By Sean Higgins
Thousands of NASTAR racers across the country hold down day jobs during the week and race on Saturdays and Sundays. But what’s it like to be one of the world’s top ski racers — and an entrepreneur?
Recently, NASTAR and SkiRacing.com caught up with Ted Ligety to chat about Slytech Protection and Shred Optics products that the World Cup superstar has developed.
Did you ever envision yourself owning your own company?
Traditional employment wasn't or isn’t something I envisioned for myself. I always wanted to be an entrepreneur. I was lucky to have had an idea for a company that coincided with athletic success, and to have a friend with a similar vision and know how to help bring this to life in Carlo. I’m lucky, too, that Carlo is an engineer and has his MBA; he went to school at MIT so he has a skill set that is hard match.
Our other partner, Fede, who also went to MIT, focuses more on the business side of things and has a lot of experience in finance and marketing. Our management is very unique, with two MIT guys with expertise that cover all the bases, and an athlete in myself with core insight. This combination is able to deliver highly technical, stylish, athlete-inspired products.
How do you manage a World cup Career in addition to running your own business?
I’m lucky to have two smart partners together with an awesome team that make the business possible. I, of course can’t do the day-to-day operations, but I’m highly involved in the product development and design and the broader business discussions and decisions. I’m able to do a lot more in the off-season. I think being part of a business is a good release from my focus on ski racing, and it allows me to use my brain in a different way and in that sense I think it has been good for my skiing.
What makes Shred and Slytech different from other brands?
We are a truly athlete-driven company. Our engineering and marketing teams are comprised of users and action sports enthusiasts, and they work directly with our athletes to innovate and build the best products that our athletes are psyched to wear as well functioning at a highly technical level.
What is your role in product development?
I'm always involved from beginning to end, whether a product was originally my idea or an idea from one of our other athletes or our engineers. I’m always testing and giving feedback throughout development process as well as being involved with our manufacturers, until we come to a finished product.
Talk about the evolution of the brand. Did you ever envision branching out to the other action sports?
I never wanted to create a ski racing brand; I wanted to create an action sports brand. It just so happens that I ski race, so of course we started there. But from the get-go, we built a team of freeskiers and snowboarders. As we continued to grow and innovate many of our products or innovations within a product were so applicable to other sports from Mountain Biking, BMX to skateboarding, so it was a natural progression along with the fact that Carlo and I are avid mountain bikers, while Fede is an amazing skater and surfer.
How do you pick athletes to represent your brand?
We look for athletes we look up to and are inspired by. All of our athletes are kick ass. Most of them I looked up to long before they joined the Shred and Slytech teams.
Where do you see the brand moving in the future?
I want to continue to build products that athletes are excited to use and to make them as safe as possible as they push their limits. I see this vision far expanded from the snow arena where we are already well established and into the rest of the action sports world.
Tell us about some of your favorite products from this year's line that NASTAR racers can look out for.
Some of my favorite products are the Amazify goggle; it’s so comfortable, has an unmatched field of view, and looks awesome. The Slam-Cap Helmet is unreal, super light; it’s on the cutting-edge, safety-wise, with our Slytech 2nd Skin NoShock. The Slytech NoShock back protector is so comfortable, you barely notice you’re wearing it.