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Small business develops new product in a matter of months

Location
CompanyProTest Wax
Industry:Arts, Entertainment and Recreation
City:Invermere, British Columbia
Amounts: various  Find what funding programs you qualify for

Creating a small business plan to obtain funding

When Zenon Sharko was a kid growing up in Niagara Falls, Ontario, he spent his winter on the slopes and hanging around in ski shops. "I loved it," he says. "The smell of ski wax always got to me. Little did I know how toxic it actually was." In little time, Sharko was able to develop a new product and is now seeking additional financing with the help of a small business plan from the Centre for Business Plan Development.

Ski wax influences performance

Tuning with wax is a specialized art in the world of competitive skiing and snowboarding. The right formulation of wax for the snow conditions can mean the tiny difference in speed that can put an athlete on the podium. But vaporized ski wax is toxic. "The stuff they use in the wax is really harsh chemicals, and if it heats up to a certain degree, it will actually burn a hole in your lungs," says Sharko. In recent years, skiers and pros have become more aware of the dangers, and technicians have taken to wearing protective inhaler masks while tuning skis.

The quest for a non-toxic wax

Sharko was well aware of the dangers. As a race technician for the Canadian men's ski team, the B.C. men's ski team and the women's para-alpine time, he inhaled his share of fumes. So after a brief "retirement" to be a dad, he set himself on a quest for a non-toxic wax that would provide the same competitive edge as conventional waxes. And he's had remarkable success in a short time. As we spoke, the Canadian Ski Cross Team in Argentina had been testing ProTest wax. "And out of 12 possible podiums on the one day, they got nine podiums, and four of them had my wax on them, which was a pleasant surprise," says Sharko.

Company set-up takes only 7 months

It's hard to believe he started researching his company a mere seven months ago. Armed with an education in ski resort operations from Georgian College in Barrie, Ontario, Sharko left for an internship at Panorama ski resort in B.C. ten years ago. From there, he moved into working with ski teams with great success one of his skiers took home five medals at last winter's Paralympics. And he's put the same dedication into his newest venture. "It's been in the back of my mind for a while, but I started researching in February. I thought it would be a lot easier than it was. But it's pretty hard to make wax, especially with natural products."

Consulting with candle makers and biomimicry experts

He had worked in a ski shop with a friend from South Africa who's a chemist. "I sent him a couple emails and got some suggestions on where to start. So I started going on the internet and researching biomimicry taking things from nature and making them practical. It's a whole different way of thinking. Rather than using chemicals, they look at a leaf and try and figure out why it repels water and make a design around that. There's a whole biomimicry guild, so I've been asking them a lot of questions, and talking to candle makers and the cosmetic industry on how to melt and mix materials. Because I definitely don't have a chemistry background and organic chemistry is much tougher."

Natural waxes for surf boards and bicycle chains

But Sharko's secret ingredient is the feel that comes with years of experience. "With all my years of waxing, I know what to look for and how it should feel even if it's not on snow. I can tell by the feel and the way it goes on the ski." Within a matter of months he'd come up with the first two waxes and began testing. He also recognized that offering a variety of non-toxic products would help position his company better, and he explored using natural waxes for surf wax, skate park wax and bicycle chain lube. "The bike lube is almost ready for market," says Sharko. "Finding a non-toxic way to make wax a liquid is really tough, but I've tested traditional chemicals with my natural wax and had good results. Now, I've found a citrus based solvent which I'll be testing. The local bike shop is doing a lot of testing for me."

Making small investments one at a time

Working as a stone mason in the summer and at the Panorama ski shop in the winter, Sharko has so far self-financed his start-up venture (along with selling cool ProTest Wax t-shirts). He's content to take small steps to growth. "I'm not in too much of a hurry to go huge. Just get into a few stores this winter, and see how that goes. Small investments, and hopefully big profit."

Small business plan prepares way to look into obtaining government funding

But he knows that financing at some point will become necessary, and he knows how to about getting it. "Applying for grants and loans they don't really look at you, if you don't have a business plan. But doing a business plan and putting it on paper is hard for me. The creative side of me is abundant, but actually writing things down in a mathematical order is not my thing." He contacted the Centre for Business Plan Development to prepare a professional plan for ProTest Wax Company, and was very pleased with the results. "I'm trying to look through grant options right now, but if I have to for a loan, I'm sure that with this plan I'll have no problem getting a loan."


www.protestwax.com

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Please note our Centre is not affiliated to programs profiled in the above article and no claim is made that funding is due to our Centre unless stated.
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