In high school, when most of his friends were outside doing kickflips and noseslides, Don Lioi was inside, using his father's tools to build his own skateboard. Now, the mechanical engineering and management major gets out to ride with his friends, but he also continues to handcraft boards — those special-ordered by a growing number of clients.
"I started because I didn't want to pay for a new board, and I had an urge to make something," says Lioi. "My friends and family were impressed — I think they were surprised — so I kept going." Six years into his business, Lioi says he wants to make sure those who ride his products get exactly what they want.
He begins every client relationship with an in-person conversation, during which he sketches out an initial design. Even though kits and prefabricated materials are readily available online, he then refines the designs by hand as well, and crafts as much as he can from scratch. "It's tedious," he says. "Drawing ideas, putting in numbers, visualizing — but I'm exposed to designing things all the time in my engineering classes, so it clicks."
"It's exciting to think of how much I've progressed since that summer in high school," says Lioi. The boards are more complex, but the time it takes to design and build them has lessened. And he now turns a small profit.
Lioi attributes this growth to what he's learned at Bucknell, which has helped him improve his design and engineering process. "Accuracy is essential," he says. He sees himself expanding his business, but in the tradition of true artisans, money isn't Lioi's primary concern. "My initial goal was to make a cheaper skateboard," he says. "But now that I see how much I've improved, I strive for higher quality with every board."