STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — In a small mountain town that breeds innovative businesses, Grant Fenton thinks he has found the next big idea. After 15 years in financial consulting and investing, the entrepreneur is planting his company in Steamboat Springs with hopes that his frozen, hydrating PowerIce bars will reach well beyond sports nutrition and rehydration.
“In a lot of ways, we are creating a new industry,” he said, pulling an orange-flavored PowerIce bar from a branded freezer in his Steamboat office. “I’ve looked at so many companies over the years, and that does provide the opportunity to recognize spectacular opportunities. This is a really, really unique opportunity.”
Fenton was a passive investor in then-New York-based PowerIce before he climbed into the president’s position last year and moved the company to his hometown.
It’s a better fit in Steamboat, he said. The city of 12,000 is home to more than a dozen outdoor companies. The innovation that erupts from athlete entrepreneurs testing tools and toys in Steamboat has floated such companies as Big Agnes, SmartWool and Honey Stinger into the upper echelons of the outdoor industry. Fenton is sure PowerIce is next.
“There’s something about the community here. We work hard and play hard,” he said. “And we are all friends. We all want each other to succeed.”
The local high school sports teams all use PowerIce. Sports camps are making larger orders. The company stocks coolers at local events, and the bars are gone in minutes.
“They run out of 400, 500 sticks, and there were only 200 people in the race,” said Steamboat’s five-time Ironman champion, Heather Gollnick. “After swimming and running and biking, you want to cool off, and it’s great to have something frozen, especially when it’s got electrolytes. It’s good for you, but it feels like you are having a treat.”
The eight-employee company has grown into 24 states and 125 outlets in the past year since Fenton took control and rebranded the company with new logos, packaging and special freezers.
And Fenton and his team are aiming well beyond sports.
PowerIce is available in every department at the Yampa Valley Medical Center, where it is quickly replacing the ubiquitous ice pops nibbled by patients coming out of anesthesia or restricted to liquid diets.
“This is a great product for hospitals,” said Cara Marrs, a dietician who works at the Yampa Valley Medical Center. “It’s got half a serving of carbs, only 8 grams; it’s not too sweet. I think the hospital setting is going to be really big for them.”
Fenton, whose work to spearhead Steamboat’s bike-friendly Bike Town USA Initiative earned him the city’s annual “Businessperson of the Year” award in 2011, talks about how kids clamor for the frozen bars at events.
“It’s fun. It kind of brings out the kids in us,” he said.
Jason Blevins: 303-954-1374, email@example.com or twitter.com/jasontblevins