WATERVILLE — Standing directly across the street from the bustling construction site where Colby College is building a massive new dormitory and student center, the former Hains building has been an eyesore in downtown, having been vacant for years. But there’s now movement inside.

The top floor of the building at 173 Main St. is expansive, with but a few walled rooms amid a lot of open space. The building, owned by Colby, is providing a laboratory for student innovation, and a fledgling student-run company is doing just that.

Theo Satloff, a junior, is one of three students who founded a company called EuroPiste, which Satloff described as a marketplace where winter sports professionals can buy discounted gear. Funded in part by DavisConnects – a college initiative that provides funding and support for every student to spend time abroad, have access to internships and research opportunities and become entrepreneurs – EuroPiste is the first such student tenant in the former Hains building. Satloff said more student ventures will come to the space, and EuroPiste will serve as something like a mentor when others arrive.

“It’s nice to learn from fellow students,” he said.

Satloff came up with the idea for the company just over a year ago with fellow students Carl-Philip Majgaard and Walker Griggs. All active skiers, they saw an inefficiency in the market that spawned the idea. Winter sports professionals, such as ski instructors and mountain rescuers, are often given access to discounts on high-end gear, he said. However, a professional looking to buy gear has to go to each individual brand. With EuroPiste, Satloff said, buyers now can go to one place to find gear from a variety of brands with a universal checkout.

“We saw an opportunity to make it better,” Satloff said.

Satloff and Majgaard said they have a soft launch planned for sometime in July, when some certified professionals will be able to access deals from a handful of vendors. They plan to add more vendors by the end of the year.

The service won’t be available to the public, just professionals who are certified by skiing organizations. Satloff said brands want to do this. When a professional, such as an instructor, uses a particular brand, it promotes the brand to others.

The half-dozen employees with EuroPiste are making good use of the space. They work shoeless to keep the area clean, and they have free rein over the space. With few white boards to make notes on, they use the windows in an office.

Satloff and Majgaard said they hope to see the business grow in the coming years, not just for Colby but for the Waterville area as well. Eventually, they want to be able to hire locals to staff the company.

Right now, none of the employees at EuroPiste is paid. They are all full-time students who spend up to 12 hours a day in the Hains building.

“The goal is to grow, grow, grow,” Majgaard said.

The trio of Satloff, Majgaard and Griggs were recently in Munich for a product fair. While there, they had nearly 50 meetings with vendors, Satloff said.

Much of their market is in Europe, Majgaard said. Targeting Europe, they will help overseas companies brand themselves better in the United States. Likewise, the service will benefit European professionals seeking American gear.

“It’s a win-win-win,” Majgaard said.

EuroPiste is an incubator business, a sign of things to come from future Colby students. The founders and employees of EuroPiste plan to be around not just to grow their company, but to serve as a resource for those future students.

“We hope to build a good sense of community,” Satloff said, and not just be “isolated on the hill.”

Colin Ellis can be contacted at 861-9253 or at:

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