Meet Jonas Hiller: He is a world-class ice hockey goal keeper with 9 years’ experience in the most important and influential hockey league, the NHL. In 2016 he has returned to his home country Switzerland, where he has helped the team of EHC Biel-Bienne to reach the playoff semi finals for two consecutive years. What many of his fans don’t know, is that Jonas is not only a professional ice hockey player, but also a successful entrepreneur: He is the main shareholder of GIN KITEBOARDING, the first and only Swiss kitesurf brand, based on the shores of Lake of Bienne. Now that his ice hockey season has come to an end, Jonas took some time to explain his involvement in the brand.
GIN: Congratulations on your successful season, which you have finished in the playoff semi-finals for the second time in a row. What are your plans for the summer break?
Jonas Hiller: Immediately after the last game, we usually have some last team responsibilities, but after that, the focus quickly shifts to private life. For us ice hockey players, this is almost the only time of the year, where we can take longer holidays. Since you never really know when your season will be over, you can’t plan much in advance. Therefore my holiday plans tend to be of the “last minute” kind, but I’m nonetheless really looking forward to spending some time with my family and friends.
GIN: Are there any activities that you currently can’t pursue as a hockey player but that you are looking forward to taking up once your professional career is over?
Jonas Hiller: Luckily, I am allowed to practice my second passion, which is kitesurfing. However, I am not allowed to ski for contractual reasons, which means that I have never tried snowkiting. I can’t wait to start this sport that will be completely new to me!
GIN: How much are you looking into your future? Are you already thinking about your time after your professional hockey career?
Jonas Hiller: I know perfectly well that I will not be able to play ice hockey for ever and I am well aware of my age. I am definitely already thinking about the time that will follow and becoming part of GIN KITEBOARDING was clearly in the mindset of preparing myself for my life after ice hockey.
GIN: You have become the main shareholder of GIN KITEBOARDING in 2015. Was that an act of folly or were there real ambitions involved?
Jonas Hiller: It might have started off as an act of folly in the very beginning, when I first thought about it. But I’m a person with ambition, no matter what I do. My ambition with GIN KITEBOARDING is not necessarily to make a lot of money, but to be able to share my passion for this sport with as many people as possible and to help them to experience the freedom I feel when I’m on the water with my kite. This thought gives me a lot of satisfaction! Apart from that, I also have a strong entrepreneurial spirit and it intrigues me to see companies perform well in the small Swiss market. I am convinced that with GIN KITEBOARDING we will reach interesting objectives that will satisfy my ambitions.
GIN: You are playing for EHC Biel-Bienne. Was it you that brought GIN KITEBOARDING to the region of Biel?
Jonas Hiller: No, GIN KITEBOARDING already had their offices at the Lake of Bienne well before my time. When I signed for the club, this turned out a great coincidence! The lakes of Bienne and Neuchatel have awesome kitespots and it is simply fantastic to be able to be on the water so close to your home and work.
GIN: What is it that you like about this brand?
Jonas Hiller: Well, at very first it was the simple fact that it is the only Swiss kitesurf brand. As I love kitesurfing, this is what got me interested in the very beginning. But then i got to know the brand better and I realised that the values, the philosophy and the products fit really well to my ideas. I dove into this adventure in order to realise these ideas together with GIN.
GIN: How are you currently involved in GIN KITEBOARDING?
Jonas Hiller: For the moment, ice hockey is still my priority. For this reason, I can’t be involved in the daily business, but rather on the strategic level. This is where I can currently best contribute to the success of the company. I have a great team that runs the daily business and I’m very happy that I don’t need to be worry about this at all.
GIN: How do you see your future at GIN KITEBOARIDNG?
Jonas Hiller: Things will be very different once my professional ice hockey career is over. I will be much closer to the daily business of the company and I’m dreaming of being actively involved in the development and improvement of our products. I have many ideas in my head and I’m really looking forward to realising them together with the team!