The 22-78 Muskox bi-directional snowblower attachment’s back drag feature, for which the Bergmans received the patent in spring 2021, allows operators to blow snow while back dragging in front of obstructions, saving time and money, and lowering any chance of injuries by decreasing the manual labor typically involved in the process. The lowered chute, a result of the finetuning process, also is better for operator visibility.
For many in the design and architecture industries, less is more is a mantra. For the Bergmans, that principle held true with the October 2020 launch of their Muskox bi-directional snowblower attachment. Taking a well-known industry pain point and creating a streamlined solution has allowed the Minnesota-based company to find great success in the last few months, despite launching during the pandemic.
"My father Ron, who is also my partner, was doing snow removal at his shop — he was using two different attachments to do it," said Adam Bergman, co-founder at Muskox. "He had the idea of combining those machines, so he'd only have to use one attachment. My background had been as a real estate investor, and we do snow removal on all our rental property. One of the biggest pain points we had was the shoveling in front of garage doors."
Adam saw the potential for not just shops but also homeowners' associations to use such a solution. Prototyping began in spring 2017 and finetuning the product over the next few years included a hydraulic slip clutch and redesigning the bottom of the machine to incorporate a glide plate to avoid accidents on grass or gravel surfaces.
"Whether you're an 8-year-old or an 80-year-old, you understand the challenge with existing snow blowers of needing to shovel in front of garage doors, it's a universal problem," said Adam. "When you see ours where you have that opportunity to back drag and blow at the same time, you instantly see the value and what makes our product different."
In 2020, Muskox won first place in Northwest Minnesota Foundation's IDEA Competition receiving a $15,000 cash award and another $5,000 in professional services in recognition of its innovative product. The 22-78 Muskox bi-directional snowblower attachment's back drag feature, for which the Bergmans received the patent in spring 2021, allows operators to blow snow while back dragging in front of obstructions, saving time and money, and lowering any chance of injuries by decreasing the manual labor typically involved in the process. The lowered chute, a result of the finetuning process, is also better for operator visibility.
The 78-in. machine is available as a single auger and dual auger, but Muskox is looking at expanding into additional sizes. They turned to operators at snow removal companies to test the product.
"We've had a lot of positive feedback from operators letting us know where they would like to see our next steps go," said Adam. "We are operators building for operators. We've had a lot of requests for different sizing on machines both smaller and larger."
The core team at Muskox consists of co-founder Adam, managing business development, marketing, and financing; his father Ron, a retired engineer from Artic Cat Snowmobiles — where he did research and development on snowmobiles for more than 30 years — who heads engineering, research and development done in-house; and Adam's younger brother Noah, who handles the production and shipping.
All manufacturing occurs at the company's location in Mentor, Minn., and business offices are in Grand Forks, N.D. Muskox is 100 percent made in the United States, offers one-year warranty on all non-wearable parts and stocks inventory to ship to customers for repairs.
"When we first started, we were doing R&D out of my dad's 2,000-square-foot personal shop. In fall/summer 2021, we rented roughly about a 5,000-square-foot shop space that we moved into and that's currently where we do the assembly of the product. We've had a successful season and we're continuing to expand the business, there's going to be opportunity for growth and potential expansion into a larger facility," said Adam.
Approximately 90 percent of Muskox sales are direct-to-consumer while the rest are in partnership with RDO Equipment, through which Muskox is sold in 36 different locations. In 2021, Muskox was sold in 16 states in the United States and two provinces in Canada. Consumers include those buying for personal use at their shop or farm, smaller operators focusing on driveways and residential snow removal, and larger operators with multiple HOA accounts.
Muskox has found its strength in its online presence, building a loyal following online.
"We have created all of our own YouTube videos breaking down how we have a service manual that's available on the internet so consumers can go online at any time, and they'll find a library of videos showing not only how to use the product, best practices, but also any type of maintenance and repairs," said Adam, who offers virtual demos of the equipment every Wednesday at 11 a.m. Central and is on Facebook Live and YouTube. "This gives us a chance to interact with people that are interested in the product. We show the product in use live, we're able to perform with the machine according to the questions they asked. We also can flip the camera over inside the cab and run it from the operator's perspective. It's been a lot of positive feedback with it."
There are, of course, pros and cons to an online-first approach.
"Probably just keeping up with the demand of the product," said Adam. "The internet really exposes you quickly, it can be your best friend, but also can have some real challenges because you're going to be held accountable a lot faster on a much larger platform. We've been able to embrace that, but the growth of the company has exponentially exceeded our expectations. We're very proud that we have built this business with a strong foundation from engineering to marketing to branding and product in 15 months and are looking forward to growing and having a strong future based on that foundation that's been established." CEG
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