Photo by Ryan Matson. Demo Jumper: Mike Rabe
“If you aren’t a little different than your competition, then you’re in trouble.” – Mark Sanborn
This year, there are seven industry brands that have captivated my attention because they’re choosing to operate differently than the status quo. With each company, I’m feeling a passion that’s driving change and a hunger to be different than their market competitors. Here are my seven brands I think are worthy of your attention:
Prior to this year, I had never heard of Tracy, California but there’s an energy pulsating out of this town and it’s because of Aaron Steele. Aaron has captured the good vibes pheromone and built it into the foundation of Skydive California. Fun jumpers love the place and students love the way they’re treated before they even get on the plane. It’s not an accident that Aaron won Best DZO for 2017 as voted by jumpers in Blue Skies Magazine.
Respect to the amazing people at Skydive Orange. Not only is this DZ becoming the mecca of fun with both the Cinco de Mayo and Big O boogies (have you seen the LO lineup and entertainment at these two events?), but they’re also thumbing their nose to a nasty trend in the industry and that’s the $149 tandem price war. Nearly every city and state is plagued with competitors giving tandems away and their market is no different. Follow the lead of others? Nope, not a chance. These guys are selling tandems at a stout $259 and aren’t apologizing for it. They’re focused on giving a great experience and they’re charging what the industry price should be. Well done, Orange-ites, well done!
No surprise here. The cup overfloweth at Skydive Cross Keys. In 2017, I went on record to say that Cross Keys was the DZ to watch for the year and they ended up winning Best Mid-Sized DZ and Best DZ staff for 2017. Their victory wasn’t due to my prediction, but due to the incredible energy DZOs, Nadia and Pico have injected into the place. Cross Keys has upgraded their facilities and championed the fun jumper. Their students feel the vibes of the whole place and you can feel the heartbeat of its owners everywhere you turn. Also, it’s the new home DZ to Melanie Curtis… can it get much better?
Despite nearly hitting a wombat in the middle of the night on our way to Skydive Oz, what we discovered upon arrival was an amazing community with stunning facilities. Ocean views, beautiful aircraft, and a purpose-built DZ designed by a man named, Poo. If you’re planning to visit Australia, you absolutely must visit this magical place a few hours drive south of Sydney. The place is magic.
Skydive Carolina / CarolinaFest
Danny Smith is the youngest 70-something-year-old DZO, you’ll ever meet. Smith isn’t slowing down; if anything, he’s hungrier than ever. The vibe at Skydive Carolina has never been more awesome and CarolinaFest continues to be the crown jewel of the quality boogie. This year, CarolinaFest closed registration after receiving 400 registrants, two months before the event even begins. These guys are doing it right and that’s treating people really well.
Wisconsin Skydiving Center has to be in the conversation as they deliver on a level of customer service matched by few DZs in the entire world. Have a look at their online reviews and you’ll see more than simple one-liner compliments. WSC’s customers are writing short books on their experience that extend far beyond the actual skydiving experience. Most impressively, their level of service has been delivered consistently through the years causing a fan base I seldom see. This DZ is consistently hosting large groups who return year after year who grill out, skydive and spend the entire day at the DZ. There’s a magic brew at WSC and it’s flowing from their amazing culture held in focus by their core values.
One of the strong messages I’m putting out to my clients is the greater need to be generating video content. Video moves the needle and no one is doing it better than PD. The content output is consistent and chock-block full of great information. PD also made the masterful stroke of hiring Beau Riebe. As a consultant to various DZs, I ask my clients, “Do you have a Beau Riebe?”
Beau is the perfect brand ambassador. He’s got the looks, the smarts, the street cred, humility and skill to be the ideal spokesperson for this iconic brand. Beyond Beau, the marketing department is pushing the limits of creativity. Did you see the unveiling of their new canopy on April Fool’s Day highlighting John LeBlanc? Genius. Pure genius.
Have you noticed the energy emanating from Sun Path? Brian “BK” Krause is spearheading a positive change at Sun Path that’s palpable. The addition of Laura Golly and others has Sun Path feeling very cool and no longer tightly associated with formation skydiving. Between the new wingsuit-specific Aurora container and cool VFS’ers rocking their Javelin’s plus the continued care created by Pat Thomas for the staff, Sun Path continues to churn out one of the best rigs in the market today and are doing so happily.
Our industry is small and interconnected and truthfully, there’s a lot of mediocrity out there (as in all industries) which lends itself to opportunity for a brand to be noticed when they decide to make an effort to be uniquely different. Of the eight companies listed, seven are long-established brands that haven’t fallen into the slumber of doing things the same way they did ten years ago. They’re continuing to evolve with the times and pushing the boundaries which make our industry that much better. A tip of the cap to these business owners and marketing departments doing great work!