Words: Jakob Schiller
Bamboo cores, carbon stringers, and super thick bases make ON3P skis solid as a rock and fun to ski. But the real secret to the company’s success seems to be a heaping ton of elbow grease.
“We definitely got our ass kicked at the beginning,” says Scott Andrus, the president of the company, which he started in his garage. “But today we feel as far as build quality there is not much out there that compares.”
Andrus says he originally came up with the idea to build his own skis back in 2006 while he was still in college in Tacoma, Washington. He calls himself a “quiver whore” and says that back then he couldn’t find the one perfect ski. Through a private forum on Newschoolers.com he found other people who weren’t satisfied and together they crowd sourced ideas for what would be the first pairs of ON3P skis.
He says he’d never built anything bigger than a skate ramp and didn’t know how to use many power tools. But through a lot of trial and error, he built his own ski press, and by the summer of 2008, pumped out his first run of 52 pairs with a few friends.
He'd just graduated and the economy was in the toilet bowl. It was a risk, but instead of chasing a medical degree, like he originally thought he would, Andrus decided to try to establish a real business. Banks told him to get lost, but eventually he found a group of private investors—including his grandparents, parents and friends—who helped him scrape together enough cash to lease the company’s first production warehouse in Portland, Oregon.
That first year, Andrus, along with one or two friends, made 300 pairs of skis, but the production cycle was a disaster. The factory was inefficient and ran way behind schedule. They had aimed to get all the skis out by October. The final pairs didn’t make it out until March.
“We basically got in way over our heads and bit off too much,” says Andrus.
That year he says the small ON3P crew lived at the factory. They spent 18-hour days trying to work through the kinks and went home to shower once a week at most.
Luckily, things got better. Some other production cycles early on ran long, but at the latest, skis were out by Christmas. Andrus says he and the others also figured out more efficient ways to run the warehouse, which was key.
Once the production process was more streamlined it was off to the races. The company has grown 40 to 50 percent each year and for the 2012-13 season the team, which is now up to six full-time employees, moved into an 8,400-square-foot warehouse. They made 1,000 pairs of skis on time last year and are hoping to knock out 1,300 to 1,500 this year.
Andrus says the company still hasn’t turned a profit because they keep reinvesting everything, but he now has weekends off and the brand is building consumer cred.
Trevor Woods, the company’s creative director, was one of the original people on the Newschoolers forum. He’s stuck with the brand and says that in addition to build quality, ON3P continues to stand out because it hasn’t lost its grassroots base.
If you write them a message on their Facebook page, it’s one of the employees who answers back, not a PR firm. If you have questions about the skis, all you have to do is call the warehouse and someone from the manufacturing team will walk you through the process. The numbers on their business cards are their personal cell phones.
“That open line of communication, that transparency, is something that’s super important to us and something we will always strive to maintain, no matter how big we get,” says Woods.