By Martin Kidston/Missoula Current
Believing there was a better way to build a ski, George Gaines pitched his idea for a business before a roomful of judges and potential clients last year at the University of Montana.
Competing in the John Ruffatto Business Startup Challenge, Gaines used his 60 seconds to argue that today’s established ski brands lack the environmental awareness that serves as a requirement for any self-respecting outdoor enthusiast.
“Right here in Missoula, Chilton mindfully handcrafts backcountry, all-mountain-capable skis with locally salvaged and industry standard composite materials,” Gaines said that night, referring to his startup business, Chilton Skis.
The pitch worked, placing Gaines third in a competitive field that saw 16 entrepreneurs sell their own business concept. Nearly a year later, Gaines is ready to launch a Kickstarter campaign, looking to raise the $25,000 needed to manufacture Chilton’s first run of skis.
“We’re hosting a Kickstarter video release party,” he said. “The objective is to generate some interest in our upcoming Kickstarter campaign, which launches on April 14. We’re going to screen the film that will serve as the centerpiece for that Kickstarter campaign.”
Gaines worked with a fellow startup out of Bozeman to produce the video. As Chilton Skis did with Blackstone LaunchPad at the University of Montana, so too did the video company – Triple Tree – find its start at the LaunchPad based out of Montana State University.
The two college-driven startups are slowly gaining traction, and Gaines believes the resulting Triple Tree film will serve as the seed from which Chilton Skis gains a following.
“It’s a synopsis of our process, from tree to ski, basically,” Gaines said. “It came out really well. It tries to portray the essence of Chilton Skis and our philosophical underpinnings.”
Chilton Skis and Triple Tree shot the film in what Gaines described as a marathon weekend. The filming was followed by a solid month of editing.
Gaines said the need for a quality video played a central role in his vision for a successful fundraising campaign.
“It’s come from hearing about other people’s experiences, the components of successful and unsuccessful campaigns,” Gaines said. “It’s well known that it’s a good allocation of resources to put a lot of them into the video. Producing high-quality video is worth its weight in gold in generating interest and generating a following.”
The idea for a quality, locally sourced ski began with backcountry skiing. Gaines had friends who were avid skiers and the idea appealed to him. He began to design a prototype ski suited for the terrain and the results were well received.
“We have a ski design for this run that the campaign would allow us to stage up and execute,” he said. “It’s an awesome ski. It skis incredibly well. We think it’s a beautiful ski and it integrates locally harvested materials.”
Gaines said a successful Kickstarter campaign would enable Chilton Skis to produce its first run of skis. Funding would also enable the company to purchase the needed equipment, rent the shop and buy the materials.
“The campaign will be driven by presales of pairs of skis for next ski season,” he said. “I don’t want to put a cap on the production number. I want to envision a scenario where we build much more than that.”
The premier of the Triple Tree video featuring Chilton Skis takes place Friday, March 3, at 7 p.m. at Bad Goat Forest Products, located at 1301 Scott Street in Missoula.
Contact reporter Martin Kidston at email@example.com