Alum entrepreneur shares life and business wisdom with students

Staying true to your vision, sharing authentic customer stories, and never giving up were some of the core bits of wisdom shared with MB students by Nick Gilson ’07, co-founder and CEO of Gilson Snow, a globally-known manufacturer of skis and snowboards. Nick discussed his growing innovative and values-driven company during a Zoom with students in January.

“As someone who loves the snowsports world he is a huge icon to me,” said Benjamin D. who initially reached out to Nick resulting in this chance for the class to interact with him. “He is really living my dream in terms of taking something he was so passionate about and working hard at it to the point where he has created a product which benefits the whole industry.”

Nick’s experience in building this business, through the many challenges and ups and downs he has gone through, is a great learning resource.

The meeting started with a rapid-fire tour of the Gilson Snow facility, during which Nick greeted every employee he saw — a growing number, as the company continues its rapid expansion — then settled into a Q&A once he reached his office. “Hi Lilly!” “Hi Caroline!” Nick gave each student a very friendly hello.

“He was just an amazing, kind person yet one of the brightest and most passionate entrepreneurs,” said junior Thure F.

A student asked how Nick marketed the company from its humble beginnings. “First you have to create something cool and focus on innovation,” he said. From there a key to success is sharing customer experiences. Gilson Snow is able to amplify good experiences across their large online following.

“Hearing Nick fail constantly, but reboot and try again, stuck with me. This concept of ‘never giving up’ is what he repeated. He told our class that if you love something, go do something crazy with it,” shared Ava G.

Nick explained that he never thought about quitting, despite the difficulties at first, in large part because he felt he’d “hit a point of no return.” A sense of responsibility to his family and business partners was a major motivator to continue.

In response to a question about the future of his company, Nick suggested that being nimble was helpful to any successful business endeavor — and that staying true to one’s values was vital.

“At his Ted talk, on his website, and even at the opening of our Zoom meeting, Gilson used his own story—from building surfboards to teaching science class to his first snowboard press exploding,” as real life examples of his road to success, said senior Zach R.

Another student asked about the benefits of selling directly to customers rather than through retailers. Nick explained that there’s a tremendous gain of knowledge speaking directly to a customer rather than to a retailer that sells your product. “You get way more understanding of why you even exist.”

MB’s Social Innovation teacher Gara Field thanked Nick for being an “inspiration as an entrepreneur and social innovator, and just a really cool human.”

Nick graciously thanked her, and added gratitude of his own for the MB community and the support he received as a student here. “The way in which the community supported me was nothing short of extraordinary,” he said, “and it’s something that means an awful lot to me today.

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Last year, Moses Brown was fortunate to have Nick as our 2021 Commencement speaker. He gave a fantastic address to our graduates detailing his journey from MB to his life now as a successful entrepreneur. Click here to watch