Bear Knuckles, a family-owned, Blackfoot-based glove company, was named Small Business of the Month for September by the U.S. Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship.
The award honors small businesses and entrepreneurs across the country. Bear Knuckles will be recognized in the Congressional Record of the U.S. Senate.
Bear Knuckles — owned by Shawn Schild, his brothers Jeff and Kelly and Kendall Matson, who also acts as president of the company — designs and manufactures specialty leather gloves for bareback horse riding and bull riding as well as work gloves and welding gloves.
Schild, 55, who grew up in Blackfoot, said he came up with the patented design for bareback riding gloves after talking to cowboys fed up with their stiff gloves. Working at his father’s leather shop, B Bar B, at the time, Schild spent months designing a glove that followed the natural curves of the hand and was easy to close into a fist.
“They would last longer and feel so much better that, once people tried them, they’d never want to use any other glove ever again,” Schild said.
Schild secured his first patent in 2001, and Bear Knuckles quickly took over the bareback riding glove market, he said.
Recently, Schild began designing specialty work gloves, using the same technology that made the riding gloves so popular.
“He has continued to innovate his product to better serve working men and women in Idaho and across the country, with their comfort and safety at the heart of his design,” said Sen. Jim Risch (R-Idaho), chairman of the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, in a news release. “The entire Bear Knuckles and Schild family shows how dedication to hard work and perseverance can lead to small business success.”
Bear Knuckles has just eight employees, many of whom are family. Its gloves are shipped all over the world.
The Small Business of the Month award caught him by surprise, Schild said. He didn’t know it existed.
“It sure doesn’t hurt my feelings that somebody out there is taking a look at us,” he said.