Ski accessory company in Kentucky eyes export gold for Chinese market

World Today

Ski accessory company in Kentucky eyes export gold for Chinese market

China is set to host the Winter Olympics in 2022 and U.S. companies are jockeying to see if they can jump into the Chinese market, especially to capitalize on the growing popularity of skiing there.

One company comes from an unlikely spot.

CGTN’s Mike Walter had their story.

Kentucky is called the Bluegrass State. A nickname picked up because of the pretty pastures that dot the landscape. The state is known for horse racing and bourbon. One thing it isn’t known for is skiing. And that’s for good reason.

There are no mountains, or even ski hills. But it’s home to a global ski accessory powerhouse, and the world headquarters are right here in a residential area of Louisville.

“We are in 10 countries right now, Canada, United States…Japan, South Korea, the Netherlands, Russia, I could go on and on,” said Sally Lawler, Co-Owner of SkiSkootys. And by covered, she meant covered. Skiskootys are a boot protectors that go on easily, they are adjustable, and give the skier added traction. The selling feature is the curved sole which makes it easier to walk on difficult icy surfaces. Skiskootys were invented by Sally’s husband, Rob, and it’s all because of their son Reid.

“When I was a kid, I was a skier like the rest of the family, and I got tired of walking on Ski boots so I decided I was gonna snowboard and after that my dad couldn’t handle it so he decided to invent skiskootys which makes it so you can walk like you are in tennis shoes,” explained Red Lawler, Vice President of Skiskootys.

Now a local factory, just minutes from his home, is churning out thousands of skiskootys. Reid doesn’t have time for snowboarding or skiing. Instead, he spent his days inspecting skiskootys as they come off the production line.

Reid’s nights were then spent packing up products to be sent around the world. Meantime, Sally’s commute to work lasted just a few seconds as she made her way up the stairs to handle all of the paperwork associated with running a company that has global products. At the same time, she casually did some name-dropping of a few of her big-name customers, from the U.S. Olympian Stacey Cook to Sweden’s Sara Hector. They may be small but they’ve already carved out a large global footprint, with products used by skiers in the Olympics in Russia and South Korea.

Now they have their eyes set on the future and, of course, they’d love to see their product used again in another Olympics in another country.

“China is a big one for us, right now we are not there but my son Reid went there just a couple of weeks ago,” said Sally. “Beijing definitely opened up my eyes to the possibilities there and being that the ski industry is so young there I feel like there’s a lot of potential to be had there,” added Reid.

Beijing based sports journalist Dong Jun on Olympic business opportunities

CGTN’s Roee Ruttenberg spoke with Dong Jun on potential business opportunities at the 2022 Winter Olympics in China. Dong was an official commentator at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Official Commentator.