Faces of Shift with Alex Swaynie of Ross Snow Tech
At Shift Workspaces, we consider ourselves lucky to have such an amazing community of members. Each month we have the pleasure of interviewing one of those great people and their business so that everyone has a chance to learn more about those within our community. This month we were able to speak with Alex Swaynie of Ross Snow Tech. Take a look below to learn more:
Tell us about Ross Snow Tech and what inspired you to create a product that benefits the Winter sports industry?
Ross Snow Tech is a Denver based, emerging winter sports brand. Like so many other companies, RST and our flagship product, the Convert snowboard binding was just an idea in the back of my head for years. While attending college at Colorado Mesa University, I got the idea for snowboard bindings that “transformed” into snowshoes while I was doing some side country riding with a buddy. After almost a decade of keeping the idea on the back burner, I finally saved up enough money to turn my idea into a reality. At this point, we really are a true garage startup, most of our prototypes were produced in my garage. I have always been involved the outdoor industry in one form or another so entering the space with my own company didn’t seem that farfetched, it just kind of fit.
As the Founder of Ross Snow Tech, can you explain to us the engineering process and how you knew when your product was complete?
The engineering process has been an exciting, difficult, exhausting, expensive and rewarding one. Over the last four years, we have been working with Link Product Development to make the Convert come to life. We started with 16 concepts and broke each one down on rating system based on metrics like cost of engineering, cost of production, perceived market acceptance and more. We envisioned our products on the shelves of REI, not Walmart so many of the cheap and easy ideas were tossed out the window immediately. After narrowing the field down to one, we started sketching up designs and trying to find or invent the mechanisms that met our strict criteria.
Once we had a concrete direction, we jumped into CAD and prototyping. Our first prototype was cardboard! We soon graduated from cardboard to 3D printing and after about six months of constant 3D printing, CAD changes, and a handful of prototypes we got our first “rideable” prototype CNC’d out of aluminum. This was our “proof of concept” prototype and its sole purpose was to ensure our mechanisms work in real life the way they did in the computer. These prototypes exceeded our expectations and are going into their fourth season of testing. After constant testing and validation of our prototypes, the industrial design process became priority. This is where function and form come together and eventually get you to what you see on the shelves.
Altogether, we have went through more than 20 prototypes that were all different than the last. Each one has to be tested, evaluated, and potentially changed so it takes a lot of time and resources. For the last year and a half we have been doing a lot of design for manufacturing, or DFM, where we work directly with our manufacturer to get our parts designed to their specifications to ensure they come out as planned. DFM is basically the trim work on a house, it’s the small changes that take the most time and are crucial to the overall performance, sustainability, and success of a product. This would include things like making wall thicknesses consistent and adding draft angle relative to the parting line for injection molding. We just completed what should be one of our final DFM phases, so we are currently working on our newest set of prototypes to ride for the winter, then it’s off to production!
How do you see Ross Snow Tech growing and developing?
We will be launching a Kickstarter in the next couple of months and our planned release is the fall of 2021, so I see Ross Snow Tech growing rapidly. We are developing products aimed to position us next to some of the most trusted and respected backcountry snowboard brands in the world and that’s really where I see us in the next couple of years.
Will you share with us some advice you would give entrepreneurs that you wish you had when you started your journey?
Some advice I would give people is to be patient and persistent, these things tend to take longer than expected. Also, try to find a partner that shares your same vision and that you can trust. Starting a business when you’re the only one doing the marketing, business development, sales, prototyping, testing, content creation, fund raising, etc., can be exhausting and at the end of the day you only have one perspective. Businesses are diverse and often require diverse input so having the right team in place is crucial.
What do you think has contributed to your success?
We’ve had some super successful events, won awards, and received tremendous feedback from the outdoor and snow sports community but we’re a long way from success. However, working with the right people has been extremely instrumental in getting us to this point. It is so important to find the right people or team that support and believe in the end goal.
Share with us where we can learn more and remain updated on release dates.
You can find more information about the Convert and who we are at www.RSTsnow.com. There is an email notification signup on the Convert’s product page and our Facebook or Instagram pages are also where you’ll find the most up to date info and see first-hand what we’re up to!