A local snowboard training company is looking to bring the sport from the mountain to the living room after joining the handful of Whistler businesses that have secured deals on Dragons' Den.
Snowboard Addiction was founded by 32-year-old New Zealander Nev Lapwood in 2007 with a few PDF manuals and video tutorials to help boarders hone their abilities. Able to channel his experience as a Whistler Blackcomb instructor and trainer, Lapwood's videos, which cover everything from how to strap in to pulling off a double cork, have since racked up millions of YouTube views.
Today the company counts an ever-growing list of paid subscribers to its premium video streaming and download service, and has begun offering a line of training products that have earned a number of high-profile endorsements from pro boarders and even electronic music impresario Steve Aoki. But it was a panel of multimillionaire investors that Lapwood had to impress at a May taping of the hit CBC show. And impress he did, soliciting offers from four of the five Dragons before going with e-commerce maven Michele Romanow's $100,000 deal for a 15-per-cent stake in the company. The episode first aired Wednesday, Jan. 20.
"It was a little bit daunting but it went really well for us," said Lapwood.
It was Snowboard Addiction's training products that ultimately wowed the panel by filling a need that wasn't serviced by the industry until now, explained GM Saxon Farnworth.
"Everyone makes snowboards and clothing and all the things to take on the mountain, but no one's actually making training videos and training products (on this scale)," he said.
One of the company's most popular products is the Balance Bar, a lightweight plastic rail that is designed to allow boarders to practice handrails and funbox skills safely from the comfort of their home.
"With our products being so accessible for people to practice at home and start to learn some skills as well as obviously using the online tutorials, it's this whole new avenue of being able to teach people for a lot cheaper than paying for lessons, but it also let's people see some real progression," noted Farnworth, who said the company's products are helping break down barriers for newcomers to the sport, leading to a surge in demand from one country in particular that's enjoying a snowsport boom at the moment.
"(The tutorials) are huge in China and now they want our training products because they realize how easy it is to use them to help them train at home safely on a plastic bar instead of a metal bar in the park," said Farnworth
For Romanow, the real appeal of the company was the visionary behind it.
"Nev is a great entrepreneur and he's built the business the way you want to," she said. "He took his passion and figured out how to create amazing content people wanted... and kept iterating to figure out what it was that would really make this business succeed."
Founder of couponing app SnapSaves, which was purchased by Groupon in 2014, Romanow said she would lend her expertise in digital marketing to help Snowboard Addiction build exposure. No stranger to the slopes, Romanow joined Whistler Blackcomb's board in June after the episode had taped, and said she gets excited about any business that gets her "a little bit closer to the mountains."
Snowboard Addiction now joins the pantheon of local businesses that have inked deals on Dragons' Den along with Nonna Pia's Balsamic Reductions and Love Child Organics.
"Sometimes, to live in this town, you've got to be able to make it on your own," Lapwood mused. "I had to do something to make ends meet over here, and building my own company has definitely paid off."
Visit www.snowboardaddiction.com for more information.
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