This is a follow up story for Hagan Ski. If you're interested in reading how they got started, published over 3 years ago, check it out here.
Hello again! Remind us who you are and what business you started.
My name is Michael Hagen. I am the founder and owner of Hagan Ski Mountaineering USA. I import and distribute (B2B and B2C) backcountry skiing gear produced by the 98-year-old Austrian Company Hagan Ski. Hagan’s origins are in making skis (Ash wood skis back in day). In the last several years they have expanded into backcountry ski bindings and most recently backcountry ski boots.
Get help before you absolutely have to have it. If you wait until you are so busy you have to have help, you will be too busy to get help.
Tell us about what you’ve been up to! Has the business been growing?
Last year was huge. When the virus hit the spring of 2020 and ski areas shut down, I sold out of everything. People were looking for a way to get out and get away.
That didn’t stop last winter. My biggest issue was cash flow to buy the inventory I needed. I sold out several times and at the end of the year sales were up more than 150% over winter 19/20, which itself was double 18/19.
My second biggest issue was overload. We are still a family business, and it was 16 hours a day at times. I skied the least I have skied in 15 years. I tried to hire help, but Breckenridge had amongst the lowest unemployment rates in the nation.
I used Google advertising, which certainly helped the sales increase. But most of it was due just to the boom in Backcountry skiing - and having forecasted better than most so I had more stock than some other brands.
What have been your biggest lessons learned in the last year?
I was surprised by Hagan Austria requiring larger and earlier payment than in the past. I wasn’t prepared for this, having expected to be able to pay with profits from the past season and early season sales. This caused a lot of stress as I searched for funding last minute.
I hooked up with an affiliate marketing company. It wasn’t too expensive, and it wasn’t too hard to set up initially. But I made the mistake of thinking that after setting it up, affiliates would start advertising and sales would come in. Not so. I had the time for the initial set up, but not to work on a regular business with affiliates to get them to promote Hagan.
The virus killed off trade shows. I stopped attending the year prior. I haven’t noticed any impact on my sales to retailers. Phone calls and emails can accomplish a lot.
What’s in the plans for the upcoming year, and the next 5 years?
We have a new binding I am excited about. It may encounter some initial resistance because the brake is mounted on the toe, not the traditional heel location. The advantage, and it is a big one, is that the brake is always active. It releases no matter what. So you can’t have a runaway ski. (Other ski touring brakes have to be locked down to climb, and people can and do forget to release them when they take off their skis at the top of the mountain.)
I’m looking to bring on new partners to share the workload and expand my expertise and sales/marketing ability. I’m too thin and stretched. I don’t want to ski as little this year as last. The business can keep growing in the triple digits for years to come, but I can’t handle more than now by myself.
Have you read any good books in the last year?
Just two. I also coach high school cross country and track, and individual athletes. I read two good, but niche, run coaching books - Consistency is Key and Distance Training Simplified.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who might be struggling to grow their business?
Get help before you absolutely have to have it. If you wait until you are so busy you have to have help, you will be too busy to get help. I desperately need to outsource to freelancers things I don’t like doing, I’m not good at and aren’t essential to the core of the business - accounting, social media marketing, etc.
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
Definitely - social media marketing, paid advertising, email marketing. I would say customer service, but that is core to the business and the business is so niche that very few people would have the product expertise to be effective customer service agents. Plus, they would need to be local.
If anyone likes to travel and has significant backcountry skiing experience, I’m looking for East Coast and West Coast Reps.
Where can we go to learn more?
If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!
Hagan Ski has provided an update on their business!
Over 2 years ago, we followed up with Hagan Ski to see how they've been doing since we published this article.
Hey! 👋 I'm Pat Walls, the founder of Starter Story.
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