Just over 30 years ago, Kent Jones, along with his wife and daughter, started Gator Sports Inc. in a garage with just one product. Now the Salt Lake City-based company has more than 20 products and sells them worldwide.
The first product from Gator Sports was a face protector that can be used for skiing, snowmobiling, fishing, hunting and other outdoor activities.
Jones said he came up with the idea for the face protector because he's always been an avid outdoorsman. While skiing, he'd get windburn on his face and he wanted something that could prevent that while being adjustable, said Jones. Jones heard of a material called neoprene that was being used for jet way curtains in Ogden, Utah. The neoprene curtains had leftover pieces Jones used to make a prototype of the face protector. Now his company works out of a 14,000-square foot warehouse and makes a variety of other products including neoprene socks, face protectors, water bottles and more.
Jones said neoprene works well because it is long lasting, can be bent and folded and it retains just the right amount of heat so people remain warm but don't sweat. Cyclists, hunters, basketball players, skiers and people in other athletic activities use the neoprene socks made by Gator Sports.
While Gator Sports has 1,500 accounts in the U.S. and countries such as Great Britain, Russia, Japan, South Korea and others, that doesn't mean it's a huge company, said Jones. The company has just seven employees.
"We're small but efficient," said Jones. "We're like a family."
Jones said much of his company's success stems from having a niche and sticking to it. "We don't try to be all things to all people," he said.
But it wasn't always easy for Jones and his company. His wife was cutting hair professionally years before Gator Sports started and for the first four years of Gator Sports, Jones and his family lived off of that money alone. Now the company is completely self-sufficient, said Jones.