Success Stories

Grad starts snowboard business

Josh Skiles, right, and Nate Morse

Joshua Skiles started his first business when he was a high school senior. His lawn service and landscaping business, Josh's Lawn Service, generated enough business that soon he was serving up to 55 customers per week and paying his way through junior college. 

Skiles sold his business to attend classes full time at Grand Valley State University, where he majored in Criminal Justice. Skiles immediately became interested in the juvenile aspect that was taught in his classes.

"I feel like I relate well with young kids," said Skiles, a Muskegon native. "Maybe because I'm still much of a kid myself."

When graduation in 2009 showed no job prospects, Skiles turned to his longtime friend Nate Morse, a Notre Dame graduate, who proposed an idea: starting their own snowboard company. Between the two of them, Skiles and Morse have been snowboarding for 23 years, so why not start up their own business? After creating a realistic business plan, Marhar Snowboards was born and the pair set out to tackle their first obstacle: learning how to actually make a snowboard.

Skiles and Morse turned to a representative from Action Sports, a supplier in the industry, who custom-built them a 1,000 pound snowboard press. The press makes the process much easier, and after one year of research, the pair seem to have the process down. After the wood has been cut, leveled, glued, and shaped, the press fuses together five layers of wood and fiberglass along with a custom-made design in 24 minutes. 

The business partners do everything on their own, from the initial design to the printing, down to the business cards. Morse, who previously worked in industrial design for a company in Grand Haven, handles all of the design aspects for the boards, Web site, and other marketing materials; while Skiles uses his previous business background to handle the logistical and financial aspects. 

"We wanted our own product and producing boards on our own helps to cut costs and allows us to have complete control of the whole process," said Skiles, who is the president of Marhar Snowboards. "Where Nate lacks I excel and vice-versa. We make a great team."

Their efforts are starting to pay off.  After two years of working out of their parents' garages, Marhar Snowboards has acquired warehouse space in order to grow their business, which has now expanded to longboards and apparel. The business is starting to gain local and nationwide recognition through Sportsmen for Youth events, the annual B.O.B. Rail Jam, a deal with TerryBerry, a nationwide rewards magazine, and attending demo days at local ski resorts.

In the year that they have been in business, Marhar Snowboards has gained excellent response from local and national riders, who have given the boards two thumbs up for price and performance. One aspect that makes their boards preferable is that they are made out of bamboo, which makes them eco-friendly, and many of their supplies come from West Michigan.

"We want to keep all aspects of our business local," said Skiles. "We are going to stand by the state that we grew up in and work hard to keep Michigan's resorts open."

For more information about Marhar Snowboards, visit www.marharsnowboards.com.

by Heather DeWitt

This story was filed with the tags: Entrepreneurship, Undergraduate Alumni