Student startup KVZ Sports experiences rapid growth
Most founders of startup companies dream of being in the position that Matt Boyd and Cynthia Valenzuela find themselves in. Having incorporated KVZ Sports just a year and a half ago, the ASU student and recent graduate have seen their revenue skyrocket to six figures in the last six months, and they’re gearing up production to meet demand.
They were just named best new product line at a national trade show for snow sports industries in Denver, where they wrote numerous orders for custom branded snow apparel and soft goods and drew plenty of attention.
“We’re struggling to keep up,” says Boyd, “but we’re ready for the expansion. We’re pretty sure we’re going to keep getting bigger. We’ve upgraded our equipment. Now we just need to get our production ramped up.”
Essentially a digital printing company, KVZ uses modern textile and printing technologies to offer products that are custom designed in virtually every aspect. Clients include the biggest ski resorts in North America, including Park City, Vail and Bear Mountain, as well as resorts in Montana, Wyoming, New Mexico and Vermont.
They’re also beginning to offer ski apparel, masks and neck warmers to consumers, through spinoff companies Loveco and Hotmix. Almost all of their products are manufactured in Phoenix.
Valenzuela was an ASU senior in communication when she won a $14,000 grant from the Edson Student Entrepreneur Initiative in 2010. She graduated last December and now is working full-time on the venture. Boyd, her husband and an ASU graduate student, says they both have been devoting 16 hours a day, seven days a week to their fledgling business.
“We’re a lean and mean operation,” he says. “We have seven contract employees and two sales reps, so we do most of the work ourselves. We found a need for a product, then we discovered a manufacturing process through our research. The unique part is that it’s highly customizable, allowing us to do small orders. We had to learn to create the designs ourselves.
“The important thing is that we develop close relationships with our clients. We’re very responsive, and we try to give them what they want. Another core value is that we want to keep our manufacturing in Phoenix, to create jobs. In the future we’d like to focus on developing more highly skilled jobs.”
At 41, Boyd is not a novice at business. He was a veterinarian in Australia for several years, and he continues to maintain his practice there with a partner. He received an MBA in Hawaii, where he met and married Valenzuela five years ago, moving to Arizona shortly afterwards to be near her grandparents, Nana and Tata.
But they both have experienced a steep learning curve, he says, and they’re grateful for the support they’ve received from Brent Sebold at ASU Venture Catalyst and Gordon McConnell at Arizona Technology Enterprises.
“They’ve both provided important connections and helped us find people to work with us. But their encouragement has been more important than anything. They are constantly encouraging us, so we do our best to make them proud of us.
“My personal experience, coming from Australia and Hawaii, is that ASU is a fantastic place for entrepreneurs.”
Boyd and Valenzuela are both avid snowboarders, though they haven’t had time to participate in the sport lately. They are looking forward to their company being featured in the March issue of Ski Area Management magazine as the top product line at the trade show, a boost for which they’re ready.