From The Mag

Five Skydiving Brands to Watch in 2017

Written by James La Barrie

Online Reprint

Originally printed in issue #88 (April 2017) of Blue Skies Magazine.
This article also appears at dropzone.marketing.
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The most successful businesses in the world are made up of two things: a great product and visionary leadership. Five skydiving brands are emerging (or re-emerging) into greatness. With each brand, I sense a palpable energy representing hustle, determination and a pure desire to be better and different.

These are five companies to be watching in 2017:

Aerodyne

Something is stirring in the waters at Aerodyne and the name generating that energy is the new CEO, Gordon Sellers. While Aerodyne has always been a major player in the industry, let’s just say it hasn’t been regarded as the “cool kid,” with lots of innovation.

For years the Pilot has been beloved by canopy purists but not much has turned heads, while PD, NZ Aerosports, UPT and Sun Path continue to hold a large majority of market share. That’s getting ready to change.

Having recently attended PIA, there was a new found buzz emanating from the Aerodyne booth due to a new crop of people breathing new life into this brand.

Sellers has taken his time to evaluate everything with a fresh pair of objective eyes. He’s assembled a talented team and is using his successful business experience from outside the industry and applying it to this one. I predict that over the course of the next 18 months, you’ll be seeing a lot more Aerodyne containers and canopies worn and flown by skydivers everywhere.

Fluid Wings

If Fluid Wings isn’t on your radar, it should be. Owner Scott Roberts isn’t trying to build a business centered on selling tons of canopies for the masses. Far from it. Scott is trying to build the best wing. Period.

Talk with Scott and what you receive is an energy that’s invigorating. He LOVES building canopies and asking the question, “How can this be better?”

What strikes me as different with Scott is he’s an artist who happens to be an engineer. His creative mind is on rapid fire and I get the sense that every day he gets to go to work is a day that brings him joy. He’s not a mad scientist, but someone dedicated to the craft of parachute design.

The best thing going for Fluid Wings is its size. Roberts isn’t building canopies in response to what other canopy manufacturers are doing. Instead, he’s focused on building something that he would love to fly himself. Because of this, Fluid Wings has become a grassroots movement driven by one canopy pilot at a time.

Manufactory

You won’t meet nicer people in the industry. Individually, Rob and Shelly Delaney are talented people. The combination of the two makes magic.

Manufactory isn’t your run-of-the-mill logo business that outsources designs into cheaply made T-shirts. Manufactory is two things: great design plus excellent quality. They’re not the cheapest, but they are the best and is why they’ve picked up clients like Skydive Dubai, the U.S. Army Golden Knights, Chicagoland Skydiving Center and the Skydive Spaceland DZs, to name a few.

I’m also a client and I’m a raving fan because of how they treated me when there was a problem with my order. In preparation for the PIA Symposium, I ordered custom jackets for my team. Three weeks before PIA, I received an email from Rob stating there was a problem. The color of the logo was the wrong shade of blue; it was bordering on a light purple but in reality it didn’t look too bad. Rather than offer a discount for the error, Rob comped the entire $600 order. I could tell he was gutted by the mistake and it was costly, but he earned my loyalty by holding to a high standard seldom seen in business today. Furthermore, the quality of the embroidery was incredible, and I’ve seen my fair share through the years.

I was a fan of Manufactory before—I’m an even bigger fan now! How they treated me when there was a mistake blew me away and is why I’m writing about them in this column. These guys will continue to grow because of their attention to detail, quality and integrity.

Skydive Cross Keys

Ever wondered what happened to Skydive Cross Keys in Williamstown, New Jersey? This pre-eminent DZ went from colossal to near silent after a string of financial challenges.

Today, the DZ is under new ownership and boy, are Nadia and John Mazure motivated! Like Rob and Shelly Delaney, the combined powers of this husband and wife team are dynamic. Nadia is a marketing machine with boundless energy and John focuses on aircraft and equipment with unmatched detail. Get ready skydiving world; Skydive Cross Keys is coming back and with a vengeance!

Skydive Tribe

I met Gillo Baldazzi at the British Parachute Association’s Skydive the Expo conference in England earlier this year and again at PIA. Gillo is an Italian skydiver who is incredibly intelligent and easygoing. He’s developed an app that I think has value for DZs, load organizers and skydivers. The app is brand-new, and while it hasn’t yet scaled, it has potential. What I love about Gillo is he’s put it all on the line.
He’s invested every dollar he has into creating a tool that adds value to the skydiver.

Essentially, Skydive Tribe is a one-stop-shop portal to see where the world’s LOs are going to be as well as what events are happening at any given DZ at any time. It’s the modern day dropzone.com in an app where you can learn what’s going on and where on a global scale. It remains to be seen whether the app will be embraced, but I hope so because Gillo Baldazzi has created something I think is pretty unique.

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