Two U students turned their passion into a career when they created a ski goggle company.
Schaeffer Warnock, a senior in business management, and Jake Nelson, a senior in parks, recreation and tourism, formed their company, Aura Optics, in November 2013. They later received $2,500 from the Lassonde Entrepreneur Institute to launch their product and have since grown to be a self-sustaining business.
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As entrepreneurs, they wanted to enter the ski and snowboard industry and create their own “sense of culture within the market [they] love.”
“We’ve been skiing forever, and we’ve known each other since junior high,” Warnock said.
The idea for ski goggles came from their own struggles in the backcountry. After hiking up a mountain, they would get to the top and find their goggles completely fogged over before they could ski down the slope.
“I either ran back to the car to change goggles or would be carrying three pairs in my bag,” Nelson said. “With our goggles, I can change them on the lifts with gloves on, no problem.”
The Aura Optics goggles include an anti-fog formula on the lens. They also have interchangeable lenses and straps.
Erika Vikander, a snowboarder from Breckenridge, Colo., could feel a difference the moment she put them on.
“Whatever technology they are putting into the lenses has been noticeably different for me,” she said.
The first time she wore them, Vikander took second place at the Subaru Freeride Series at Snowbird Ski & Summer Resort.
“I’ve done two competitions with them and made podium on both of those, so they are obviously doing something right,” she said.
Vikander is one of about 31 athletes who make up the professional, amateur and media team for Aura Optics. But the greatest joy for Nelson in all of this has been seeing the goggles in use.
“It’s cool to be up at the resort and see people I don’t know who have the goggles on,” he said.
Nelson said there have been many happy moments along the ride, such as when they reached their $8,000 fundraising goal in the first 24 hours of the campaign. The two have since have raised more than $27,000.
Still, Warnock said there is no shortage of stressful moments. With miscommunication in manufacturing, the product was initially delayed two months, and the company had to invest four to five times as much money to make sure the goggles got to their clients without more delay, including personally dropping off every Utah order.
“That was a very big set-back,” he said. “We were like, ‘holy cow, what are we going to do?’ It was out of our control. We had 250 people relying on us to get them their goggles that we promised them.”
But it’s an experience that Warnock wouldn’t trade.
“It’s been a very fun journey and amazing to see some of the success that is coming out of this,” Warnock said. “We hope to continue this success for a long time and bring some innovation into the goggle industry, as well as create some brand loyalty toward Aura.”