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Salt Lake City — For University of Utah student Alex Carr, a bad day on the ski slopes became the inspiration for a novel ski pole – which is slated for production this summer. With guidance from several programs at the university’s Pierre Lassonde Entrepreneur Center, Carr and his company, Char Poles, are closing an initial funding round of $200,000 from investors to cover expenses for the first year of operation.
Featuring screwdrivers in the handles, Char Poles also have bottle openers and built-in monopods for cameras. The poles are customizable, allowing skiers to choose their own color, size and style combinations.
“I got the idea for these poles after hiking up a mountain in the Utah backcountry before realizing the bindings on my skis weren’t adjusted properly,” says Carr, a sophomore majoring in entrepreneurship and Farsi. “After failed attempts using rocks and twigs as screwdrivers, I decided to make it my mission to create ski poles with screwdrivers.”
Just three years after that experience, Carr will travel to Ningbo, China this summer to tour the manufacturing facility and perform quality checks before giving the go-ahead to start production. Pre-sale of the poles is scheduled to begin in October, and an initial order of 3,000 pairs should be ready for shipment to customers in November.
“This entire experience has been incredible,” Carr says. “We were not expecting the excitement and anticipation for this product to be so high. This has been a terrifying but exhilarating process.”
Char Poles have been named one of the top 10 innovative and creative products by Skiing Magazine and currently holds one of five spots on the 2013 SnowSports Industries America (SIA) trade show’s “Wish List. “
Carr credits the University of Utah’s Startup Center for Students, Innovation Scholar program and The Foundry for helping him get his “foot-in-the-door” and for being crucial to his success. All of the programs are affiliated with the Pierre Lassonde Entrepreneur Center, which is part of the David Eccles School of Business.
“Asking for help was by far the most difficult part of starting my business,” Carr says. “But with the university’s entrepreneurship programs backing me, I was no longer Alex Carr, U of U undergrad, but an entrepreneur who was serious about getting an idea from paper to production.”