Finding the perfect work-life balance can be a perpetual struggle for many of us. However, Ethan Smith, founder of SFD MFG, seems to have gotten the hang of it. Based in Montrose, Colorado, this manufacturing company specializes in creating inflatables and white-labeling products for some of the biggest names in the outdoor industry. With a sharp eye for detail, Ethan works closely with his clients to bring their visions to life. While creating amazing inflatables is his passion, Ethan is most thrilled to see his products in use, taking people to far-off places they’ve always dreamed of visiting. Recently, SFD MFG was awarded an Energize Community Program loan, enabling Ethan to expand the business and create even more innovative products to better serve his customers.
What is your name? And what is the name of your business?
Ethan Smith – SmithFly and SFD MFG CO
How long have you been in operation? And what services/products do you provide?
SmithFly has been in business for ten years and SFD MFG CO is two years old.
What has been the driving force behind your business? And in what ways are you hoping to grow in the future?
For me, the driving force is true innovation. Making things that are, at their core, unique in materials and in how and where they are built. In a world where products with different brand names often come from the same factories overseas, we are seeking to develop the means of production here and build things in ways other brands don’t. To that end, what really drives that isn’t just environmental or social justice issues associated with production in overseas facilities it’s the core of innovation and durability that we can bring to the products by making them in our own facilities and using the best materials and technologies in those products to build the best products on the market.
As an entrepreneur what is one challenge you’ve faced in the past? And how did you overcome it?
The most consistent challenge for me is people and organizations not making good on their end of a deal or changing the terms of a deal at the last minute. That theme has been rampant across many deals over the time I’ve been building this and it’s something that is not discussed much in public business media. People really just lie straight to your face. As someone who spent twenty years as a designer working for major brands who have strong processes in place to prevent things like fraud, waste, and abuse it’s easy to think that the world is a safe place to do deals and most business transactions are clean and fair. When in fact what I’ve found as an entrepreneur is that the majority of transactions have some pitfall or trap that you need to watch out for. I’ve spent many hours just working on how to work through difficult situations we found ourselves in due to just plain old lies and deception of one form or another. It’s really bad and it has been really tough.
How was your overall experience working with Energize Colorado? What solution did Energize Colorado provide? And how did/will the solution benefit you and your business?
We used the Energize Colorado Program loan and it was clean and fast and managed to get us access to capital when we needed it to grow the company. The rate was reasonable, the terms were clear and reasonable, and we wouldn’t be where we are without it. It was critical to our success and hugely beneficial.
What is one piece of advice you would give to someone with aspirations to start a business of their own?
My advice is don’t ask or take advice from other people. You have the idea and understand it like nobody else. You know how to do it. Trust yourself. Don’t seek approval or likes or shares and don’t ask other people what they think. Let the work tell you where to go. It will lead to where it needs to go. Follow that. Ignore advice, and keep working on your thing. Success is buried deep in the weeds, that’s where you need to be.