It all began with a message in mid-December: Isis had won the Tactel Women award as part of the semi-annual Dupont BrandNew awards for sporting good start-ups.
Then began the whirlwind, which didn't stop at the ispo sporting good show earlier this month. Nor has it stopped yet.
The international BrandNew award program, sponsored by Dupont, gives fledgling companies a chance not only for some recognition, but also for exposure in the international marketplace with a free booth at the ispo show as well as appearances at events and plenty of media attention. There is one overall winner and seven category winners.
"We've been non-stop," Isis product developer Poppy Gall told SNEWS® in a break at her ispo booth. "There are a lot of opportunities that if we came here on our own, we would not have had. They have totally taken care of us."
Other winners came from Finland, Sweden, France, Liechtenstein, Austria, Switzerland, and a second from the USA.
Isis had detailed its desire to go international in its business plan -- but not for another 2-3 years, she said. Then came this award. At the show, she was approached by Europeans and Asians alike interested in the line -- and of course all asking questions about manufacturing and importing that the company hasn't really thought through yet. Now that she's home again, it's time to do homework and figure out what they can accomplish without overreaching.
That's another area where the program helps new companies (rules specify they must not be in business for more than four years). Before the show opens, organizers hold a meeting to coach companies about how to deal with international trade, work with distributors, and talk to retailers. A new part of the prize this time around is 5,000 EUR (nearly $4,400) worth of consulting for each of the companies to help answer questions about their potential international growth.
"We can offer the chance to take part in ispo," said Manfred Wutzlhofer, president and CEO of ispo, at a press conference to introduce the winners, "but the most important thing is what happens after the show. The winners need support for marketing, producing, pricing and so forth."
Since its inception, the program has grown dramatically -- this winter there were 38 percent more applicants than last summer's award program. That included 102 companies from 21 countries, with 64 making it to the final round of judging.
Gall said she and her partner Carolyn Cooke waited until the last minute on their application, then had to scramble because of the work involved putting it together. But the whirlwind at the show was worth every extra gray hair. Winners were announced and interview on stage at the grand opening gala party the first night of the show; they had their own exhibit area with bar where anyone could wander in and get coffee, beer or waters and sit around on tables and socialize; a CD-Rom with company material was widely available; a daily fashion show highlighted all the winners' products; and there were several press conferences.
"We could have never generated that in our wildest dreams," Gall said.
Other winners included:
- Thrill Sled Inc. (Performance Award) -- A U.S.-based company that makes mountain sleds for either summer or winter terrain, each with suspension, braking, steering and other safety features. For now, president Frederic Way says he has focused on a high-end product for complete safety, so the price has limited it to sales to ski resorts like Vail or Park City, where they are used for group tours, Way told SNEWS®. www.thrillsleds.com
- Be'zenville (Sportswear Accessories Award) -- A Paris, France-based company that makes "urban survival masks" that have a fashionable look so commuters, skaters and anyone else can breathe easier and keep out smog. www.bezenville.com
- SAAC - Snowboard Avalanche Awareness Camps (Special Award) -- An Austria-based company that puts on free avalanche awareness camps at ski resorts, relaying on sponsors for support. Last year, the company put on about 10 2-day camps. This year, there are more than 40 lined up in the European Alpine area. www.saac.at
- Revolution-X IBS - Intelligent Binding Systems (Hardware Award) -- A Liechstenstein-based company that has come up with a new three-dimensional ski binding system that is located on the center part of the boot and comes on and off with the boot, not staying completely on the ski. www.revolution-x.ch.
- IVANhelsinki of Finland (Overall award) with lifestyle "camping" clothing, WE of Sweden (Sportswear award) with high-end snowboard clothing, and Alprausch of Switzerland (Style award) with retro-look ski clothing.
For this summer's awards, applications are available now by sending an email to: firstname.lastname@example.org, or by visiting: www.ispo-brandnew.com. Deadline is May 3 for the summer awards at the ispo show Aug. 3-6 in Munich, Germany.