA Eastern Pennsylvania Director Antonio (Tony) Leta presents Small Business Week Awards at the annual “SBA Awards” event May 15. For more information about attending the ceremony, visit https://bit.ly/2GFugdT.  

SBA’s Eastern Pennsylvania Young Entrepreneur of the Year award winner is selected annually from among nominees located across Pennsylvania’s eastern 40 counties. These events are local observances of the annual Presidentially-designated National Small Business Week. National Small Business Week recognizes the small business community’s contribution to the American economy. Learn more about National Small Business Week at https://www.sba.gov/national-small-business-week.

About the U.S. Small Business Administration

The U.S. Small Business Administration makes the American dream of business ownership a reality. As the only go-to resource and voice for small businesses backed by the strength of the federal government, the SBA empowers entrepreneurs and small business owners with the resources and support they need to start and grow their businesses. It delivers services to people through an extensive network of SBA field offices and partnerships with public and private organizations. To learn more, visit www.sba.gov.

To request interviews or photos, contact Robert Goza, SBA’s Public Information Officer in the Eastern Pennsylvania District Office, at robert.goza@sba.gov or 610-382-3084.