Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Kickfurther Merchant of the Week: Panda Poles

 One interesting thing about investing with Kickfurther is learning about all sorts of products that would not otherwise cross my radar.  I live in New Orleans.  Ski equipment isn't on the top (or even bottom) of my shopping list, yet I know skiing is a sport many people enjoy.  My Merchant of the Week this week is Panda Poles, a manuafacturer of bamboo ski poles.  Their co-creator, and "Chief" (CEO, CFO, COO), Tanner "TanSnowMan"  Rosenthal took some time to speak with me this week.

Q:  Tell me a little about your business.

A:   Panda Poles is a manufacturer of bamboo and sustainable products, specializing primarily in bamboo ski and hiking poles.

Panda Poles got started from a vision I had in the Spring of 2008 about making bamboo ski poles with baskets that didn't snag in the trees. Not only is bamboo more sustainable, but it is much easier to work with than aluminum or carbon fiber. And because of their cone shape, the baskets work great in powder, but won't snag in trees like other big baskets. I told my good friend and co-worker at the time--Oakley White-Allen--about the vision, and he was all about helping me get the project going. By 2010, after a couple of seasons of testing different bamboo and basket designs, we settled on a product we felt like we could bring to market. PandaPoles.com launched on Jan. 18th, 2011, and we sold our first 125 pair before the end of the season. Now, after almost 5 seasons, we have sold over 3000 pair.

Q:  How and where are the poles made?

A: Our grips are made in California, the baskets are molded in Michigan, our straps are sewn in both Utah and Idaho, and other than the bamboo and the hemp and Recycled Polyester strap webbing, all the parts and pieces are made in the USA. We receive all the parts in Pocatello, Idaho, where we then lovingly craft every custom order pair by hand. We start by intaking, weighing, measuring, and sorting our bamboo. Then we pair the poles with a similar size and weight, attach baskets and insert the hardware which holds the strap. We brand our logo by hand using a customized wood branding tool, and then sand the top of the poles to the correct diameter for grips. We then attach the grips using sugar water (one would be surprised at how strongly it holds the grip), attach the straps, apply a linseed oil topcoat, and package the poles for shipment. We sell mostly online, but have 12 retailers in 5 countries.

Q:  Do any professionals use your products?

A:  Our team of world class athletes includes the like of Panda co-founder Oakley White-Allen (5th place overall - 2012 Freeride World Tour), Angel Collinson (one of the best female skiers to ever exist), and Drew Tabke (2013 Freeride World Tour overall champion). But that is only a small sampling of the athletes that make up our tribe.  You can read more about them, and learn about how we consider those who use our poles to be part of our "tribe" on our website.   

Q:  How did you come to use Kickfurther?

A:  I heard about Kickfurther from Chase Howard, who is an account manager at Kickfurther. He had reached out to us about getting involved, and really helped us design our first campaign. Without his efforts, we would not have gotten the ball rolling so quickly with the campaign.

When we decided to start a Kickfurther campaign, it seemed like a beautiful, simple concept, that moves the power of investment from large venture capital firms and banks to the grassroots platform of crowd funding. It has been nothing short of an amazing experience in the new world of crowd funding, and grassroots economics. I have been blown away at how simple the platform is to use, and am really eager to see where we can take our products in the future using Kickfurther.

Q:  Would you recommend Kickfurther to other businesses?

A:  I would recommend Kickfurther to any business that has a solid following, and would like to expand their product line or bulk up their inventory that they know they will sell. Buying parts in bulk saves a lot of money.   In our case, Kickfuther has allowed us to purchase bamboo in bulk directly from India rather that from the retailer from whom we had been buying.  Even though we will give our investors a10% return on their money, we still come out ahead.

I'd like to thank "TanMan" for visiting with us today.  I have a selfish reason for wishing him well with his bamboo poles--I'm one of the investors who stands to gain 10% of my investment over six months, or less (paybacks are based on sales, and right now they are ahead of schedule). If you would like to invest in businesses like Panda Poles (or maybe even Panda Poles if (when?) they come back for a second offer), use this link and you'll get $5.00 toward your first investment.    If you own a business and want to see if Kickfurther can help you finance new inventory, use this link and I get referral credit.    You can buy some of their products in the Kickfurther store and if you use this link I get a sales commission.  

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