How to Run a Small Ski Company
Icelantic Skis, a boutique company in Colorado, wasn't profitable a few years ago. Then Annelise Loevlie became the CEO, and things changed.
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Name: Annelise Loevlie
Job: CEO, Icelantic Skis
Home Base: Golden, Colorado
Education: Graduated from the University of Vermont with a degree in international business
In 2006, Loevlie was managing five restaurants in Colorado’s Front Range when she got a call from her friend Ben Anderson, who’d started making skis in his parents’ garage. He’d come up with a logo and a name for his boutique brand: Icelantic Skis. “I need your help making this into a real business,” he told her.
“I didn’t even think about it,” Loevlie remembers. “I was like, ‘Yep, I’ll do it.’ I don’t think any of us thought that 12 years later we’d still be here.”
Loevlie knew enough to start handling marketing and sales for Icelantic, which rapidly grew over the next decade. But the company was still hemorrhaging money in 2014, when Loevlie became the CEO and started making tough decisions. “We had never made money the entire time we were in business, and we had investors who were getting tired,” she says. “I assessed the whole business. I couldn’t handle the inefficiencies. So I presented to the board all the problems and solutions. And they were like, ‘Go ahead. Let’s do it.’”
She fired friends, shifted full-timers to contracts, shut down Icelantic’s European office, and moved its U.S. headquarters from Denver to a less expensive location in nearby Golden. Icelantic is now going into its fourth year of profitability, with 30 percent year-over-year growth. We called her between trade shows and a trip to Japan to see how it’s going.
On Her Workspace: “Our office is in an old 1950s gas station that we remodeled into the Icelantic flagship retail store and offices. The layout is open, with tons of windows, including two huge garage doors that we keep open all summer. Big plants and beautiful art are the main decorations in the space. I don’t have an office—we have four different work zones that people can choose to work in, including one war room that’s a space for intimate, more sensitive conversations or when someone just needs some privacy.”
On Her Qualifications for Becoming CEO: “I had been observing the business for seven years before stepping into the role of CEO, so that gave me valuable insight into what was working and what wasn’t, and it allowed for some space to imagine solutions and create a vision. Ben, the founder and former CEO, is one of my best friends, and we’re aligned on the important things but take very different approaches to getting there. I ask hard questions and like getting to the truth of things. I also love systems and efficiency. We have to make sure that all the pieces and parts are healthy, happy, and aligned with the basic reason for being. The rest will take care of itself.”
On the Quality She Most Values in the People She Works With: “Humor. Everybody I work with on a daily basis has an immense ability to laugh at themselves, make light of shitty situations, and bring smiles to each others’ faces. Equal to humor, everyone we work with is a boss. They care and they get shit done—so, maybe, initiative?”
On What She’d Be Doing if She Wasn’t Doing Her Current Job: “I love food and wine and service and have always dreamed of having a vineyard, studying viticulture, and embracing the local and slow-food community. Bringing people together over food and wine made with love, in nature. Sounds dreamy. Though the more time I spend in the outdoor industry, the more I realize what an amazing world we live in and how lucky I am to have ended up here.”
On Her Favorite Daily Ritual: “I try to sit and meditate for at least a couple of minutes every morning—usually my dog lays next to me, and I love that. After I’ve checked in with my body and breath, I’ve been doing ten sun salutations. Super basic but profoundly refreshing. My body movements change with the weather, but lately, a little simple, slow yoga is doing the trick.”
On What She Eats for Breakfast: “Matcha latte made with hemp milk, MCT [medium-chain triglyceride] oil, a supergreen protein powder from Wooden Spoon Herbs, and honey. Then usually a piece of toast with olive oil, avocado, cucumber, and smoked salmon.”
On What It’s Like Working with Her Childhood Friends: “Everybody tells you, Don’t go into business with friends, but I’d say the opposite. I’ve known Ben and Travis Parr [Icelantic’s artist and cofounder] since the seventh grade and the rest of the core crew for over a decade. We vacation together and definitely hang outside of work. We’re all in this for the same reason—to build a life we love—so there’s a shared goal. Since we’re so close, it does make difficult conversations hard, but at the same time, there’s a foundation of love and respect that may not exist elsewhere. Ben and I work closely together. We can yell at each other, cry to each other, ski pow together, and sit in boardrooms together. I once punched him in the face, and he still likes me. So there must be some value there.”
On What She Does When the Work Day Is Over: “I usually head up to one of the trails in Golden with Louie, the dog. I’ve found that going straight home is a bit of a vortex, and that if I do something between work and home, I can enjoy it and relax much more.”
On Balancing Her Job Selling Skis with Actually Going Skiing: “It’s a company policy that if you’re not skiing, you’re not doing your job. So I get out there whenever the urge is strong, and I encourage everybody else to do the same thing. It’s taken a while, but I think I’ve finally found a good balance.”