3 questions with the COO of Rüster Sports

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Ethan Paul Davidson - Chief Operating Officer at Rüster Sports

Connect with this Des Moines-resident on Twitter or at Green Grounds Cafe in Valley Junction each Wednesday for 1 Million Cups.

What is Rüster Sports and what do you do there?

Rüster Sports is a manufacturer of sporting goods located in the heart of Des Moines. Our two main products are Hen House bicycle travel cases and Dimond triathlon frames. The Hen House is the only bike case in the world that meets the 62 linear inch requirement for standard checked baggage on all major airlines. When flying with any other bike case on the market travelers incur a bike fee upwards of $150 each way to fly their bicycle. The Hen House is the only bike case on the market that offers the end user a return on their investment. The more they fly, the more they save. The Dimond bicycle frame is a carbon fiber triathlon-specific bicycle frame. It is unique in that it was designed without the seat stays and seat tube of a traditional bicycle frame specifically to maximize aerodynamic performance. Prior to launch, the Dimond team traveled to the FASTER wind tunnel in Scottsdale, Arizona to test the Dimond frame against two other industry leading triathlon-specific bike frames. The Dimond proved faster than any other bicycle tested at FASTER wind tunnel.

I personally run the day-to-day operations at Rüster Sports, a general way of saying I wear a lot of hats. We all wear several hats. As a startup, we are multi-talented individuals striving to make a name for ourselves in an industry full of giants like Trek, Specialized, and Cervelo. COO is my title, but being a team player and contributing to the bottom line is my duty. To give you a specific answer, I oversee the accounting, sell Hen House bags, manufacture carbon composite parts, manage retail and supplier relations, ship and receive goods, and even sew Hen House bags from time to time. My role is eventful and ever-changing. I sincerely enjoy every day differently.

Why did you get involved in 1 Million Cups?

After attending my first meeting roughly a year and a half ago, I immediately expressed my interest to Aaron Hoffman – an organizer of the event at the time – in a leadership role with the group and to notify me if an opportunity arose. I continued attending meetings and my appreciation for the event, the entrepreneurial community and the groups willingness to lend a helping hand grew stronger. Late last fall, Aaron approached me with an opportunity and I jumped with both feet. I view 1MC as a chance to stimulate your mind mid-week with a group of amazingly talented individuals who are willing to offer up their advice free of charge to help the Des Moines startup community succeed. Uncommon to say the least and something unique to Iowa folks if you ask me. 

What's the craziest story you've heard about an athlete trying to travel with their bicycle?

In November of 2012 we attended Ironman Arizona where TJ Tollakson (CEO of Rüster Sports and Professional Triathlete) was racing and we were displaying our products at the expo leading up to the race. We often follow TJ to many of his events to capitalize on his great performances and our presence as a company at the event. This particular time, TJ delivered a stellar performance and finished third. Anyhow, besides the point ... our booth was quite popular (partially because we were next to the recovery boots offering free relaxation and leg recovery, hard to beat!) and we caught wind of each others conversations as we often do due to our close proximity. A gentleman was leaned back in the chair, boots on full blast and caught a glimpse of our cases. He asked me to explain the benefits of the Hen House so I proceeded with my spiel. He stops me after just a sentence and says, "you mean to tell me that case meets the standard luggage requirements and avoids the bike fee?!?" After assuring him that in fact it does, he continued to tell me he last minute shipped his bike in a cardboard box (a common alternative to flying with your bike is to ship it) via Fedex from New York to Ironman AZ and spent nearly $1200! Painful considering he could have purchased two of our top model cases and flew with his bike to the event for a standard checked baggage fee of $25. He was disappointed, but we equipped him with a Hen House on the spot to ensure it didn't happen again.

Photo Credit: Headshot by Sarah Brockman, Dimond Bike photo via Facebook