I am excited, and somewhat scared, to announce that today is my first day as a full time engineer, manager, customer service agent, bookkeeper, sales director, and owner at Project Cedrus. When I started this 6 years ago, it was a creative outlet for me and an opportunity to push the industry in a direction I feel all sporting goods need to go: innovative, engineering-driven, high quality, and local manufacturing. Most industry people I discussed this with told me it wouldn’t work, so I decided to go at it on my own. For a while, it was a manageable side hustle. My wife was patient with my while I set up shop in our kitchen so I could chat with her while doing CAD as she prepared dinner. Many nights she went to bed without me, while I stayed up designing adapters or custom mounts to the wide array of boards and fuselages that existed only a few years back. Anything I could do to get a mast customer. The project was not profitable for many years, as I spent thousands of dollars on molds, materials, process development, and IP. But I never did it for the money, I did it because I enjoy the design process, learning, and for the most part interacting with customers and for the occasional email from someone thanking me for making such an awesome product.
When COVID hit, things changed. First, my manufacturing partner abandoned the project due to staffing shortages and fear of another global financial crisis level recession. Secondly, my wife and I had to manage a baby while also trying to work full time. I had a few hundred dollars left in my business checking account, and had told her that if it hit zero, I would not transfer anymore of our personal savings into the account. Project Cedrus was on life support, and I was about to pull the plug. But the months following the initial shock of lockdowns proved to be an unbelievable catalyst for so many business, small and large. One of the technicians working on Project Cedrus left to start his own composites shop, and I became one of his first clients. It was a blessing, as he was much more nimble and had lower overhead than the aerospace vendor I was working with prior. He was also simply better at making masts, with a real talent and motivation that shows in the finish of every Project Cedrus. A couple orders came in that spring, and I literally used their deposits to pay for materials to build the masts. I had no working capital. Together with my manufacturing partner we continued to refine the assembly process, and we got into a healthy cadence of mast assembly throughout the summer of 2020. Then came the new sport of wing foiling, and athletes quickly realized that the stiffness and strength of existing kitefoil masts were inadequate to support the larger boards and increased loads without the lift of the kite. And surfers around the world began to realize that a foil can turn even the smallest surf lineups into the most fun playground. Orders for Project Cedrus exploded, which was both a blessing and a curse. Obviously I was grateful for the cash flow and I have never experienced a more rewarding investment than my own business (I missed out on Bitcoin). However, my daughter Sabine born in May of 2019 was beginning to walk, talk, and show her personality as a functional human being. With a full time engineering job during the day, emailing customers, packing masts, and managing my supply chain was taking away from my time as a dad in the evening and during weekends. It also took away my ability to exercise, kite, and simply relax with friends and family. I have literally been working nonstop for the last year+ and it has been simply unsustainable. I would like to both thank and apologize to Kristen, and my daughter, for supporting me during this time. It was not pretty I assure you.
Last week I left Rad Power Bikes, where I was the lead engineer/architect for various e-bikes and accessories. I had a great team, personal connection to the product, and felt I was supporting efforts to get people out of their cars into more sustainable transportation methods. Like Cedrus, Peloton, and FedEx… Rad Power Bikes was enjoying unbelievable growth during the pandemic which also led to some stressful and challenging working conditions. It was not fair to me, my family, my customers, or Rad to be so over-committed as an employee, a dad, and part time small business operator. As the father of a toddler, side-effects of the continued pandemic, and lack of free time, my physical, mental, and emotional health really suffered last year and I simply had no choice but to take something off my plate. Even though I make more money at my full time job, I knew I had to see what I could do with Project Cedrus if I devoted more time to it. Here I am.
I am stoked. Yes it’s scary, arguably scarier now than when I started because I actually have something to lose and I think the industry is going respond soon with more competitive mast offerings. I’ve been transparent about the design and engineering behind the mast, and welcome the industry innovation that will come as a result. Considering what I was able to do only part time, I am so excited to see what I can do full time for Project Cedrus. First, I’m going to focus on new manufacturing processes. I developed the mast around a very scaleable architecture, which allowed for cheap and fast prototyping, small scale production with a limited investment, and now with a slightly bigger investment I can basically triple production without any redesign. That’s huge. Redesign is incredibly time consuming, expensive, and slow. It blows my mind that most brands “redesign” their product every 1-2 years. In my opinion it actually stunts innovation, because you simply can’t innovate in 1 year. It results in more money spent on marketing than actual R&D. Project Cedrus is 4 years old at this point, and selling better than ever. This is how product design and development should be.
Secondly, I’m going to focus on my mission which is to build better performing, longer lasting sporting equipment that is manufactured locally to both reduce the environmental footprint of development and production, but also to benefit the communities in which we live and play. Project Cedrus isn’t the end for me, it’s the beginning. I hope to work on many new projects/products, and encourage any companies struggling with supply chain, logistics, and financial challenges (tariffs, etc) of overseas manufacturing to reach if you’d like some help bringing production back home. It can be done, and I’ve proven it. It’s not easy, and it may require some tweaking of your financial models, but again it can be done.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned from Project Cedrus, it’s to just keep moving forward. There were so many times I almost hung up my hat, from pre-production challenges of getting a smooth transition to soft edges, to really complex adapter designs, to supply chain issues, to extremely hurtful messages on forums. Now it’s pretty rewarding to read “universal masts are the future” when I browse old threads in which people questioned the purpose and design behind Project Cedrus. Please be patient with me as I scale my manufacturing. You can’t simply turn on high quality assembly lines overnight, and especially in today’s era of labor shortages. I have always delivered on my word whether it’s a custom adapter or a new mast length, and promise I will deliver increased mast production and shorter lead times soon. I hope it’s more clear now than ever that I am fully invested and committed, so please be patient with my while I scale this business.
Thank you so much for your continued support and patience, I could not have done this without my customers and for that I am very grateful. I look forward to supporting you with innovative foil solutions for many years to come!
Post foil session in Los Barriles, a rare moment with the family together and not working.