After a few noble but sporadic attempts last year, we’re reigniting our “Living Major” series with a spotlight on our talented neighbor and friend, Cyrus Schenck of Renoun Ski Co. And as we were preparing this post, we received the news that Renoun won a Gold Award for the ISPO 2015/16 All-Mountain Ski category. Congrats Cyrus!
How did Renoun start? Take us back to the genesis of the company.
It started with six guys, chatting while we were going back and forth between Clarkson University and upstate New York. We were like, “how could we build a better ski?” . . . the skiing world is still based around technology from the ‘60s and ‘70s. Because we were all engineers, we were exposed to materials used in things like astronaut suits and bullet-resistant vests. In one class in particular, we were talking about this non-Newtonian material. We were like, that’s exactly what should be in a ski. We realized the power it could have.
Syracuse University had this Business Plan Competition. We entered and won the Grand Prize, and walked away with enough money to design and build the first ski. When I came home for Winter break after that semester, I was hiking Camel’s Hump and it dawned on me: I wasn’t going back to school again. I was going to work on the ski full time. That was it; it was a split-second decision.
What a decisive fellow! Did you have many “make-or-break” moments along the way?
This summer, I finally had manufacturing all lined up, and I committed to placing an order that at the time I couldn’t pay for. I just had to take a leap of faith that I would make enough money over the summer to cover the cost. It just happened to work out that when the bill came for the manufacturing, I had just deposited the check from window washing two days before. It was basically break even. It’s kind of weird to look back and think of all the decisions that just happened to work out like that.
Yep! I started a window washing business five years ago, when I was in high school, and it’s been my summer job ever since. The first three years it was part-time, but the past two years it turned into a totally full-time gig in the summer. So the initial run of skis was paid for by squeegee’ing a ton of windows.
We can safely call that a boot-strapped enterprise. How have you funded the business since then?
When I had a launch party in November, a bunch of my window washing clients ended up coming. They’re psyched that the kid who’s been washing their windows for five years is doing this. So now most of my investors are old window washing clients. It’s pretty cool that these people have known me for a while and have seen me grow, and now they’re helping me out with this next step.
Very cool. Could you tell us a little about your tagline, “Never Call Last Run”?
It’s multifaceted. Our philosophy is that your equipment should never hold you back - we want you to have the best personal experience you can possibly have out there on the mountain. From a design perspective, “Never Call Last Run” means: don’t let our gear be the reason you stop skiing. And because of the way these skis absorb shock, there will ultimately be less wear-and-tear on your body, so you can physically do more runs. It’s also a call to action, to push yourself to do more than you usually would. The kind of person that would buy our skis is the kind of person who would respond to that challenge.
Awesome, and major congrats on launching Renoun. Let’s move on. A perfect winter day in VT . . . how does it go down for you?
There would definitely be a lot of fresh snow on top of a phenomenal base. Waking up early, having a cup of coffee, jumping in the car with some really good friends, hitting the mountain. Whether it’s one lap up the mountain or ten, just being with people you care about and sharing the experience with them - that would be a pretty epic day.
That does indeed sound epic. What’s really inspiring you these days?
A lot of people in Burlington . . . it’s great watching other startups here grow, and just being surrounded by people who are passionate and love what they’re doing. You don’t get involved with a startup because you’re going to make a great salary. You’re doing it because you believe in something, and you believe in yourself and your skill-set. To see other people that are going through the same thing as me is pretty cool.
Yup, it seems BTV is really humming these days . . . Switching gears, what does “Living Major” mean to you? How do you live Major?
Life always presents obstacles; there are always things that hold you back. To me, “living major” means recognizing those obstacles, then making the best decision, and moving on. Not letting the “shoulda” thoughts hold you back. Whenever I have a tough decision to make, like “should I drop out of school or not”, I always do the “rocking chair test”: when you’re 80 years old, sitting in a rocking chair on that front porch, would you regret not taking that jump? Would you always wonder, “what if”? And if you would, then the decision’s pretty easy.
The “rocking chair test”… we love it!. Now lastly, we have to ask—what’s your favorite UM product and why?
My favorite one is the face wash. Or the face balm! Either one. I just feel totally great after using them, and they smell fantastic. Multiple people have been like, “Cyrus, you smell really good!” and I’m like, “Oh, it’s my face balm . . .”
Thanks, Cyrus! We can’t wait to give Renoun skis a try on the slopes this winter. Readers, make sure to check out Renoun’s website here.
photos by Jack Jesset