Image Alt Text
Running a business

Jen Gurecki is making gear for more inclusive slopes

In honor of Women’s History Month, we’re celebrating the stories of the amazing women in small business that are conquering male-dominated industries and working to #breakthebias. 

Name: Jen Gurecki

Location: Reno, NV

Business: Coalition Snow, and founder of the non-profit Zawadisha

Jen Gurecki of Coalition Snow

What do you do? 

Coalition Snow is a (the only) women-owned and operated ski and snowboard brand. Zawadisha is a non-profit whose mission is to finance the livelihoods of rural Kenyan women through our micro-lending program.

Why did you decide to start your own business? How did you get started? 

I had dabbled in smaller entrepreneurial projects, but when I had left my position at UC Berkeley and began pursuing a PhD, I felt like I had the space to create something that was aligned with my values. I had designed my life around snowboarding—living in Lake Tahoe and working in the outdoor industry—and around 2013 I started to notice a shift in the snow sports industry. Women were so much more outspoken about the way that they were represented as athletes, they were taking control of their own narrative, and e-commerce was starting to boom. I also knew that women’s equipment had always been subpar to men’s—designed around a shrink-it-and-pink-it mentally. There was a void to be filled with high performance women’s equipment. I saw an opportunity and I took one of the wildest risks of my life. 

What is the biggest lesson you learned in the first year? 

Starting a business is not the most difficult thing you will do—it’s enduring the ups and downs over time and building up your tolerance for risk.

What was the most surprising thing about becoming a business owner? 

That you have to get comfortable feeling really smart and really dumb all in the same day. Or in the same 30 seconds.

What is an aspect of running a business that you needed to learn more about when you started? How did you learn about it? 

ALL OF IT! I had to dedicate every spare minute to learning about financials and marketing and production schedules. I didn’t go to school for business, and while I had a background in education and non-profits, I had never produced a product. I really was starting from scratch, and because of that, I formed an advisory council of seasoned business owners to help me learn what I needed to learn and also understand what I didn’t yet know.

How does running your own business make you feel? 

I feel free and in control. 

What are some of the challenges you’ve overcome or are working to overcome as a business owner? 

Most business owners will say that money is their number one obstacle, and while that’s true, for me the more specific issue is lack of access to lines of credit and low-interest loans. Accessing capital is really challenging—if you have heaps of money and assets, you can easily secure loans, but if you don’t (like most of us who own small businesses), you have to get creative. 

What are your proudest moments? 

In the 2018 Winter Olympics, we had two two women compete in the halfpipe on our skis. Seeing our skis on a big screen, with powerful and incredibly talented women maneuvering them through the pipe, was exhilarating. And last year, we created the Indigenous Backcountry Scholarship in partnership with one of our Ambassadors, Deenaalee Hogdgon. Together we welcomed our first cohort of women and non-binary Indigenous skiers and snowboarders who are working to create more equitable access to winter mountain recreation. 

What are the next big plans you have for your business? 

We’re preparing to grow into a larger space in a new development in Reno. It’s being built for makers and creatives, and we’ll have our own 1,000-foot retail space. It’s a bit overwhelming but exciting at the same time!

What are three things that you feel have contributed to your success as a business owner? 

Understanding and owning our financials, building an authentic brand, and our unwavering commitment to challenging the status quo in our industry. 

quote image
We have to prove ourselves in ways that men don’t, and we question ourselves in ways that men don’t. And we have the power to change both of those things.

What challenges do you feel are unique to female small business owners? 

I believe that women strive to be seen, to be taken seriously, and to be valued for their worth in a way that far exceeds any financial success. We have to prove ourselves in ways that men don’t, and we question ourselves in ways that men don’t. And we have the power to change both of those things. 

What is it like working in an industry that some might see as traditionally male-dominated? Have you come up against any bias? 

The snowsports industry is 100% male-dominated; there is no question about that. Certainly it has presented it’s challenges—people not believing that we have the skill or capacity to make performance-driven equipment or questioning the way we represent skiing and snowboarding (since both are so far outside of the norm of the white, straight, cis male snowsports industry). But on the other side there is an opportunity to be so different, literally carve out our own space, and do it all on our own terms.

Is there anything you want other women to know about working in your industry?

True wealth cannot be measured simply by how much is in the bank. We are incredibly privileged to be able to work in an industry that requires you to be outside 

What advice would you give to other women starting their own business? 

Don’t carry any guilt or apologize for charging what you charge (margins are everything) and find your voice so that you stand out from the crowd.

When you’re having a tough day, who or what inspires you to keep going? 

That bourbon served neat that’s waiting for me at 5 pm.

How can female business owners support one another and their community? 

It’s important to apply an intersectional lens to answering this question. As a white woman, I have an opportunity to leverage my privilege so that women of color, trans women, women with disabilities, and any other under-represented group have the same or better opportunities than I do. We (white women) need to always look for ways to create equity in business and embrace collaboration over competition. 

What’s your “power song” and why? 

“Woman Is a Word” by Empress Of because of the lyrics: “I’m only an image of what you see, you don’t know me.”

To learn more about Coalition Snow and support the business, visit their website or check them out on Instagram.

Recommended for you

Mail icon
Get the latest to your inbox
No Thanks

Get the latest to your inbox

Relevant resources to help start, run, and grow your business.

By clicking “Submit,” you agree to permit Intuit to contact you regarding QuickBooks and have read and acknowledge our Privacy Statement.

Thanks for subscribing.

Fresh business resources are headed your way!

Looking for something else?


From big jobs to small tasks, we've got your business covered.

Firm of the Future

Topical articles and news from top pros and Intuit product experts.

QuickBooks Support

Get help with QuickBooks. Find articles, video tutorials, and more.