Luke Kuschmeader started his first business at 16 years old.
“I’m a bit of a serial entrepreneur,” he said. “Even from a young age, I was pretty set on owning my own company.”
He’s come a long way from his days of mowing lawns as a teenager and constructing homes as a young adult.
A decade ago, Kuschmeader sold his construction business to form Kuat Innovations LLC. He declined to disclose revenue, but said the company is recording double-digit growth. And in two months, his operations team and warehouse will move to a $3.5 million, 40,000-square-foot warehouse.
“We’ve been consistently growing our staff since we started, and we are out of space in our offices and our warehouse,” he said. “This gives us room to grow our operations.”
The business that creates bike racks was born from his love of the outdoors and mountain biking.
“It took many years and many of (the racks) failed horribly,” Kuschmeader said. “I found a passion for designing products.”
He’s formed a team of 28 people who focus on research and development, marketing, sales and customer service. All manufacturing is done offshore in China and Taiwan.
His bike racks are currently sold in 14 countries, and next month Kuat will launch a ski rack.
Kuschmeader said he’s heavily involved in Kuat’s R&D, but his top role is in hiring.
“You rely on your team so much,” he said.
Early on, Kuschmeader approached local investor Guy Mace to fund the company.
“If you don’t need outside investors, that’s great,” he said. “In our position, we did. “When you’re looking at starting a company, you have to just be realistic about what you’re bringing to the table and what you need.”
He said Springfield is the right place for his growing company. “You can’t compete with Colorado and Utah, but the cost of living is great,” he said. “These are our roots.”
In the first few years of the company, Kuschmeader said he spent nearly “every waking hour” thinking about work. These days, he tries to strike a healthier balance.
“I consider myself an active father, a present father,” he said. “But there’s no question that being self-employed has its toll.”
He likens entrepreneurship to riding a roller coaster. It wasn’t until 2011 when Men’s Journal featured Kuat Racks for “gear of the year” that Kuschmeader felt he had made it.
“We had three or four employees at the time, and Ducati was on the other page,” he recalled. “It was a proud moment.”
The goal is not to be the biggest company in the industry; rather he said it’s to be “perceived as the best with the highest quality.”
He takes each victory with a grain of salt.
“Regardless of how smooth everything seems, you’re just one day away from an incredibly stressful time,” he said.
First entering the Springfield market 15 years ago, Kum & Go LC’s local construction activity is hard to miss these days.
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