Blackfoot company named September Small Business of the Month
Shawn Schild, a longtime bareback rider in professional rodeo, owes his recent business success to the fact that 20 years ago, he wanted gloves that would accommodate more natural hand movements in competitions.
The Blackfoot-based company he launched in July to sell the latest incarnation of his gloves, called Bear Knuckles, has earned the distinction of being named Small Business of the Month for September by the U.S. Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship.
Schild acknowledges getting the business off the ground wasn’t easy.
“The first time I ever tried to make a glove, I stayed (at the shop) till about 10 at night trying to work on one,” Schild said. “I got so mad at myself that I threw it in the garbage and went home and told my wife I was never going to build another glove again.”
But Schild said he couldn’t get the thought of creating a glove out of his mind, and at about 2 a.m, he went back to work.
Schild would take his gloves to rodeos and ask other riders to wear them and give him feedback on how the gloves could be changed to better suit their needs.
Schild received his first patent for his rodeo glove design in 2000.
“Once we got the first patent, within probably a year, I took over the biggest share of the bareback riding glove market in the world,” Schild said. “And I’ve just been trying to make things better ever since. I’m not going to be happy until I can get a glove that feels so good and is so perfect that I can’t improve on it.”
And in the last two decades, Schild’s gloves have become more unique and complex. He received a patent for his new design about three years ago, and he said it is the most complicated design he has ever worked on.
Bear Knuckle gloves feature a pre-curved finger and seams on the palm and thumb that allow some movement of the palm. Schild said he has also moved the stitches to less used areas of the glove, so they will never come unstitched.
“What we’re finding out is that as a general rule, our gloves have been lasting about three times or more longer than gloves built with other designs,” Schild said, “even if you’re using a similar material.”
Bear Knuckles has branched out from rodeo gloves and also offers work gloves and welding gloves.
“We always figured that our design worked so much better for these bull riders that if we ever could get into the work glove market, we could really do some devastation to that market,” Schild said.
Schild added that he plans to continue growing his business and branching out into new markets. He said that he has had several firefighters who have heard about his gloves approach him about making a fireman’s glove.
However, Schild said it would require much more money and support to undertake a project such as that.
But with his new national recognition through being named the Small Business of the Month, Schild said it could help grow his base.
“I can’t say enough about being handed something like that,” Schild said. “Things like that really help us out, and any kind of help I can get from anybody to move forward is greatly appreciated.”