In five years of ski sales in Teton Valley, Sego Ski Co has learned some hard business lessons and emerged more streamlined and efficient than ever.
Founded by brothers Tim and Peter Wells in October of 2014, Sego is a boutique brand that manufactures its own skis in a factory on Lupine Lane in Victor. It’s the brothers’ second ski company; they founded Deviation, a custom ski and snowboard brand, in Portland, OR, and ran the company for three years before selling it and striking out for the Rockies.
Sego soon developed a reputation for well-made, hard-charging skis. Buoyed by investment dollars over its first few years and riding the wave of a partnership with professional skier and television personality Lynsey Dyer, the company grew quickly. Its staff at times ballooned up to 15 seasonal workers, but the factory couldn’t keep up with demand.
“In some ways, the demand was our downfall,” CEO Tim Wells said. “We were overleveraged and there were delays in the supply chain, so we were forced to cancel over 2,000 orders in 2018. We didn’t have the cash or materials to make skis.”
They decided to scale back their operation and focus on direct-to-consumer sales instead of wholesale, because the profit margins are better without a middleman. When New West KnifeWorks bought the industrial space that Sego had been renting, Sego shrunk its factory footprint and moved to another quadrant of the same building.
With the company’s consolidation came a round of layoffs at the end of the 2017/18 season. The four remaining employees now work year-round and have all been with Sego for at least three years.
“The system runs itself better than it used to and we’re achieving higher construction quality,” said Peter, who oversees design and production.
Tim added that operations are more consistent than they once were. “Instead of having spikes and lulls, we’re making three to five pairs of skis every day.”
The best part about the company’s rapid initial growth, said Tim, was that he and Peter had committed much of their resources to building the brand, rather than building the company’s capital. As a result, Sego has a national following, and now, five years later, they’re seeing repeat customers who have worn out their first pair of skis.
Sego has consolidated its ski line, offering five major models in different widths and lengths. The smaller line simplifies production and makes it easier to communicate with the consumer.
“If you’re an east coast skier, we have your ski. If you’re in California, we have your ski. We have one backcountry model. It’s an easier sales pitch now,” Peter said.
There is still a small showroom in the Sego factory where customers are welcome to drop in, browse the goods, get a tune, or pick up some wax.
The biggest challenge of being based in somewhat-isolated Teton Valley instead of a metropolitan area is the lack of industrial space. Sego is prepared to build a factory tailor-made to its needs, but construction costs are extremely high in the area. That doesn’t mean the brothers want to move shop to somewhere with more industrial real estate, however. The Teton range is the most appealing part of their current location.
“Owning a ski company is one part lifestyle and one part building skis. We’re here for the skiing, full stop,” said Peter, a proficient telemark skier who has never met a one-piece ski suit he didn’t like.
Sego sponsors a squad of athletes, including talented young skiers on both sides of the Tetons and one competitor in the prestigious Freeride World Tour. The company commissions local and regional artists for its top sheet graphics, and for the 2019/20 season, five percent of sales will go to three charitable foundations: the Coombs Foundation in Jackson, the Teton Valley Ski Education Foundation, and the national nonprofit High Fives Foundation.
The brothers hope to offer many on-snow ski demos across the region this winter, while still maintaining a more robust demo fleet at the Victor showroom.
“We’re trying to make the business sustainable and focus on servicing returning customers and the local community, and that’s keeping us plenty busy,” Tim said.