The National Winter Activity Center (NWAC) is a private 501(c)(3) nonprofit facility recently formed by the National Winter Sports Education Foundation, whose mission is to improve the lives, health, and fitness of youth through participation in winter activities. NWAC introduces children ages 6-17, from cities such as Newark, NJ, Yonkers and the Bronx and parts of Manhattan, to a sport they would not typically be exposed to or consider trying, while making it economically feasible to participate. The Center is located on the property of the old Hidden Valley ski area in Vernon, NJ and is the closest ski facility to NYC. It is the only facility of its kind in the country. Opening on January 2, 2016, the Center will host hundreds of children from local Boys & Girls Clubs, YMCAs and other youth organizations to offer training with PSIA and USSA certified coaches over 7 weeks of sessions.
The National Winter Sports Education Foundation (NWSEF) was founded in 2011 with a mission of assisting organizations in playing an effective role in improving the lives, health, and fitness of children through participation in winter sports. Its ultimate goal is to help more than 100,000 youth gain access to winter activities including skiing, snowboarding, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and more, each and every winter. Donations support the group and its partners who include PSIA, USSA, SIA, NSAA, FIS, NBS, Powdr Corp, and many other industry and non-industry groups. Since its inception four years ago, NWSEF has funded almost 10,000 kids for introductory cross-country programs through organizations such as the Girl Scouts, YouthFest events in New Hampshire via funding to YES (Youth Enrichment Services), and Nordic Rocks, a cross-country program in the Midwest. One of the bigger programs NWSEF sponsors is the YMCA’s Ted Ligety Learn to Ski program, also sponsored by Ligety and the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association and geared to kids who live in Utah but have never skied before. These sessions helped to inspire the creation of the NWAC program.
BusinessInterviews.com: What inspired you to launch your business?
Schone Malliet: The National Winter Sports Education Foundation (NWSEF) is always looking to fund programs for kids. The foundation’s primary focus is to help more youth gain access to winter activities. It just so happened that the property where the NATIONAL WINTER ACTIVITY CENTER is now located, was brought to our attention and we were able to make use of it, because of its pre-existing infrastructure.
BusinessInterviews.com: Do you have any recent success stories that you’d like to share with our readers?
Schone Malliet: We have to acknowledge that non-profits contribute to the economy in a different way than for profit businesses do. Most for-profit businesses tend to think that non-profits are not really businesses. To clarify, non-profits operate with the idea of being successful not only in changing lives but also being able to create a business profile that allows them to continuously grow and make a difference.
In our pilot season last year we had about 180 youth in the program. This year we have over 1,000 which equates to about 5,000 or 6,000 on snow sessions. Our success is in the form of the responses from participating youth. They are enlightened, excited and expressing interest in continuing to explore winter activities.
BusinessInterviews.com: What issue does your core product help solve and how so?
The main issue we tackle is health. We are giving kids access to winter activities and that increase should help to combat childhood obesity and type-2 diabetes. A good amount of kids in the NYC/NJ area live 60-70 minutes away from a facility like the Center. We work with local youth organizations to provide kids with access and ability to be active in the winter when they often become sedentary and remain indoors.
We provide everything from instruction to equipment, which can both be costly and inefficient, to highly trained mentors and nutritious meals. We are providing life lessons disguised through fitness and fun, while in the company of other kids on the same journey, learning a winter sport under close guidance of our well-trained staff of mentors.
BusinessInterviews.com: What has been your biggest challenge as a business owner and how have you met that challenge?
Schone Malliet: A great challenge for a non-profit is to raise adequate funds necessary to operate correctly. We initially set a goal to raise and invest $7.2 million and essentially we have been able to raise and invest $12.5 million to date. We anticipate investing another $7 million in the near future so that we can fulfill the continuing needs of the youth that the Center serves. I would say thanks to our partners who believe in us, we have more than surpassed our initial challenge, but monetary needs of a non-profit are ongoing, so the challenge continues.
BusinessInterviews.com: What’s the most exciting thing on the horizon for you/your Company?
Schone Malliet: In addition to changing lives and improving health, our main goal at the Center is to help reverse the low retention rate in winter sports. We hope to be able to impact several thousands of lives and inspire a new generation of winter activity enthusiasts with children of all economic backgrounds.
Additionally, if our mentor sessions can inspire a lifelong habit of regular exercise during the winter months in most if not all of our participants, we can surely make our dent in the fight against childhood obesity.
BusinessInterviews.com: Where do you envision your company in 5 years?
Schone Malliet: The organization has set benchmarks of introducing 4,200 children to winter activities over the next three years, retaining 50 percent as adaptors and encouraging 10 percent to eventually enter the world of competitive winter sports. At that rate we would hope to be up to 7,000 in 5 years. We will also look to introduce cross country skiing as another option to learn, and provide access for many more kids beyond our goals.
BusinessInterviews.com: Do you consider yourself successful and by what means do you measure success?
Schone Malliet: I consider myself successful based upon what I do. The reason why I do this is because I didn’t know I wasn’t supposed to. There were no limitations in my mind, because I never thought that this was daunting or challenging. I’ve always felt that this is what I’m supposed to do.
Understanding business, I go through the ups and downs of the process, knowing that by keeping an eye on the goal, remaining positive and staying the course, then anything is possible.
At the end of the day, I measure myself by whether I am making a difference. If what we do impacts the overall health and fitness habits of youth, or provides such an opportunity, that’s a success. Whether we reach one or one thousand youth, we’re still making an impact.
BusinessInterviews.com: How do your competitors view you?
Schone Malliet: We are the nation’s first example of this type of winter facility and in a sense we are not a competitor to anyone. We are the only place, possibly in the world, that is focused on growing the sport. Our mission is not to compete or look at our participants as a customer- business relationship. We aim to provide a unique offering that will lead our participants to a lifelong dedication to achieving better health and fitness through winter activity.
We have worked hand in hand with nearby Mountain Creek (that one could assume would be a competitor) in the time leading up to our launch and we will actually be driving our graduates to that facility with the hope that they continue to partake in winter sports and even compete.
Also, we have completely renovated or rebuilt the property that was once a foreclosed facility. We have felt welcomed with open arms as a new addition to the Northern NJ neighborhood.
BusinessInterviews.com: What advice do you have for other entrepreneurs and business owners? What do you wish someone told you?
Schone Malliet: You must have passion for what you do. As a kid from South Bronx I didn’t know how life changing it would be for me when I started a winter sport, and so I have a personal connection and passion for this endeavor. I would advise to follow your heart, no matter what. In spite of obstacles and challenges, if you surround yourself with people who are smarter than you are, you’ll go far.
BusinessInterviews.com: What’s the biggest risk that you’ve ever taken and how did it turn out?
Schone Malliet: Getting out of the Bronx and into the world; realizing that the options are limitless. This has driven my life. If I had stayed where society expected to me to be, I might not be where I am today.
BusinessInterviews.com: What’s the difference between running a non-profit and a for profit entity?
Schone Malliet: The difference is that the business objective of a non-profit is to run things efficiently and effectively, and take the resources and put them back into your mission. The running of the business side is no different than a for-profit, you have to have goals and more revenues than expenses, but the purpose of the additional revenue is really to grow your mission.
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