Voice of the Modern Manufacturing Economy Since 2013
 Lanny Goldwasser & Jason Badgley / photo Kara Pearson

Phunkshun

by Eric Peterson on October 7, 2014, 08:19 am MDT

www.phunkshunwear.com

Denver

Founded: 2011

Privately owned

Employees: about 14

CEO Jason Badgley moved the facemask maker from Summit County to Denver for the deeper labor pool and forecasts a doubling of revenue for the third straight year.

Snowboard instructor Jacob Levy came up with the Phunkshun facemask in 2010 when he and co-founder Lanny Goldwasser were working in New Zealand, where they would teach during the Rocky Mountain offseason.

Badgley says that necessity was the mother of this invention for Levy and Goldwasser. "They were on the hill 200 to 300 days year, way more than even the most diehard snowboarders," he says. "They were unhappy with the masks that were available."

Levy came up with a better facemask that evolved into Phunkshun.

Eschewing the mass-produced industry standard made with what Badgley terms as "very low-end fabric,” Phunkshun makes facemasks with domestically produced polyester-spandex that function much better across the weather spectrum -- thus the company's name.

"We combine performance features like moisture wicking, sun protection, and water resistance with U.S.-milled, high-quality fabrics," touts Badgley. The lining is either breathable mesh or, for heavy-duty masks, Polartec fleece. The company makes single- and double-layer masks as well as a "Ballerclava” that covers the entire head.

Phunkshun's catchy graphics are another standout feature. "All of our poly-spandex facemasks have dye-sublimation -- the graphic won't rub off or crack like a screenprint," says Badgley.

Phunkshun has come a long way in three years. "When they first started, the brand was born in the ski-school locker room at Copper Mountain," says Badgley. Back then, the Phunkshun HQ was Levy and Goldwasser's Silverthorne apartment, but they soon outgrew it and moved to a warehouse in Silverthorne. Badgley came aboard as CEO in 2012, and Levy sold his interest and exited the company in 2013. Goldwasser now heads up sales and business development.

Stellar growth pushed Phunkshun to move to Denver in summer 2014. The company's sales tripled in 2013, and Badgley forecasts an uptick of 50 percent growth for 2014. "Our growth is up and up," he says.

One catalyst has been the ability to make small batches of masks with custom graphics. The minimum order is one, and customers have included GoPro, Red Bull, and Freeskier magazine. "We have the ability to do a very, very short run of custom-made masks," says Badgley. "There's no one else offering a one-off, unique graphic on a made-in-the-U.S.A. mask."

For the 2014-15 snowsports season, Phunkshun is debuting three Australian-milled Merino wool facemasks, and will launch a fishing brand, Fishmasks, in summer 2015. "Sun protection is the largest concern," says Badgley of the latter. "You have it reflecting off the water, so it's doubly important there. We had to find a fabric that protected you from ultraviolet light but still breathed enough so your sunglasses don't get fogged up."

Challenges: "The largest for us -- and the biggest reason for our move -- is workforce," says Badgley. "Since moving down here, we have been able to find more sewers, which, sad to say, is a disappearing trade in the U.S." He says it's going to get even harder in 20 years, when most of the market's talent starts to hit retirement age.

Opportunities: Badgley points to the fishing market with the soon-to-launch Fishmasks, the custom market, and the uniform market for law enforcement and other industries. "There's plenty of people who work outside every day in the cold," he says.

Needs: "The biggest need we have is that the winters have a lot of snow and be very cold," says Badgley. "That's the one thing we have no control over."

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