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John Lovett, 26, never intended to spend 14 hours a day, seven days a week designing and making crosscountry skis. But in 1970 he set up his own factory in Boulder, Colo, and in seven years the Lovett Ski Corporation has become one of the largest manufacturers of cross-country equipment in the U.S. Lovett believes his success is the result of an obsession with quality that he displayed when he made his first pair of cross-country skis in high school. “All I knew was that they had camber [a slight arch] and the tails and tips turned up,” he recalls. It took him four months to make that first pair. “I sold them for $15.1 raised the price to $18 the next fall when I redesigned them with fiberglass tops. I sold nine pairs.” With an advance of $40,000 from a ski company in Seattle, Lovett produced 2,500 pairs the first year his factory was operating. In 1975 he sold the company to Eastern Mountain Sports, Inc. but stayed on as president. “Most cross-country skis are over-engineered,” Lovett says. “Some companies use blueprints as if they were building an airplane. Our approach is simple—make the best product for the best price.” Last year the company sold 30,000 pairs under the Lovett label and grossed $1.5 million.