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Slingshot Sports

 
A water sports equipment manufacturer in the Columbia River Gorge maintains a nimble export strategy that helps it reach customers in 60 countries.
 

The Company

Jeff and Tony Logosz, the founding brothers of Slingshot Sports, turned their love of water sports in the Columbia River Gorge into an internationally recognized brand of kiteboards and wakeboards that has raised the bar for graphic design, flexibility and durability. From the company’s manufacturing facility in North Bonneville, Wash., Slingshot continues to grow its success by testing and implementing new technologies and being an active participant in the tight-knit community of water sports enthusiasts and competitors.

The Challenge

Slingshot kiteboards helped create the market for the sport at a time when there were few competitors and the company quickly found distributors eager to take their products to international markets. It started when a distributor from the United Kingdom landed at the Slingshot offices to say he wanted to import its kiteboards. “We looked up at him and said, ‘how do we do that?’” said Jeff Logosz. “We quickly realized that the world market is much bigger than just one U.S. market, and for us to be a global market share leader with brand recognition, we had to play on the global scale.”

By the new millennium, Slingshot had become a seasoned exporter, thanks to its network of faithful distributors. But when it expanded to wakeboards, the market was a little different. “We were entering a more mature market,” he said. “Suddenly our customers weren’t coming to see us, we had to go to them.”
 

The Solution

The expanded product line provided an opportunity for Slingshot to fine-tune its export strategy. At a 2012 export skills training for rural businesses sponsored by the Washington State Department of Commerce with funds provided by the U.S. Small Business Administration’s State Trade and Export Promotion (STEP) program [renamed the State Trade Expansion Program in 2016], the company learned how to leverage credit insurance and export financing to broaden its appeal to foreign buyers. The brothers also received advice on how to save thousands on developing overseas relationships during a one-on-one consultation with a Commerce trade specialist. Since then, Slingshot has also received Export Vouchers to offset the costs of attending key international trade shows. As of September 2015, more than three years since Slingshot attended the Commerce Export 101 seminar, the company’s ROI for each dollar of STEP support is close to 1,000 percent.
“Commerce showed us that instead of spending $50,000 on a trade show, we could spend $10,000 to $15,000 on a road show instead,” Logosz said. The company did just that, using an export voucher from Commerce with funding provided by the STEP program, to offset the costs of setting up a central meeting location in Europe in 2012 where they met with potential buyers from around the continent. The road show delivered a sales boost well above expectations and a repeat trip is in the works for 2013.
 

The Result

Slingshot’s eagerness to grow its global brand has fueled the company’s rapid-fire sales growth and validated its commitment to shift the manufacture of its wakeboards, kiteboards and standup paddle race boards from Asia to the U.S.  “It was a big gamble and everybody thought we were nuts, including my board of directors,” Logosz said. Now what the company saves on shipping and protecting their intellectual property gets reinvested in the business, including creating new jobs for this rural community.  “Our mantra is, ‘China is cancelled,’” Logosz said.

 

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