StartUps: Celtek

Now five years in the game, Celtek is picking up serious speed. They’ve expanded the line substantially from their initial offering of a humble three models to around twenty, with a full women’s line. They’ve also markedly expanded the operation internationally, and opened doors in nine countries outside the U.S. The team is killing it, and the gloves are looking sick. And the gloves do more than look the part; they play the part as well. Tried and true, they’ve been tested on the steeps of Snowbird to the frozen tundras of Minnesota and beyond. We caught up with the captain of the ship, the Mule himself, Erik Leines to figure out where Celtek came from, and where he and BJ plan to take it next.

When did you and BJ decide to make Celtek happen?

In 2001 I was looking to create an outlet beyond my snowboard career and asked my brother Bjorn to be involved. He was amped to be a part of it and together we came up with the Celtek name and icon, which represents strength, balance and focus.

Why gloves? Were the other gloves out there just not doing it for you?

There are plenty of companies out there who offer plain, black gloves with minimal features as a secondary part of their bigger offering. I wanted to bring something completely new and different to the market so that when you put your gloves on they accent everything about your style. Specializing in one category makes it easier for us to focus on the gloves and not get distracted. Sometimes companies expand too soon and end up being just OK at everything they do. That’s not our style.

When did the first line come out?

The first Celtek gloves hit stores in the winter of 2003-2004. We had just three styles that year—pipe, park, and winter. Every year our line’s grown and now it’s made up of twenty unique styles, everything from chilling street gloves to heavy leather winter gloves and we even added some hot women’s styles this year.

Say I wanted to make gloves, how does one even go about doing that?

There’s a lot more involved than you might think. Starting with the whole design process you find your initial inspiration—it might be a team rider, a cool piece of art or even a style of music. Then you take the inspiration to a concept and end up tweaking out on your computer for hours on end perfecting the style, fit and function. Once you’ve got your designs completed, it’s time to go into the production phase. That usually involves visiting the factory and over-seeing a few rounds of sampling until the finished products comes off like your initial vision. Finally, you take the gloves to the slopes and let your team test them and give you feedback before pumping out the final production run that you see in stores.

What makes your gloves different from the rest?

Our gloves come straight from the pro snowboarder’s point of view. Not only are Bjorn and I involved in every step of the process, but we also look to our team for design influence. Creating a product this way immediately separates you from a company whose designers are less connected to ‘core snowboarding. Celtek gloves are gonna give you the proper fit and best materials, like high-end leathers, temperature reactive fleece and industry leading waterproofing, of course. These are the basics that any decent glove should offer. But what really sets our stuff apart is the unique style. You won’t see any plain black nylon over-gloves here! For us, it’s all about sick prints, bright poppy colors and the style that’s gonna complete your kit.

What’s you and BJ’s level of involvement in day-to day-operations?

We’re completely involved in all the day-to-day operations—answering the phones and handling customer service, managing the designers and the team, planning out the marketing, working with vendors and paying bills, etc, etc, etc.

What’s your favorite part of the operation?

The most gratifying part of the whole process to me is seeing a stoked rider on the hill, repping his Celtek gear, with a huge grin on his face. I don’t think that’ll ever get old!

Do you see the Celtek name landing on anything beyond gloves and soft goods?

Yeah, it could happen for sure. For now we’re staying focused on making the best gloves, apparel and accessories. We let everything happen organically, so if there’s a big team push for a product we will probably end up making it.

Who are the official Clan members right now?

Bjorn Leines, Myself (Erik Leines), Justin Bennee, Mikey LeBlanc, Aaron Biittner, Stevie Bell, Eero Niemela, JJ Thomas, Zac Marben, Cheryl Mass, Mark Edlund, Forrest Shearer, Nate Bozung and Dan Brisse.

How many countries are you in?

Currently you can find our products for sale in ten countries—USA, Canada, Austria, Greece, Korea, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland and Japan. We’re expecting to open a lot more in Europe and down under (Australia and New Zealand) in the next year.

You guys have been working on designs with Dave Doman a lot, what does he bring to the table?

Dave brings insane art skills, he’s a good rider, and we can always count on a funky smell showing up at the office when he arrives! Dave is the real deal, he has the ability to hand sketch just about anything, and he’s the creative brains behind a lot of the sick stuff Celtek puts out. Plus, he has a great understanding of skateboarding and snowboarding. You’re my boy Blue!

Where do you see Celtek going over the next few years?

The first few years in biz have led us to continue our love for snowboarding and snowboard products, and we’ve learned a lot in the process. I think that in the next few years we’ll stay on that path while stepping up our game in some key areas. We’d like to put out a team video eventually and also keep spreading the word worldwide.

Why is Snowbird so sick?

Snowbird’s sick because it’s a big natural playground. Also it has locals with cool nicknames—like Grandpa, Scramble, Ox, G-money, C.F.B., Rocker, Dough Boy, Pouch, Bro, Good Karma Zac, Dome, Dumb Dan and Brew-Dawg — that have been up there since I was a grom. And if you want to find ’em on the mountain, they’re probably at “The House.

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