Kaede Gossman may be Whistler’s littlest entrepreneur, but he certainly doesn’t think small.
The nine-year-old Spring Creek student is the brains behind Ka-Pow Snowboards, a local company that takes used snowboards and upcycles them into custom powder boards for kids.
The concept emerged a few years ago when Kaede, only six at the time, came across a swallow-tail snowboard in a local shop and asked his dad, web developer Brett Gossman, if they made the powder-friendly boards for kids.
“When he asked me that, I didn’t understand why they didn’t make these boards for kids either. They would benefit more from this than anyone,” Gossman recalled. “If you’ve ever ridden with kids in powder, it’s just awful. They wear out in half a day.”
Before long, Gossman was checking out YouTube tutorials on snowboard modification and eventually cut out a swallow tail for Kaede, who immediately noticed an improvement on the slopes.
“When I was riding, I was like, ‘This is so good,’” said Kaede, who eventually saw a gap in the market he could potentially fill.
“I thought the business would be good for me, because not only would it make money, it would also be really good for kids who wanted to ride powder, but couldn’t. But now they can, and it’s awesome to see that.”
For most kids, the extent of their business aspirations might be a bake sale or roadside lemonade stand, but Kaede isn’t like most kids. Coming from parents with entrepreneurial backgrounds, he was perhaps primed to have an interest in business from a young age. Kaede’s original idea was to sell his hand-drawn cartoons to tourists for 25 cents each, but he soon realized there were better profit margins in the custom snowboard business.
“(The cartoon venture) may not have gone fantastically, so we were trying to encourage his entrepreneurial spirit but focus it in a realistic way,” explained Kaede’s mom, marketing consultant Shannon Ward. “It became a series of lessons that were naturally occurring with this business that were things we really wanted him to know. They’re essential life skills, we think.”
Kaede has been involved with the business at every step of the way. With the help of his dad, he learned the manufacturing side. He’s enlisted his mom for sales and marketing tips. He wrote all the content for the company’s recently launched website, kapowsnowboards.com. And he’s even extended the product line into Ka-Pow-branded toques and T-shirts.
With the modified boards running between $40 and $100, Kaede isn’t doing it for the money at this point. He has hopes of one day being able to manufacture his own boards from scratch — and he knows it’s going to take a lot of hard work to get there.
“One life lesson that I learned is that it’s quite hard to make these boards and once you’ve gotten them done, there are rewards to making them,” he said.
So what advice does Kaede have for other young aspiring entrepreneurs looking to get their own business off the ground?
“Start small, and then once you’ve got a good business growing, think big,” he said.
Check out the Ka-Pow website or visit the company’s Facebook page for more information.