MARQUETTE – As if the life of an elite short-track speedskater and an electrical engineering major at Northern Michigan University is not busy enough, Jordan Malone has taken on the added role of entrepreneur. His business is producing carbon fiber material used in a wide array of products, including two accessories critical to his sport: helmets and gloves with carbon fingertips.
The U.S. Olympic Education Center athlete first identified his niche back in 2007, when carbon tips were only available to the top athletes in the field and the rest of the athletes had no choice but to use ones made of less-durable materials. Short-track speedskaters move fast and in very close proximity to each other, often grazing their fingertips on the ice for balance on the turns, and the gloves protect their hands from other skaters’ blades. Therefore, having high-quality glove tips is of great importance. Malone saw the need to expand their availability and decided to learn how to produce them himself.
“I started in my garage with a plastic table and some wooden dowels,” said Malone. “That’s what is so amazing about carbon; you’re making something out of nothing. You have to be somewhat of an artist when you’re working with carbon. All the way through it looks terrible, until you get to the very end.”
Malone has since supplied most of the national short track team with racing tips, at cost. In 2008, Apolo Anton Ohno won gold at the World Championships wearing the lightest pair of racing tips Malone had ever made. Carbon fiber itself is basically threads woven together. Before it is altered, it can be bent and shaped like a piece of polyester. But when a special glue is added, the material becomes twice as strong as metal, yet 10 times lighter.
Racing tips made of other materials typically break after about a year of use, but carbon fiber serves as a material that can be used for tips that are extremely durable with a much longer lifespan. Malone’s original sets from 2007 are still useable and in good condition. “This might not be the best business plan, but it’s definitely a good resume-builder,” he said.
With self-taught techniques for making his own racing equipment and guidance from his former inline skating coach, who had some experience working with carbon fiber, Malone started a business called Full Composite Racing. His passion for the material is evident, but he’s not worried about making money off of this product right now, he just wants to do something he loves and gain experience working with this magnificent material.
While he will certainly be busy between school and training, Malone also plans to continue working with carbon fiber during his time in Marquette. He is setting up a new shop to begin the process.
“Now I’m a student and a skater and I’m trying to do the carbon fiber business as well,” said Malone. “If I wasn’t passionate about it, I wouldn’t be as driven, but I think this will definitely keep me from being a couch potato.”