DPS Skis Wins SBA Exporter of the Year Award
Lying face up in the deep Argentine powder of Las Leñas, Stephen Drake thought to himself, “There has got to be a better way to ski.” Disappointed in the commercially available snow skis, this epiphanic moment began a sixteen-year journey of creativity and experimentation, which resulted in an entirely new material and design for skis.
Drake, a pro-skier, traveled around the world and structured his life in search of the deepest turn. Through winters in Alaska and Europe and summers in Argentina, Stephan combined his passion for skiing with the quest for the perfect ski.
In 2005, Drake became the founder and president of DPS Skis. At this time there wasn’t a ski brand that combined the lifestyle dedication to the sport and progressive equipment manufacturing. In May 2013, Drake was honored as the 2013 U.S. Small Business Administration Exporter of the Year Award in the SBA’s Utah District.
DPS pioneered the world’s first pre-preg carbon fiber sandwich ski. The company’s innovation and dedication to skiing has resulted in global market success and double-digit growth. DPS employs 20 people in the Wasatch Valley and is poised to increase with plans for a new facility. Today, the company manufactures its signature premium skis in Ogden and operates their DPS Ski Salon in Downtown Salt Lake City, which opened in November 2011.
“We want our Salt Lake facility to be a part of the DPS brand,” says Drake. “We envision a place where people can come and see their skis being made. People coming to Park City could tour the facility, buy a pair, and head for the mountains. That is what it is all about.”
DPS ships skis to 13 countries on four continents worldwide. Growing the company from scratch has not been easy. “Our journey is marked by a sense of perseverance. It is a rocky road, and we really bootstrapped it,” said Drake. He contributes his early success to youthful naivety and the timely arrival of debt finance.
Drake’s export expansion was funded by an SBA guaranteed Export Express loan from Zions Bank. “Finance has always been one of the biggest challenges,” says Drake, who thinks he probably could not have gotten the loan without the SBA guarantee.
It is truly all about the skiing. “That is why we do it,” says Drake “to actually ski.”
He feels fortunate that he can combine creativity with his love of skiing to build a product that really performs for his customers. The Acting SBA Regional Administrator Stan Nakano agrees. “When you see a company like DPS, they are successful because they are truly passionate about what they do. Drake built a better ski because he saw a need for it. Success in international markets was a result of an exceptional product.”
What’s next? Drake says anyone who has spent time in ski boots knows that there is room to improve their comfort, and performance.