February 20, 2017

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Hammerhead Sleds

It seems to me like Steve Luhr has stumbled upon a fool-proof strategy:

Take a timeless children’s activity, update it, make it significantly more exciting/dangerous, and market it as a must-have for any extreme sports enthusiast.

It started when Steve left his job. Steve had been working for BioTek, a medical equipment sales firm, for 18 years. When the company was bought up in 2002, Steve was faced with a dilemma. If he wanted to continue working for the company, he would have to move from Vermont, where he’d lived for over thirty years, to Nevada. Quite a change. And one Luhr wasn’t willing to make. So he decided to formulate a game plan.

He knew he wanted to run his own company and be his own boss. He just wasn’t sure what sort of company he wanted to run.

He threw around all sorts of ideas- from opening a diving-equipment store to starting an airport.

Of all the ideas he played with, one stuck out to him as a winner: Sleds for adults.

So started Hammerhead Sleds.

Anyone who grew up anywhere near snow has probably gone sledding at least once. It’s pretty intuitive. You hop on a toboggan at the top of a snow-covered hill, and then you ride it down to the bottom of the hill. Pretty simple, and–if done right–pretty fun.

What Steve decided to do was make a high-end, designer sled. The Hammerhead Pro

“Rip turns with blazing speed and total control, bust freestyle moves that’ll make jaws drop, dust the competition, or tire out your dog,” boasts the company’s website. It is, by all counts, a faster, riskier, and more expensive version of the 15 dollar K-Mart sled you might be more familiar with.

After finally making a successful prototype (it took about a year and a half before Luhr turned his idea into a tangible product) he still needed one thing: funding.

What started as a downhill joyride quickly became an uphill battle. Investors are often wary of an unproven product idea, and the Hammerhead’s $200+ price tag didn’t help lower any of the raised eyebrows he was getting.

But Steve did eventually manage to get enough funding to produce and sell the sleds, at least on a local scale.

And it seems to have been a pretty decent success so far. In 2008, Hammerhead made about a quarter of a million dollars, more than half of what Luhr estimated he’d need for a full-scale national roll-out of his product.

While Hammerheads haven’t exactly become a staple of the American household, they’re off to a solid start. To date, he’s shipped about 4,000 units, with designs for new sleds in the works. The Hammerhead Pro is currently available for purchase from R.E.I., L.L. Bean, the Discovery Store… Even Amazon.com.

And what some might see as an impediment–his company’s generally small size–Luhr sees as an asset.

“Bigger companies…can’t do this,” Luhr says. “They can’t come down to our level and create something this exciting and new – they’re just too burdened. We just keep moving.”

And with that, he hopped on a Hammerhead sled and jettisoned down a large, snow-covered slope.

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