When Ethan Fortier founded Technine with friends Ali Goulet, Jay Demarais (J3), stepbrother Mark Girardi, and father Ray Fortier, he was an eighteen-year-old professional snowboarder with zero money for marketing. Without a formal business plan, Technine evolved successfully based on the idea that the company and its professional riders are more than just a business, they're a family.
The birth of Technine came in 1994 when jibbing was popular and snowboarders were butchering the nose and tail off thier boards. J3 was experimenting with bindings and decided to make a metal binding out of diamond-plate metal–the same stuff you step on to get into the cab of a Peterbilt.
Every binding on the market at the time had a base, but J3 drew up some heelcups, put them in a metal bending machine, and attached them directly to the board–baseless bindings from scratch. “I believe we had the first baseless binding,” says Ethan Fortier.
Ethan's dad Ray Fortier saw the design and took it a step further by having prototypes made in a factory in New York and bringing them back for what would become a Las Vegas debut at SIA. Without a booth, they sold a lot of bindings, most of them going to Japan.
As for the name, Fortier says they came up with the idea from listening to a lot of rap. “We don't back guns or anything. The first Technine's were all chrome, which reminded you of a gun. The name Technine just kind of clicked.”
The idea got people in the Colorado scene talking, because not only did they have an interesting product, they had some popular riders behind it.
The name, just like the image, was the base for the hardcore nature of the company. Fortier attributes this to the relationship between the owners. “It's just us,” he says. “We've never had any backers. All of us are pretty involved–we make it more like a family than a company.”
In 1995, the company developed its first all-plastic prototype. In 1996, the metal adjustable heel cup attached to a plastic base. In 1998, Technine released the Ali Goulet pro model. “We want diversity, there're different types of bindings for different situations,” says Fortier.
Today the 8,000-square-foot main factory in New York is where fifteen employees handle all the production, from the plastic molding, to binding assembly, sewing straps, to screening logos on the back. It's also where J3 now lives, designing every binding in-house. Ray Fortier handles sales and day-to-day manufacturing, while Girardi handles the “grassroots program”–sponsoring shop team riders and getting the word out. A new addition to the program has Blue Montgomery handling the team out of the Utah marketing office.
Since day one Ethan Fortier has been learning the ins and outs of the business, thanks to his dad, who he says has the business sense. “Technine's been my college education,” says Ethan.
Despite being part-owner, marketing manager, and the graphic and Web designer, Fortier finds the time to live in California in summer and Utah in winter. Heavily involved in the scene, the occasionally published photos of him are proof of his claim: “I want to be snowboarding as much as possible.”
This rider-focused approach has been the bread and butter of the company. “The key is having snowboarders who grew with the sport as it evolved,” says Fortier. That's how they started and how it's done today. As a smaller company, he feels Technine is undergunned–forced to use guerrilla marketing tactics to combat the bigger-company ad budgets.
“The formula is you get a good team, put out a good product, and take it from there,” says Fortier. “It's a lot different than any other company.” This season the sales have doubled, and distribution is starting to open up into other ccountries. The company plans to keep growing as much as possible without losing sight of the product and the feeling.
Technine's future includes expanding into softgoods, such as streetwear and light jackets, but the company will mostly keep concentrating on furthering the development of the bindings. Technine proves itself on a lifetime warranty, as well as excellent customer service.
There has also been a good response to the company's Internet site at www.technine.com. The site's features include team profiles, tech tips, a factory tour, and The Scene–crazy photos of pros caught in the act.
Whether it's the site, the pros, or the product itself, Technine's motivation remains the same, according to Fortier: “Believing in what your doing.”