As applications for the 2012 Inc. 500|5000 arrive, we thought it would be worthwhile to shine a spotlight on some of the companies that are vying to appear on our ranking of the fastest-growing private companies in the U.S. (For more information and to apply, click here http://www.inc.com/inc5000apply/2012/). One that caught our eye was Ogden, Utah-based Enve Composites.
Formerly known as Edge Composites, Enve Composites specializes in manufacturing high-performance wheels and other bicycle parts for serious cyclists using mostly carbon fiber, which makes the pieces lighter but durable.
The company's founder, Jason Schiers, is a serial entrepreneur. Schiers founded several other businesses, including a surfwear line and a window frame manufacturing business. Before he started Enve, he ran a machine shop that built stage equipment for Las Vegas shows like the Blue Man Group and Cirque du Soleil.
After selling that shop, Schiers worked for a company making composites, a hybrid of other materials, which usually creates a stronger and lighter one.
"Carbon fiber was the new, whiz kid material, so the idea of working with it and learning more about it was really exciting to me, and then of course, the idea of using carbon fiber in bikes just put me over the edge," the avid cyclist says. "The more I worked with the carbon, the more I realized I had a knack for it."
So in 2005, he launched Edge Compositions. For the first three years as the company built its product, Schiers took on various projects, ranging from making pieces for Burton snowboards to building plates for horse X-rays.
"While we were developing the wheels, we needed to generate some cash to offset the costs of all the development," Schiers says. "They were fun projects, they were learning projects, and they helped offset the costs a bit, because it allowed us to have some revenue."
Then in 2008, Schiers decided to stop taking on side assignments and focus on the company’s core product. That year, it launched a full line of mountain wheels, road wheels, handlebars and forks (which holds up the wheel).
The company took off from there, headlong into another major problem: trademark infringement. When Schiers founded the company, he had not anticipated that it would grow so quickly and had not thought about licensing Edge Composites abroad. So after almost a year of back and forth with Europeans who already owned the name, Edge Composites became Enve Composites, requiring all new branding on everything from catalogs to the company website.
"It wasn’t an inexpensive venture, but it was absolutely the right thing for our business to do, and now we own the name Enve," says Sarah Lehman, who became the company's CEO in 2010.
Despite some road bumps, Enve had a three-year growth rate of 560% with 2011 revenues of more than $7 million. The company distributes to bicycle shops domestically and abroad and has 65 employees, many of whom are avid cyclists. In fact, they often take two-hour bike rides in the middle of their workday and take weekend bike trips together.
"There’s a lot of lunch-time rides, and they’re strongly encouraged because we feel strongly that to develop the best product, you actually have to ride it," Lehman says.