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Skating with ease: Sudbury entrepreneur's skating aid heads to market.

This winter, Northern Ontario kids can learn to skate with a little more ease.

Ellen Simon will be receiving 500 of her Ezeryder skate training devices for distribution, just in time for the winter sports season.

The device looks like a bike with its seat and handles, but has four legs instead of wheels and ski-like appendages on the bottom. The child sits on the seat and propels themselves by pushing their skates against the ice.

The outdoorsy mother of two from Markstay-Warren, just east of Sudbury, first thought of the product when her 16-year-old son Hunter, then two, loved driving around the house on his toy truck, but was too young to skate on his own.

"I was thinking, you know that little truck he has at home, he speeds around on it. Maybe we could use something like that to help him skate," said Simon. "My mother and I built something similar out of PVC pipe, and it wasn't about skating. It was his new truck. He stayed out on the ice the whole day."

"The Ezeryder was my idea but it was my mother Valerie Simon's building skills that helped bring my idea to life," said Simon.

The homemade device stayed below the radar for years until Simon had her second son, Ryder, for whom the product is named. Now six, Ryder started using the device at two like his brother, and other parents started to notice.

"Now, 10 years later with Ryder people would ask, 'Where did you get this thing?'" said Simon. "So we started making some in the basement at my mom's, but it was really expensive because of all the little pieces."

She estimates the homemade versions cost around $70 each, just in terms of materials, but they became so popular, Simon and her mother started to think more along the lines of making it a commercial product.

She's made at least 30 basement versions and donated several to an arena in her community.

With momentum building and costs rising, Simon approached Skater's Edge in Sudbury to see if there was interest in the product. Owners Norm Bouffard, Matt Zawierzeniec, and Sean Venedam jumped at the opportunity and encouraged Simon to pursue commercialization.

As a former professional hockey player, Venedam was interested in the quality of training the Ezeryder provided.

"It's hard to distinguish whether it's a toy or a skating aid. I didn't invent this thing for anything but fun," said Simon. "But not only does the product offer ease for parents, it teaches proper skating technique, with the child striding side to side."

With local support, Simon found a manufacturer in China and was expecting her first shipment in late November.

They will be sold at Sudbury's Skater's Edge and at 4Hundred Source for Sports in Barrie, which Venedam runs.

Each unit will go for $119.99, featuring a sleeker design and custom packaging.

Simon is excited to see her idea come to fruition, although it was an experience getting the product to market.

"I knew nothing about any of this, but I didn't sit down and think about it; it just came about," said Simon, who credits her imaginative family of painters and artists for inspiring her 'can-do' attitude. "We fish, we hunt, we garden, and balancing all this has been interesting."

While encouraged there's enough interest for sales, Simon said she'll spend this winter enjoying watching more children using the Ezeryder, and hopes to showcase it at winter events like Winterlude in Ottawa and at Quebec City's Winter Carnival.

"One day maybe we'll make bigger ones or accessories. We had a lot of interest," said Simon. "But our goal this year is exposure, and we're concentrating on our little ones first."

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Title Annotation:SUDBURY
Author:Myers, Ella
Publication:Northern Ontario Business
Date:Jan 1, 2017
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