Inspiring Alumni | Rick Weissenborn '88 and Linda LeBourveau '84
By: Steve Hanulik, Contributing Writer
CURIOUSITY... THE FIRST STEP IN DEEP LEARNING AND INNOVATIVE THINKING
Rick Weissenborn ’88 and Linda LeBourveau ’84 have achieved what most would consider a rare form of success — they’ve been able to blend their shared love of skiing, design, and advertising to build an award-winning, industry-leading company with a global customer base.
“I would call Rick a serial inventor,” Linda laughs. “I usually get to work a little after Rick — I get in and he says ‘I just came up with an idea’. I’m like, ‘What? Another one?’ It’s ongoing.”
Their Calgary-based company, Tools4Boards, has been a driving force behind ski and snowboard tools for over 30 years. As a competitive alpine skier and Strathcona-Tweedsmuir School (STS) graduate, Rick recognized the many shortcomings presented by existing ski equipment, and set out to design products that would address those concerns. At the time he had completed a term at the London School of Economics, and was pursuing a Bachelor of Science degree in agricultural economics through the University of Guelph with the goal of following in his father’s veterinary footsteps. It soon became clear, however, that mechanical engineering was his true calling.
“My first invention was a vice for holding alpine skis. At that time ski construction was changing…going from a cross section that was like a sandwich to a molded top, a monocoque. You really couldn’t clamp the ski. I patented this invention that used an adjustable boot dummy that snapped into the binding, and would retract the brake, then you could lock it on a table.”
With a functional prototype in hand, Rick didn’t waste any time finding support for what he felt was a fresh and innovative product.
“I patented it, jumped on an airplane and flew to Japan to try and sell it. At the time Japan was the largest market for ski equipment in the world…I ended up getting a purchase order from a company over there, Jardine Matheson, that also happened to be the distributor for Swix, which is the world’s largest ski wax company. They picked up this product on a global basis. So right out of high school, and while I was going to university, I was also running a business.”
This early success helped provide the incentive and confidence Rick needed to expand into other sports. “Subsequently I developed the first compact cross country vice…I approached Swix with this vice that could almost fit in your pocket, small and compact. I presented this to the project manager in Lillehammer, Norway. He said, ‘Oh, that’ll never work’. Within a year that product was their best-selling vice ever. The Norwegians invented the cheese cutter wire, but I invented the cross country vice.”
On the other side of the country, fellow STS graduate Linda LeBourveau had earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Victoria and a two-year certificate in Public Relations from Mount Royal College, now Mount Royal University. After pursuing a career in marketing, she was preparing to establish a paintable ceramics studio in Vancouver. She reached out to Rick for business advice during a visit to Calgary — a meeting that would change both of their lives.
“I was really impressed because he was four years younger than me. And I was thinking ‘wow’, that’s amazing that he was balancing going to school and starting a business.”
They maintained a long-distance relationship for several years, with Linda eventually making the decision to move back to Calgary. She then ventured into advertising for a period before joining Rick at Tools4Boards. “Being able to take those skills that I learned and developed over the years, and then to be able to bring them here where we were branding new products and launching them, the marketing and social media around that — it was a really good fit that way.”
Both are proud to highlight the role that the STS ethos played in their success. “I didn’t place constraints on my ability to achieve things. If you fail, great,” Rick explains. “You tried. I’ve come to realize that failure’s a big part of that process, and there’s several failures before there’s success…Embracing failure is a big part of being successful in the first place. I think fundamentally STS instilled that will to do your best. Imparted that, and allowed that to flourish.”
Through STS, Rick and Linda have been able to pass these same lessons onto their children, Lauren ’21 and Rhys ’23. “When we had kids, we didn’t even chat about it,” Linda says. “We both knew automatically that they were going to go to STS. It’s an investment, and the opportunities it’s provided them are incredible. I think we’re so fortunate that we were able to go there and have our kids be able to go there too.”
“STS makes you curious,” she adds. “We’ve traveled all over the world; we’ve taken our kids with us. When we’re out exploring, looking for new ideas or products, or we bring them to our trade shows and they work at the booth with us, we want them to be curious like we were. It was instilled in us.”
Their daughter Lauren, an STS Lifer, won the Governor General’s Academic Bronze Medal as the student graduating with the highest average from Senior School. At the time of this publication, she has completed her first year at Queen’s University and is working towards her BSc Honours with an interest in medicine or law. Upon his graduation, Rhys will be a STS Lifer as well. He is serving as a Prefect, and is interested in a career in business/commerce. As STS parents, they are also excited to see how the School is evolving to meet the needs of enterprising and inquisitive students. “Now there’s actually a design class at STS where students are working on 3D modeling and rapid prototyping…that wasn’t available to me at the time. In fact, when I first started, the fax machine had just been invented so we were Fedexing contracts back and forth to Japan.”
Tools4Boards continues to drive innovation in the ski and snowboard industry, as well as cycling, construction, and others. This overwhelming commitment to excellence has led to Rick receiving two of the design industry’s top accolades: the Red Dot Design Award in 2018 and the IF (International Forum) Design Award in 2022. “From the get-go I’ve been inventing, patenting. I’m working on my 30th patent right now. Design has been a big motivator, a passion of mine. These awards represent a culmination.”
“I’ve come to realize that failure’s a big part of that process, and there’s several failures before there’s success…”