Jayson Boren and Tate Floyd’s passion for snowboarding has taken them to the mountains to enjoy beautiful days on the slopes and to creating a solution to the frustrating, tiring experience of getting out of deep powder after a fall.
Their solution — Powder Soles — has earned them a spot among the 20 finalists in the 2021 Utah Entrepreneur Challenge. They hope to gain enough votes in the People’s Choice phase of the contest to win a cash prize and possibly help them win the competition’s top award that will fuel their business. Voting is open now on the competition website until midnight on Friday, March 26.
As Boren and Floyd describe in their product-pitch video for the competition, “Riding through powder, there’s really nothing like it. It’s like riding through a cloud.”
That is until you fall in deep powder and have to exert vital energy trying to get out of snow that doesn’t provide a solid surface. Beyond being frustrating, the effort can become a safety issue.
“Once you do fall, you have to reach down, unstrap from your binding, and the second you step off your board, you are in chest-deep in snow,” Floyd said.
Powder Soles turn snowboarder’s bindings into quick-release, expandable snowshoes so a rider can push out of the snow, reorient their body and board, and easily lock into their bindings again.
Boren, a senior in Utah State University’s Outdoor Product Design and Development (OPDD) program, said the process of creating Powder Soles has been an exceptional learning experience in identifying and refining the solution to a problem.
“OPDD is the main reason Powder Soles came to be,” Boren said. “My coursework, peers and educators have paved a way for my own growth as a product designer/developer along with the growth of the Powder Soles brand and product. If I've learned one thing from the program, it's that quality research is what makes a strong foundation for any project. Time and effort must be heavily invested when identifying real problems in an industry or a specific user experience.”
Floyd graduated from USU in 2020 with a bachelor's degree in Technology Systems, with an emphasis in product development, and the entrepreneurship minor offered by the Huntsman School of Business. Both OPDD and technology systems degree programs are among the “applied sciences” disciplines in USU’s College of Agriculture and Applied Sciences and students get hands-on experience in design and fabrication. Boren is also completing the entrepreneurship minor to complement his design degree.
Among the things Floyd and Boren have learned is that the journey from identifying a problem, to developing an idea, and creating a workable solution is not a smooth, linear process.
“The brand and the product have been through the wringer in nearly all phases of the design process,” Boren said. “Our first prototypes were the beginning efforts to validate our solution, but we quickly learned that there was a long road ahead of us before a fully functional design could come to fruition. Listening to other people's opinions, especially from strangers, is invaluable when you are seeking solution validation. Having the discipline as a designer to do enough work in the research phase can be difficult especially since the hands-on development phase is where I have the most fun.”
The Utah Entrepreneur Challenge includes entries from students at colleges and universities throughout the state and awards $60,000 in cash and prizes. The competition is sponsored by Zions Bank and managed by the Lassonde Entrepreneur Institute at the University of Utah. The People’s Choice Award is sponsored by Jones Waldo, a long-standing, Utah-based law firm specializing in business law. Winners will be announced on Saturday, March 27.
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