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Andy Liebner needs YOUR vote for $150,000 grant

Sat, Oct  4, 2014 - By Mike Muha

Andy Liebner, owner of the United States Ski Pole Company and author of "Wild Shot: Struggles and successes in biathlon and cross country skiing" has applied for a $150,000 grant from Chase Bank's "Mission Main St. Grants" program. The catch? To be considered for the grant, at least 250 people have to vote Andy's proposal on the Mission Main St web site. Voting ends on October 17 - just a couple weeks from now. As of today, Andy has 185 of the required 250 votes to move forward into the Panel Review Phase. The Panel will reward 20 grants to eligible companies in January of 2015.

Mission Main St Grants process

Unfortunately, the web site does not give a full explanation of why Andy wants a grant. I asked Andy if he could provide more details and he delivered! Below are answers asked by Chase in Andy's grant application. You can vote for Andy's grant at


Tell us about your business and what makes it unique. Please provide a general description of your product, customers, competitive landscape, and overall performance.

The United States Ski Pole Company is the only high volume ski pole factory in the Americas. We offer the highest quality poles, custom made in short turnaround time to our client’s exact specifications. Lighter, stiffer, lower swing weights, better balance, increased durability.... you specify it, we create it. We deliver great pricing, quick turnaround and the rare combination of composite engineering, English and skiing spoken around the clock. While other pole sources are experiencing rapidly rising material, labor and regulatory costs, the U.S. Ski Pole Company is experiencing the opposite.

Our mission at the United States Ski Pole Company is to make the highest quality ski poles in the world for both top-level competitors and everyday consumers and to continue to grow America’s economy. Our poles have been internationally tested and proven to be the absolute lightest ski poles ever made and rank among the world’s strongest, too. Our customer base ranges from Olympic skiers to an average trail hiker. As society gets more health conscious, our market continues to expand.

United States Ski Pole Company cross country ski poles

What inspired you to become an entrepreneur? Describe both your greatest achievements and biggest challenges.

I love being an entrepreneur because self-motivation is fuel which drives everything I do. It is the freedom to become a great success with no limits, a mentor, an inspirational co-worker, and a community leader. My greatest point of achievement was walking through the 2014 Sochi Olympic stadium as an Olympic Coach in the eye of Millions of viewers around the World. It was that moment of inner recognition knowing that my entire life experience spent as a dedicated driven competitive skier, teammate, supporter, and now coach was all worth it.

How is your business involved with the community you serve? Examples include: giving back to the community, sourcing locally, and/or contributing to economic development via hiring.

Cheboygan, Michigan is a small community and among the highest in Michigan’s unemployment rates. It also ranks as one of the highest in drug and alcohol abuse. We stand proud and represent an honest, clean enterprise. All our workers arrive to work determined and they leave with a stronger sense of pride. Our policy is to hire only Michigan residents. We are also used as an example by a mentorship program for young at risk teens.

Andy Liebner cross country ski poles

Andy with a pair of his poles.

What would a $150,000 grant mean to your business and how will you utilize the funds? Please be as specific as possible.

Working with elite grades of carbon fiber is expensive and so is the development of innovative components (grips, straps, baskets, tips).

Delivering quality quickly, offering warranties, and taking the leading edge in graphic application is the American way of raising the bar.

The majority of the funds would be used to purchase three major areas within our manufacturing process.

  1. A specific machine necessary to perfect our uniform carbon shaft manufacturing application process. This will expedite our production put-through rate and increase quality control.
  2. A very highly innovative and refined graphic application process made by an Italian company that does not add any weight to the carbon shafts and is extremely durable against abrasions. This also allows us to make custom co-branding orders with a variety of customers very efficiently.
  3. The remaining funds would be used to acquire a grip manufacturing tool which would enable us to manufacture a needed component in-house rather than subcontracting the part from China. This is the final piece we need to re-shore making our complete pole 100% made in the USA.

What are your short-term (1-2 years) and long-term growth plans for the business? How will this grant contribute to your plan?

Currently we have a large pending military contract. Due to the Barry Amendment, a U.S. source for all warfare goods must be attempted first before outsourcing. Since we are the only manufacture of such ski / trekking / snow shoe poles available in the America’s, we’re the sole domestic manufacturer available. Without the Military contract, we will continue to market and expand throughout the North American Continent. Through word of mouth, we have distribution requests from such countries as Norway, Sweden, Japan, Austria, and Great Britain. With these demands we will need to hire an approximate 12-24 employees within the next 1-2 years.

Vote for Andy's grant at