Park City entrepreneur straps in to make her pitch
In about a week, Allyson Leang will step onto a stage in Salt Lake City and do something she has learned can seem like a herculean task: Talk for five minutes about her business to people who know nothing about it.
Leang, founder of the Park City-based Ski Lab, was chosen as a finalist for the Outdoor Industries Women’s Coalition’s Pitchfest, an August 2 event that invites female entrepreneurs to deliver pitches about their companies to a panel of judges. She will walk on stage with the hope that she can spin a compelling narrative of her company’s story, the challenges it faces and possible solutions.
Ski Lab, which Leang operates out of her garage, manufactures custom skis and sells materials to a burgeoning market of people who build their own. Since its inception in 2011, it has become successful and has sold several hundred of pairs of skis. But as someone with no previous business experience, Leang has found forging a plan to grow the company to be difficult.
Since being named a finalist for Pitchfest in June, she has discovered that telling that story is tough, too.
“What’s the view, what’s the big picture you want people to walk away with knowing?” she said. “It’s really hard to streamline down to that. And you also have to make a pitch that’s visually attractive and engaging. You’re on stage, telling your story. And it’s really, really hard.”
In addition to teaching her how to make a pitch, Pitchfest has proven enlightening in many other ways. There is no financial incentive for participating in the event, but the lessons she’s learned, she said, are worth more than what an investor could provide with a checkbook.
She has worked with a mentor for nearly two months, identifying Ski Lab’s primary challenges, seeking out solutions and streamlining ideas for growth. Hearing the perspective of an outsider has given Leang a fresh outlook on her business.
The most valuable lesson was that she sometimes gets too caught up working “in the business instead of on the business.”
“It’s every day, the tiny details,” she said. “I don’t step away enough to look at the big picture and to work on the business and how to make it bigger and better, how to grow and make it become more. That’s one of the biggest things I’ve taken away from this experience.”
Collaborating with the other entrepreneurs has also been rewarding. Since the goal of Pitchfest is to build a community and help the participating businesses rather than win a prize, Leang has forged connections with the other finalists.
They come from a wide range of backgrounds, from starting a part-time home business to dreaming of being an entrepreneur from a young age. But as women in the outdoor industry, their experiences are similar.
“We’re all in the same position,” Leang said. “We all come from the outdoor industry, we’re all women, we’ve all started our own businesses, and we’re all kind of struggling with the same things. It’s nice to get out of my bubble here and realize and see that there are other people dealing with the same issues and how they move forward from those. That’s very valuable.”
Leang is hopeful that the experience of participating in Pitchfest will get her closer to turning Ski Lab into what she envisions. She sees opportunities to increase sales and to eventually hire employees and move the business out of her garage.
Armed with what she’s learned in the last two months, she said, she’s closer to making Ski Lab a sort of “Home Depot” for people who build their own skis.
“What other kinds of content can we provide on our website to help other people solve their problems?” she said. “How can we assist the small ski and snowboard companies and address their specific needs better? Those are some general goals.”
For more information on Pitchfest, which is open to the public, visit oiwc.org.
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