Scott Roberts is a disruptor. In the world of canopy manufacturing, Performance Designs, NZ Aerosports and Aerodyne are the ‘big three’, but all are taking notice of the small shop in Deland churning out one great design after another.
Watching Scott Roberts build his business is akin to seeing a young band churning out hits because of their focus on the art as opposed to commercial success. Scott’s approach to building canopies is centered around his passion for perfection building the best possible wings.
Chat with Scott about what he’s doing and he lights up. He seems to care less about sales figures and more about getting everything just right which in turn drives sales. Fluid Wings has been an underground movement touted as “the next big thing” and has been grown organically by word of mouth. Word is spreading that there is a guy building canopies for the love of building canopies and it’s starting to go viral. It’s not a question of whether Fluid Wings will be successful, but rather their strategy to scale as this brand continues to spread one pilot at a time.
Our interview with the passionate, Scott Roberts.
Where are you originally from?
Where did you go to school and what did you study?
University of Colorado, MS in Engineering.
When and where did you make your first skydive?
1997 in Sebastian, Florida.
Current equipment you jump:
Containers: several containers
Canopies: Every Fluid parachute we make, but don’t own a personal wing
Helmet: Cookie Composites
Jumpsuit: Whatever I’m wearing that day.
Do you have siblings?
Yes one sister
Are there other family members with interests in aviation and engineering?
My father was an engineer. Everyone in my family tried skydiving at least once, but none really got into it.
As a young boy, what were your favorite toys to play with?
Parachute man that I would toss into the air.
Were there any early interests that may have indicated that this would be your path?
I really always loved aviation of any kind.
What was your track / progression that led you to join the Army Corps of Engineers?
Finished Grad school and I wanted to do something that was meaningful to society as whole. Government is the best way for an engineer to get into projects like that. I took a pay-cut to go there. I got to do huge projects that made the world better (Environmental restoration etc.)
What was one of the most interesting things you did with the Army Corps of Engineers?
Two things really tied: 1. I got to design a valve house directly on a known seismic fault line. We did a fully dynamic customized site response spectrum structural analysis 2. I got to be active in the Urban Search and Rescue Groups and really liked it. We assisted firemen going into collapsed buildings to do it in a safer way and effect rescues or recoveries.
Who has been one of the biggest positive influences in your life?
Family (Parents, my wife, Kolla), some really close friends (you know who you are).
Who inspires you?
Anyone who breaks through boundaries and does new and cool stuff their own way, especially those who do it outside the spotlight.
How long have you been interested in parachute design?
Since I started flying them, in 2000 I bought a sewing machine and started tinkering with stuff.
When did you design your first parachute?
I’ve been playing with ideas since 2009, but pulled the trigger in 2011.
Before starting Fluid Wings, can you list all of the jobs you’ve had since high school?
- Lawn Mowing
- Paper Boy
- Burger Flipper
- Cart guy at Target
- Shoe Salesman
- Lots of Construction Jobs
- Design Engineer
- Failure Analysis Engineer
- Parachute Design Engineer
What was the definitive point when you decided that you would become an entrepreneur and open your own business with Fluid Wings?
When the first glider the Rubicon flew and well. My Friend Nick Kaminski told me that “maybe you will make your mark in skydiving, in gear, not as an athlete” Thats when I realized I wanted to do more of that and that we would have to make a company to do it.
Since launching your business, what has been your biggest challenge?
Managing the many aspects and demands of the growth and the constant juggling of priorities.
What has been your biggest victory?
Getting a cutting table. That was a dream for years, they are super expensive and it’s paid for!
Starting your own business is risky. What’s the biggest risk you’ve taken in order to make the dream happen?
All of it. We took no investment capital and it’s all personal investment. I have worked 2-3 jobs at times while getting this going to fund it. I have more personal money than ever thought possible to put together into this endeavor.
What has been the biggest surprise to you about your entrepreneurial journey to this point?
People’s reactions to Fluid getting going.
When skydivers jumped rounds, it was hard to imagine a square parachute. Do you think there is still something out there that will revolutionize parachute design as ram-airs did?
Definitely, I know we have a few in us (have one in mind now), and others do too I’m sure. They may not look like as big a steps as round to square from the outside but the aerodynamics leaps are there if we keep pushing.
Of the business people in the industry, who do you respect?
I respect what Performance Designs has accomplished, and admire how Bill Coe has quietly worked at it for so many years. I admire Jyro’s open and relaxed attitude and his willingness to try new stuff. In other manufacturers, I admire what the Peregrine (Dave and Aggie) guys are doing, and what Kelly Farrington at Velocity Sports Equipment has been able to make happen.
If you could give some advice to aspiring entrepreneurs, what advice would you give?
Avoid debt, follow your passion and be prepared to work harder than you ever thought possible and never settle.
If you wanted to people to one thing about your company, what would you want them to know?
This is all about love….we are fired by passion and just want to go make amazing stuff that bring happiness to people. Really, I take a personal stake in peoples happiness with our stuff.
How many hours per week do you work?
80-ish but its mostly not work since I like what I do.
If you could live anywhere in the world, where would that be?
Florida in winter, Utah in summer…oh wait that’s where I live!
Most beautiful place you’ve ever been to?
Delivery room where my daughter was born, other than that Iceland, anywhere there, it’ like whole new world.
Favorite DZ ever jumped and why?
Sebastian is special to me, first jump there and oh, the scenery.
Most enjoyable skydive you’ve ever experienced?
Too many;they are all so cool. The first Canopy Piloting World Championships in a park in the middle of Vienna was pretty amazing.
Scariest skydive you’ve ever experienced?
A test jump that didn’t work out as planned. Left me in tears. We will leave it at that.
Hobbies outside of skydiving that you enjoy?
Airplanes, paragliders other flying things. Mountains and skiing
If you could jump with any three people in the world, who would those people be?
Close friends and family. I probably already have lots of jumps with them.. :)
Favorite TV show?
Love Cartoons….American Dad, Bobs Burgers, Rick and Morty
Favorite Skydiving Movie?
Not sure, I do remember loving the original Point Break as a kid.
I couldn’t’ pick. I do love watching a good movie though.
“People overestimate what they can accomplish in 1 year and greatly underestimate what they can accomplish in 5.” – Bill Gates