Hello JoJo, Goodbye Puma, An Interview With Joey Brezinzki

In the early 90’s, it would be unheard of for an American skateboarder to make a career off of riding for a European skateboard company.  Prior to the internet, I don’t even think that skateboarders in the States even knew brands existed overseas.  Aside from the “World Report” segments of 411vm, the European skate scene was non existent to the average American.

Let’s fast forward to 2006.  European brand Cliche adds its first american to the team, which was basically unheard of.  How could a pro from America sustain a career on a French based brand? How is this even possible?  Welcome to the Joey Brzezinski interview.

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SMDM:. So, i usually start off the same way, whats your name and what do you do?

JoJo: My name is Joey Brezinski, and i’m a professional skateboarder, entrepreneur, and product developer.
SMDM: Being in the industry for so long, i think you know a thing or two about all the levels of sponsorship.  if I’m not mistaken, you started off on blind flow?   How did that come about, and how come you never got full on?

“He wanted me to inward heel 5-0 a hubba or a handrail”

JoJo: Yeah, I was on Blind flow because i was out skating with Josh Neher, and went out filming with Soc (Socrates Leal) , and I got a couple lines. He basically just offered to give me some boards and that’s how I started getting flowed. I just remember meeting up with Rodney Mullen and he asked me what I thought of another dude’s sponsor me tape, and if I thought I was better than him.  It was an awkward moment, to rate a friend’s footage and have to compare it to my own. He wanted me to inward heel 5-0 a hubba or a handrail and I’d be on for sure, so I tried on the Vegas Academy hubba but couldn’t get on. It just kept flipping too high over it. Around the same time, there was an ASR show, and I was good friends with Steve Hernandez, SAD, and Malcolm from skating the USC blocks. At the show, they had the Arcade booth set up and Steve asked me to show them some footage. I had my VHS tape in my bag and we watched it with Jason Rogers and he was hyped. They wanted to go upstairs and have some beers and I wasn’t even old enough to drink, but I rolled with them anyways. They basically offered me a spot right there, but I didn’t know what the process was because I was still getting Blind flow. So I sat on it for like a month and eventually just called them up. I actually asked for Dan because I got my Rogers’ mixed up haha. But yeah, from there, Jason sent me some boards and the rest is history. So I never went full for blind because i ended up going to arcade. The inward heel 5-0 just never worked out.
SMDM: Arcade was a very underrated company.  They had a great team, as would be any team with SAD as a pro.  was that your first full on board sponsor?
JoJo: Yeah, Arcade was the first official board sponsor.
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SMDM: So, all good things must come to an end, which Arcade did.  What was the process like for getting boards to skate? Were you back where you started on flow with brands?
JoJo: After Arcade went under I was skating with Chico Brenes and Mike Carroll, so they basically put me on Girl/Chocolate flow to hold me over while I was working at a skateshop and valeting at night. All  my free time was spent just filming for the Digital Sane video.
SMDM: Between sponsors, you filmed for one hell of a Logic part.  How was that with not having a board sponsor?  Were you working or you had checks from someone else coming in at the time to make it possible?
JoJo: For the Logic part, I was basically just living on Heath’s (Brinkley) couch trading tricks for rent, eating 99 cent bean and cheese burritos from El Pollo Loco and selling any old product I had to get by. Pretty much it.
SMDM: So Cliche hits you up, what was your initial thought? 
JoJO: At that point, I had a few other offers after the Digital Sane part dropped. A couple random hit ups with Cliche being one of them. For me, Cliche was tight because traveling and being able visit Europe and hit those sick spots over there that you saw in the Puzzle videos is what wanted me to skate there. I met Al (Boglio) at ASR right after my Digital Sane part dropped and he took a copy back to France to show the whole crew. A couple weeks later he called me literally while I was valeting cars and told me they wanted me to fly out there and meet the crew and skate. I was hyped.
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SMDM:  Does Cliche own the rights to the name “JOJO”?
JoJo: Haha, I don’t think so. I don’t think that’s possible.
SMDM: Any good JB stories?
JoJo:  Haha this one’s a good one. About four years ago, we went to China to film for Bon Voyage. It was like 4 am and I was super jet lagged so I went downstairs to the hotel lobby and caught Brophy on his laptop. The spa was open so we’re trying to get into the sauna and trying to communicate with the staff. They’re basically just getting us naked to go into the spa but all the pools and saunas are closed because it’s 4am so we’re all confused and shit. Then they start escorting us up like four flights of stairs trying to explain like your friend is up here but it was so lost in translation that we had no idea what he was talking about. The dude opens the door and it’s JB getting a rub and tug, and me and Brophy are just like FUCK, like super bummed, like not what we wanted to see. JB was just like “what the fuck dude! get out!” So that was all we talked about the whole next day. They basically just took us straight to our friend getting jerked. We even paid up front for the spa and didn’t even go in. Yeah, I’ve got a ton of JB stories.
SMDM:So, you were in charge of the Puma skate program for a bit.  How did that come about? Seems like you just make a Suede Vulc and it should just sell itself….i don’t know how it didn’t last.

“imagine having one of your riders get a cover of a mag, and all they give him is a giftcard to the Puma store. Like, sick dude, thanks…?”

JoJo: Haha yeah, “skate program”. I tried to spearhead one but they didn’t really have the same vision I had. They gave me a budget to hook dudes up with shoes but weren’t really willing to commit to backing the riders or a quality skate shoe. A vulc suede is a homerun in my opinion, and I’ve still got a few samples in my garage but it never really went any further than that. I had meetings with them in Germany to try to get a small budget approved but they just kind of shrugged at the idea of a skate program. They didn’t really seem too confident that it would be successful. So it was like after five years there with no real progress, I just made a decision to leave. Like imagine having one of your riders get a cover of a mag, and all they give him is a giftcard to the Puma store. Like sick dude, thanks…?
SMDM:  So you have a new shoe project going on, care to explain? 
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JoJO: Yeah dude, my contract with Puma was coming to an end and I already knew I was over it, so I was already in talks with Jason at FP to see how we could integrate all the insole technology into an actual footwear line and that’s how FP Footwear came about. Right now we’re at the end of the first sample phase and starting production. We’ve got one style available for preorder already but it’s only just starting to take off. We’ve got something pretty unique in terms of technology that we’ve patented and are now able to grow the brand organically. Just gotta water the plant.
SMDM: How does it work with Redbull? Do they have a hat catalog, or do you send them hats to do the embroidery?
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JoJo: They used to make all these crazy big motocross hats, but we couldn’t really wear them to skate, so we just talked to them about making snapbacks and five panels and they listened.
SMDM: Are you going to start your own “Garage” skateboard brand?
JoJo: Yeah, we’re currently working on launching Visual Skateboards with Stephen Vanasco (Van Styles), so we’ll have more news about the team and product soon. It’s gonna be sick.

Really, Really, Really, Really Sorry. An Interview with Flip Skateboards TM,John Nicholson

       Skateboarding has seen thousands of brands come and go throughout the years.  Some were ahead of the time, others had no business starting in the first place.  Ever hear of “By the Sword”? Nope, didn’t think so.  For 500 brands like that, there’s one Santa Cruz, Independent, or Vans, brands who have withstood the test of time.  There are also newer ones who have had great success, such as Real, Spitfire, and Girl Skateboards.
        Now, imagine not being an American brand, coming over seas, and staying in business for over 20 years while constantly pushing the talent envelope further and further.  This is Flip Skateboards. Aside from sponsoring such legends as Tom Penny and Lance Mountain, they also have a pretty cool team manager who I convinced to do an interview with me. Let me present to you John Nicholson.
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SMDM: What is your name, and what do you do?

JN: My name is John Nicholson and I am the social media and team manager for Flip Skateboards.
SMDM: When you say “social media”, what platforms does that actually include?
JN: I run the Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube accounts.  We are hoping to put a lot of focus on YouTube going forward, but since you can post full blown edits on Insta now, it’s hard to justify doing so on YouTube.  I also do Curren Caples social media with most of my focus being on his Facebook and Twitter.
SMDM: How did you come into the TM job at flip? It seems like a very high profile industry job.
JN: Just being at the right place at the right time.  My friend Josh Zucker had got the job through us hanging out with Arto at Woodward.  He thought he was signing up for more of a photographer/creative director position and he realized it was more of a TM gig. Once that set in, he had me takeover after helping him out during his time at Flip.
SMDM: When you took the TM job, did you know what you were getting into? Has it been an easy ride so far? It doesn’t seem like you are dealing with a rowdy bunch, no Fred Gall in his heyday….(sorry, can’t help to plug Fred Gall footage whenever I can on here)
JN: Oh yeah, for sure. Flip is actually much smaller than people imagine, so I do a lot more than a typical team manager.  It’s me and two owners running the whole show, so the line gets blurred up into brand management, and down into the depths of bitch work that most companies would hire an intern, or another poor sap to do.  Everyone on our team is very humble and professional.  The worst person I have to deal with is myself! Ha ha.
SMDM: Any good Tom Penny stories? 
JN: I get asked this one a lot and I have actually never met Tom aside from talking to him on the phone, which is funny because I run his Facebook.  The past 2 flip trips he was on were overseas and I had to hold down the fort here.
SMDM: Speaking of Tom Penny….does Flip still run the Magic Mushroom and Cheech and Chong™ decks?  I remember owning the Magic Mushroom deck around 1997 or so.  Seems like that graphic ran forever.
JN: Yes.  Tom has had a pro model in the line since the beginning in 91′ and we actually just re-released  the “Toms Friends” deck to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the graphic.  We did a cruiser, an 8.25, and a 7.75 on the F-01 shape, which was the first Flip shaper ever produced and was what the original graphic was on 20 years ago.
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SMDM: About how many sponsor me requests do you get weekly?  Are they more via DM or email?

JN: It’s a solid mixture of both, but more DM’s lately since I decided to include my job title in my bio in an effort to appear more professional.
SMDM: Wow, so kids hunt you down and DM you?  Do they realize that Flip has one of the craziest teams talentwise in all of skateboarding?  Do any get angry you haven’t turned them pro yet?
JN: Haha. Unfortunately the DM’s that are sent to the actual company account go unread because there are so many that Instagram filters out the ones from people I don’t follow, so I can only see ones sent to my personal account.  I’ve had a couple of people get bummed if I’m honest.  What I get a kick out of, at the risk of sounding like an egotistical dickhead, is that I post my own skate footage on my Instagram, and kids send stuff that isn’t even close to the shitty footage that I post.  If that was the standard, I would be a rider, and not the TM.
SMDM: What goes into picking a rider for a brand like Flip?

JN: Flip is different from a lot of other companies in that the owners, Jeremy and Ian, are still very heavily involved in the day to day operations.  Jeremy still hand picks the riders and aside from flowing a few prospects that ended up moving on to other companies, it’s Jeremy’s call.  He’s always had an incredible eye for that special something that very few skateboarders have.  This is evident in the past legends and current line up of the team,  Jeremy was also involved in companies like Hawk clothing, which was a group of super little kids that are all now legends. (Dylan Rieder, David Gonzalez, Tyler Bledsoe, Colin Provost, etc.)
SMDM: I remember Flip used to have these “New Wave” decks, the boards looked like wavy potato chips, and it was supposed to increase the strength of the board.  Is Flip doing anything as cutting edge currently as these were at the time?  If they are making anything revolutionary, are the riders using them or the standard boards?
JN: The “New Wave” decks were done by Blitz Distribution, and were the brainchild of Jeremy Fox, the owner of Flip.  They were also featured on Firm decks at the time.  They made the board stronger and slide further, due to the decreased amount of surface area that made contact between board and ledge/rail.  Less friction, greater slide.  Jeremy is an engineer so he is always thinking of new and inventive ways to improve upon the standard skateboard deck.  I’m sure you have heard of the P2 boards?
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SMDM: Nope, enlighten me.
JN:  The P2 boards are the most recently upgraded boards.  A lot of our riders really like them, and if you ever try one, the board doesn’t get soggy as quickly and is for sure twice as strong.  The only problem is, some find the decks are a  little flatter from the process of inserting the fiberglass inlay, so 85% of the team rides what you see on the wall of your local shop.
SMDM: Who goes through more boards? Lance Mountain or Bob Burnquist?
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JN: They are both such skate rats, but Lance seriously skates everyday and since he skates strictly rugged pools these days, I would have to say Lance.
SMDM: Have you ever sponsored from  a DM?

JN: Sometimes if someone is already an avid supporter of the brand and they reach out to me via DM, I will try to get them a deck or some sort of hook up to thank them. I’ve just started giving boards to this new top secret Cat and I think I might have DM’ed him to find out his sponsor situation and get his number, but that initial connection was made in person.
SMDM: So, Flip recently left NHS.  Care to touch on that?
JN: For the past few years Flip has been basically frozen because of some legal bullshit we’ve been dealing with, unrelated to NHS.  This is why we have been pretty under the radar as of late, and we’re limited to basically only the social media content I’ve been out creating with the team and what the team riders are getting with their other sponsors.  Most have some pretty big sponsors aside from Flip ( Volcom, Adidas, Cons, Vans, etc..) so they are able to still be out there and stay relevant.  Now that the legal trouble is coming to an end, we are able to find a new distribution.  Flip is undergoing a revamp, and we are going to be doing a ton of shop signings and demos locally, as well as starting work on a new video to fully showcase our current riders who happen to be some of the best in the world.
SMDM: Will the video be called “Quadruple Sorry”?
JN: No, but people will be able to finally see the new Flip.
SMDM:   Hopefully there will be some Tom Penny footage.  Aside from sending Tom boards, are there any other perks of your job you can talk about?

JN: I mean the perks are pretty obvious and are the main incentive for a job in the skateboard industry, since every board brand is in a tough spot these days.  I’ve gotten to hang out and become good friends with some of the best skateboarders in the world.  I got to personally turn both Alec Majerus and Matt Berger pro and plan out their surprise parties.  I’ve witnessed some of the most insane tricks ever done on a skateboard in person. I get to travel.  I get to play a small roll in the lasting impact that these dudes are going to leave in skateboarding and I get free decks too!  What more could a guy want!?

Dream Job or Nightmare? An Interview with Mike Sinclair of Tum Yeto

           Aside from being a paid professional, I’m sure most skaters would like a job working for a skateboard brand. Sounds like a walk in the park.  Free product, dealing with skateboarding all day, and one would probably think there is minimal work involved.  It is skateboarding after all, how hard could it be?
              Now let’s picture yourself at an office opening an email so you can get some work done. You have to plan a trip, book hotels, line up demo’s, and make sure all the skaters on the team are prepared and ready to go.  Unfortunately, your email is filled up with hundreds of emails titled “Sponsor Me”.  Since you are in charge of managing the team, finding talent is one of your tasks and looking at these tapes is part of your job.  Yay.
              We had the chance to get a few questions to a very busy man, and we’re grateful he had the time to answer them.  I’d like to introduce to you Mr. Mike Sinclair, of Tum Yeto.
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SMDM: Whats your name and what to you do?
Mike:Mike Sinclair and I work at Tum Yeto distribution.
SMDM: How long have you had the position?
Mike: I have been at Tum Yeto for 9 kick ass years.
SMDM:  What exactly does your job entail?
Mike: At Tum Yeto, it’s a very small crew so we all wear multiple hats. A typical week is schedule and planning-building the teams schedule for the upcoming month, emails, promos, organizing upcoming projects with the magazines, checking in with the riders, making sure everyone is happy, and checking in with sales to see what’s working or what’s not. Then it’s getting invoices paid from photographers and filmers, working on product ideas with the team, and getting them in front of production. More emails and a lot more calls and texts throughout the day. Helping flow kids become legit ams and help ams turn pro. Checking sponsor me’s daily…
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SMDM: How many ‘sponsor me’ requests do you get a month? Is it mostly dm or email?
Mike: A month… let me think, I would say it’s probably about 100 each month if you include DM’s, emails & texts.

probably about 100 each month if you include DM’s, emails & texts” 

SMDM: How do they get your number? that must suck….

Mike: I’m not too sure. I think my email is on the toy site somewhere. My number is floating too.

 

SMDM: Have you sponsored from a DM?
Mike: From a DM? Nah never.
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SMDM: Have you ever done a reverse DM, and reached out to someone?
Mike: Yeah, if I see something I like, I’ll reach out for sure.

SMDM: Do you get any kids who send the same footage numerous times?

Mike: Oh yeah, some keep sending the same stuff even if I have seen the footage and already politely declined. They will send it again in a few weeks for sure, just to be sure I haven’t changed my mind I’m guessing, and then send it again like we have never been in contact. It’s strange. 

“They will send it again in a few weeks for sure, just to be sure I haven’t changed my mind”

SMDM:What era of skating did you receive the most sponsor me requests?
Mike: Right now for sure.
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SMDM: Why do you think that is?
Mike: I think now more than ever because you can reach out to anyone you want. You and I could DM the president of the United States of America if we wanted to or ask Eva Mendes to sponsor us if we felt like it. It’s weird times.
 
SMDM: Ever hook a kid up and have to boot them because they sucked?
Mike: Yes.
SMDM: Is booting a ‘kook’ a team decision or do you get to make the call?
Mike: If it’s a “kook” I don’t need permission, but if it’s someone that is already on the team and has kooked it we all discuss as a team and I have to make the call.
SMDM: Thanks Mike.
Please make sure to head over to www.tumyeto.com and buy something so Mike can continue to get paid to look at sponsor me videos, among other less important tasks….

10 Things NOT TO DO While Filming A Sponsor Me Tape

At one time or another, whether its a daydream, or an actual goal, most skateboarders think about sponsorship.  Who wouldn’t want to get paid to travel the world, make millions of dollars, and have unlimited free product to skate? While this type of scenario only happens to less that 2% of the skate population, we feel it is our duty to help aid you on your way to reaching your goals, or at least set you up to not fail as bad as you would have.

1.DO NOT BEAM THE CAMERA

This one is important.  Nobody wants to see you stare the camera down after you land your trick.  While you may be in shock you landed your trick after 2 hours, just keep the eyes on the prize and away from the cameraman.  If you feel the need to stare at something, pull a Bobby Puleo and stare down at the obstacle you just conquered.

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2.KEEP YOUR SHIRT ON

I get it, it’s hot out.  You have been putting in tons of work at the skatepark, and it’s really difficult to grind that over waxed skatepark box.  Trust me, nobody wants to see a farmers tan on an anorexic 15 year old while watching footage.  If it’s that hot and tiring, try removing your winter beanie first.

3.DO NOT FILM TRICKS YOU ARE NOT GOOD AT

Now, I’m not saying don’t learn new tricks, or work on ones you have difficulty with, but there is no need for a potential sponsor to have to watch you struggle with your rocket kickflips or improperly done pivot fakies.  Work on the tricks you have trouble with until you can do them cleanly, and then try filming them.  Less is more.

4.HAVE A DECENT CAMERA


The IPhone may be great for Instagram clips, but if your goal is to get a sponsor by sending out the footage, I would suggest using the proper equipment.  Now, this may not be the most important, because if you’re really amazing at skateboarding, you may be able to get by sending out whatever you have, and the sponsor may fly you out to use their filmer, but that’s one in a million.  If you like the more underground skating, invest in a VX1000 and a roll of duct tape, for when the front element snaps off while your filmer mimics Mandible Claw. For the Street League types, invest in a higher end HD camera and some dolly tracks.

5.KNOW WHAT TRICKS WERE DONE AT WHAT SPOT

Ok, so you roll up to the clipper ledge to get your ender for the tape you want to send to Real Skateboards.  You decide to go to your “go to” trick, and manage to land a crooked grind.  Reality check.  This damn hubba ledge has been full cab nose grinded.  Nobody cares about a crooked grind, unless its by a kid under 11 years of age, and even then that’s not really pushing the envelope these days.  Know the spots, and know the tricks, and make sure you are bringing something new to the table.

6.MAKE SURE THE TREND YOU’RE CHASING MATCHES THE TIME YOU ARE SENDING YOUR FOOTAGE OUT

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Body varials were the hot trick LAST WEEK.  Make sure if you are trying to be “ON FLEEK” with your trick selection, that you do it while it’s still cool to be doing so.  Chasing down the latest “vintage” Tommy Hilfiger polo so you can wear it in your video is ok now, but if it takes you 2 years or so to get the tape done,  the footage will be outdated and almost useless.  Remember the woman’s pants with puffy shoes trend? Yeah, that’s not going to fly in early 2017.

7.NO LIFESTYLE SHOTS

Nobody cares if you like to roll around and drink a sugar free Redbull before you go skate a stair set.  These kinds of shots have nothing purpose in a Sponsor Me video.  I understand thinking a finished edit will make it all seem better, but nobody cares.  Save that until after you get sponsed.

8.DON’T ROCK COMPANY A’s GEAR AND SEND FOOTAGE TO COMPANY B

 

If you are filming a Sponsor Me tape, try and not wear big company logos of brands you have no intention of sending your footage to.  In a perfect world, after you get “Sponsed” you could possibly be able to use some or all of your footage for a welcome part, or a part in their next video product, but not if you are wearing a different brands gear.  Plan B wont want to use a part of someone decked out in DGK gear, as it doesn’t promote their brand.  Last thing you want to have to do is re-film a body varial to switch 5050 down Hollywood high.

9. DO NOT WEAR HEADPHONES

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Ugh, this one should be a no brainer.  I’m not even getting into this.  If you are by yourself and nobody is around and you want to listen to music, great, but don’t film with the ear buds in. Just don’t.

10. JUST SKATE FOR FUN, FUCK SPONSORSHIP

Basically, you are better off just skating, because it’s fun as hell.  Film a video with your friends, enjoy the process.  This way there are no rules to follow.  Pro skating pays next to nothing, and doesn’t last very long in most cases.  Get a job at UPS, skate at night and on the weekends, and retire in 25 years.  Sounds like a good plan to me.

It’s Not The Love Boat, It’s The Friend Ship. An Interview with Tim Olson.

                When I started skating, 25 plus years ago, skateboarding had a handful of brands, and they were all fairly serious in nature with the exception of a few comedic sketches in their videos. As time went on, things started to change, and some smaller brands started popping up and changing how the industry was run.  

                 I remember when Rubbish Heap came out like it was yesterday. Besides the amazing skating, there were cut scenes of people breaking other peoples boards, kids eating worms and throwing up, and even a hand written letter delivered to Rodney Mullen stating he should be street skating instead of freestyling.  Not only did this grab my attention, it also showed me how much fun you could have while skating.  

                 Let’s jump to present day.  Everyone knows Enjoi, but I’d like to show you another comical company and its owner, one that may not be as well known. I’d like to introduce you to  The Friend Ship Skateboards.

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SMDM:So here I am again…As I usually start these, what’s your name, and what do you do?

Tim: My name is Tim Olson, and I run a failing skateboard company.  I kid. We’re killing it! I’m doing this interview on my Segway while eating  caviar off of a runway model.

SMDM: Dude, Segways are so 2015…you need to get on that Hoverboard. So, what made you feel the industry needed another brand? Why not start a Segway brand, or even better, a vape juice brand?

Tim: From a financial standpoint, starting a vape juice brand would have made so much more sense, but seeing how I really, really like skateboarding, I had to start a board brand.  My emotions got the best of me.  Stupid passion.  Sadly, the industry doesn’t need any more skate brands. Everyone, HERE I AM, at least for now.

SMDM:I think there is always room in skateboarding for a little comedy.  Things get too serious.  How did the name The Friend Ship come about? Was it to confuse shop owners and aspiring bloggers? It took me a while myself to figure out it had a nautical theme.

Tim: At this point, I don’t even remember how the name came about.  I think it was just a brain fart that lingered around a little longer than the rest.  I liked it.  It felt right.  I wanted to call it “Revive”, but someone already took that name, so I had to settle…

SMDM: You can always do unboxing videos and pretend you got the name you wanted.  With that said, you were also a “Roger of the Month”.  How did that come about?

Tim: Well, my friend Eric and I decided to make a part together for a local video.  Our main goal was to bum out this super serious kid that hated a less serious approach [to skating].  It ended up being way more fun than I thought it would be, and turned out pretty good, so I sent it to Michael Sieben.  He has always been a huge influence to me, and it turned out he liked it, and the rest just happened.  Never thought we would end up doing 4 parts and getting a board.  All that snowballed into me being able to do this company. Life is crazy. There is a lesson here; ALWAYS try to bum someone out.

SMDM:Hopefully that dude was bummed….?

Tim: If he was, great!  If not, no big!  In the end it all worked out for the best.

SMDM: I’m sure he was.  Speaking of Roger, were you teammates with Nate Broussard, or had he already retired?

Tim: He was still on.  I think that was around the time he kinda stopped trying.  Maybe it was our fault? Total bummer.  Not many people have that natural talent.  I hate when it’s squandered, but at the same time, people need to do what feels right for them.  Why force it, ya know?  There’s plenty of dudes out there still cashing checks that probably shouldn’t.  At least Nate didn’t wear out his welcome.  Totally respectable.

SMDM: He was the best.  He was around for a while.  So basically you getting involved with Roger made him quit.  Have you forced any other careers into early retirement?

Tim: I hope so, but I’m not entirely sure.

SMDM:  All of us Nate fans will just blame you from now on.  Now that all of the dirt is out of the way, let’s get into The Friend Ship.  I noticed you just put out some new wheels that fart.  How did that idea come up?

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Tim: Nate Joski. He is a brilliant dude.  He came at me with a the idea of putting a moving object on a wheel,  and I came up with the farting aspect, and then he drew it.  Nate is the best. He kind of smells weird, but I can deal with that. He lived out in L.A., and when I moved out here, he moved back home.  Coincidence? Doubtful.

SMDM: Sounds like a win/win. He can email artwork and smell odd while in a different state.  Has Garfield sued you yet? Do kids even know who Garfield is?

Tim:Not even a C&D. I have a frame waiting here for my first one.  I doubt kids know who Garf is, but I’m just as out of touch with what they know about, so it all balances out.

“Not even a C&D. I have a frame waiting here for my first one”

SMDM: Yeah, I hear that.  I noticed I hear names of skaters and I have no clue who they are.  What’s a Kyle Walker? 

Tim: Dude, he is good!  And the only reason I know that is because he was SOTY and everyone and their mother posted that dang 50-50.

SMDM: That’s basically how I heard of him. I swear, I used to keep up on things.  Now, I don’t think Ryan Gallant was a SOTY, but he rips and has been riding your decks.  Is that something permanent or just a friend helping a friend?

Tim: I want him on.  He knows. For now, I’ll help him out until he figures out what he wants to do.  I think he would fit our program perfectly right now. He is all about the red curbs and he is killing it.  At the end of the day, he has to do what he feels is right, but I’m here if he wants a board with us.  He’s a great guy!

SMDM: If you could get any corporate backer to be able to hand Mr. Gallant a blank check to ride for you, who would it be?

Tim: Weedmaps.  Or Audi.

SMDM: Weedmaps. Great choice. Very profitable.  Speaking of profitable, since you own a brand you must be living the lavish lifestyle, and sponsor tons of kids. How are the DM kids going these days?

Tim: Oh yeah, I’m just rolling in it! I even just got my own phone turned back on yesterday.  I’m actually kind of cutting back on the team dudes in hopes of surviving.  It sucks, but I know the guys I’m letting go have opportunities elsewhere and will have no problem finding support.  As far as the DM kids, there is no shortage.  I wish I could get paid to read those things. I’d be rich. Some are pretty funny though.

SMDM: That’s actually my goal.  It hasn’t panned out yet. I will say those DM kids are humerous. Have you ever “sponsed” a kid from a DM?

Tim: I’ve definitely reached out to a guy or two through DM. John Benton, or as you know him @fustoop.  I followed him forever, and I knew he fit with what I was trying to do.  It worked out perfect. He’s amazing. He is a perfect example of how a DM can be a good thing.

SMDM: I knew he was a DM kid! He didn’t tell me though.  I take it he cut and pasted properly?

Tim: No, no. I reached out to him!  I was the thirsty one.

SMDM: Oh, reverse DM! That’s a new one.  Good for you. yeah he seems rad and really promotes the brand. Does he get incentives for Instagram views?

Tim: Nah, but he gets free skateboard decks and clothes.  I guess that’s incentive, right?

SMDM: In the world we live in, yes, he is living like a king.  So as far as small brands go, how do you rank on the scale?  Top is garage brand. Then there is the porch brand (which I just learned about), and the bottom is the basement brand.

Tim: Man, that’s a tough one. Numbers is a garage brand, I’m going to go ahead and say we’re a ‘cardboard box under an overpass’ brand.  Or, maybe were just not a brand at all. And by “we’re” I mean “I’m” since I’m the only employee technically.

SMDM: You have those Osiris checks coming in though……

Tim: I think you meant to interview Mayhew, dude…

Tim:I wish Osiris would pay us for that video….

SMDM:So, is it all fun and games running a brand?

Tim:Yes 100%. There’s zero work involved. I just go to the warehouse and all the boxes are magically packed, all the emails are answered and the videos are filmed and edited.  Let’s not forget the board graphics.  I have a skateboard graphic generator app that pretty much does all the work for me.  Then Zazzle fulfills the orders and the boards arrive and unpack themselves.  It’s awesome.

SMDM: Sounds about right.

Tim: Then, I go home, sit in my chair made of stacks of hundred dollar bills.  I don’t worry about anything.   Honestly, it’s pretty fun. Sometimes it’s work, and sometimes i’ts stressful.

 “I go home, sit in my chair made of stacks of hundred dollar bills. I don’t worry about anything”

SMDM: I have the same chair!

Tim: Dude, it rules! Moneychair™

SMDM: I got mine on sale, best money I ever spent. You should make it a graphic. Speaking of graphics, do you do your own?

Tim: No. I do a few each season. My girlfriend does some, and then I like to find other artists to do some as well.  Makes for a totally non cohesive line.

SMDM: Do you get the chance to do many collaborations with other brands?

Tim: No, not a lot. I love doing them though.  I’d love to do more.  I did a truck with Krux and some grip with Mob.  That was amazing, those guys were great to work with. Whaley rules. I’d really like to do a shoe with someone.  I want to work with Queit Life.  Those guys are sick.  Maybe do some more guest boards.  DGK would be a dream collab. So polarizing.

SMDM: How did your collab with Krux come about? Were you bummed you could never to the “Screaming Louie” truck they did?

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Tim: I think it was just meant to be.  A lot of my guys ride Krux and we have a similar ethos.  I reached out to Ron and there wasn’t much hesitation. We both knew it was a good match.

Thanks Tim.  Check out @The_friend_ship on Instagram, and www.thefriendshipskateboards.com  and buy a deck or 3. Or some farting wheels!

 

The Free and Liberated State, an Interview with Kevin Furtado

Ever since I started skateboarding, I’ve had an infatuation with skate shoes.  I have seen shoes styles come and go, and come back again.  From the classic Vans Skate Hi in the late 80’s, to the armored Airwalk NTS in the early 90’s. From the urban inspired Axions in the later 90’s, and The D3 2001 at the tip of the century, which was the peak of over inflated shoes, and also brought in revenue from many non skaters.  The styles have come and go.

        In present day, among skaters, the more classic styles reign supreme.  All of the brands; Nike, Adidas, Converse, and others, offer a variety of minimalist styles.  What they don’t offer, is the “core” mentality of an independent brand.  A brand that is similar in structure to your favorite underground board brand.  A brand without huge corporate dollars funding the program.  It was time for an underdog to come through, and I believe that underdog is State Footwear.

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SMDM:Who are you,and what would you say you do?

Kevin: My name is Kevin Furtado, I own and run State Footwear.

SMDM:What brought up the idea to start State?

Kevin:I worked for Dekline (Tum Yeto) for 14 years. In 2015 when Dekline was closing up shop I had spent a great deal of time considering what I wanted to do next that could provide a living, as well as give me personal satisfaction working in skateboarding.

SMDM: Sounds like a great idea, but a difficult one…

Kevin:Considering starting a footwear brand on my own was extremely daunting and although I was confident in my abilities, I was not sold I could pull it off to get it off the ground. I thought if I could get the brand started, I would have a shot at making it work. Luckily, a lot of things fell in to place at the right time and it allowed me to make it happen. I don’t mean to say that I started State because I needed a job. It probably would have been much easier to try to work for one of the big brands. My first thought is to always work for something smaller, so I was much more driven to put something together new on my own then work for someone else.

SMDM: So, you are the real garage brand.  As in, you actually do all of your operations from your garage.  Are you aware you started a trend in stating that? 

Kevin: Yes, I 100% started and ran the brand from the garage at my house for the first year. That said, I did just move in to a space for State this month. The space is very much similar to my garage, one big room, concrete floors, cinderblock walls, and no rooms. It was an old motorcycle shop. I love it. Super happy to have a space to go to. And the rent was real affordable. And, I’m not sure I started anything, but I do know it’s possible to run a brand from your garage if you have the space and you are willing to commit to it.

“Yes, I 100% started and ran the brand from the garage at my house for the first year.”

SMDM:What is your take on other brands using the term “garage brand” loosely, knowing they have corporate sponsors paying them big checks to play brand owner? 

Kevin: I have heard stories of some of the people you are referring to, but never knew if that was actual or just rumors. I guess regardless if its fact or fiction, it really has no barring on my situation.

SMDM:Was it hard selling the brand to Zumiez? Surely those guys don’t know what a Kevin Coakley, or Ben Gore is….. I also get why you sell them, and I am happy you came right out with that in an earlier interview.

Kevin: To be honest, you would be surprised. Some of the buyers actually are pretty in tune. That said, yes of course it is not going to be the same skateboarder who is walking in to buy the brand that regularly shops at  “Vu Skateshop” for example. I am sure that is the biggest difference.

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SMDM: Ah, Vu! I’m a huge Garial Heel fan.  The ageless wonder.  Gary that owns Vu still kills it to this day.  Baltimore has an amazing scene. Anyway, recently I’ve noticed that there are a few new shoe brands popping up now that you started one.  What’s your take on that? 

Kevin: I know of 2 that just came out, and 2 more that are supposed to be coming soon. I am cool with that, especially if its skateboard owned. The industry needs more of that. I have no problem with the big athletic brands, I just have a problem if they are the ONLY ones. More skateboard footwear brands could bring forth new ideas, designs, development, etc. Stuff that only comes from a real skateboarders mind. I am all for it.

SMDM: Was it easy getting the team to ride for you? I know some of those guys were getting shoes from some pretty big brands.

Kevin: I would not say easy. With each one I had a formal introduction from another person, so I don’t think I came out of the total dark. With that said, they took a big leap of faith to come be a part of this, and I am truly grateful for their willingness to join on. I think now that we have a year in our rear view mirror, everyone is feeling pretty good about the brand.

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SMDM:That makes sense, all good things come in time.  Have any other brands tried to steal any of your riders yet?

Kevin: Ha, not yet. I would not be surprised if they did. I am still shocked our team came together as well as it did, our team is really good! I would like to say the team is happy and involved with all parts of the brand, so my hope is even if big brands came around that I am doing my part and that they will want to stay.

SMDM: Being a smaller brand, I am sure you have a limited budget.  Have there been  times you have come across people you would like to hook up, but can’t do so financially?  

Kevin: There are lots of people we would like to be involved, but yea the budget is tight. However, it really hasn’t affected us too much, as we want to keep it tight. Any team interest that comes to me I immediately send to the team for their input. We have no formal Team Manager, so I want the team to be the voice in the brands direction. I own the brand, but my job is to be a facilitator that keeps their input and direction consistent.

SMDM: Any pro shoes coming soon?

Kevin: Not there yet, but I would love to get there eventually. It has to be right for everyone when we do it.

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SMDM: Do you get overloaded with sponsor me requests? Any funny ones?

Kevin: I get a fair amount. Mostly through Instagram. I watch all of them. If the kid took the time to be interested in what we are about, I owe it at least that much. I am still good friends with Mike Sinclair, he get hundreds of them!

SMDM: Wow! You need to put me on with him.  You are a lot nicer than I am.  I can’t stand the cut and paste ones with no mention of brand name, just a generic message. With guest skateboards being an awesome way for a board company to put some cool names on their brand without being able to get that rider, or as an homage, would you ever consider being the first shoe brand to do a guest shoe?

Kevin: That would be awesome. Not sure the details on how that would work, but I would be down if it made sense. We have had talks about doing guest brand shoes. Like a shoe color way through a board brand. One that is suitable that fits together. Also would love to do tribute shoes. People who are still skating, but not as a full time job.

“We have had talks about doing guest brand shoes. Like a shoe colorway through a board brand.”

SMDM: I have noticed lots of inspiration from some classic shoe models in your brand.  I like that you’re not trying to change the shoe game, just offer your own take on it.  

Kevin: Yea man, that is correct. I wanted to make good shoes. The classics. I have heard some feedback from people who feel our shoes look like others. I can see what they are talking about to some to degree, but that does not mean they are not good skateboard shoes. All of our shoes have a perforated rubber underlay between the lining and upper to hold up to grip tape. All insoles are PU versus sheet cut EVA, Double last vulc construction. None of these are super “tech” features, but they are all intentional applications for skateboarding end use. Take the logos off the big athletic skate shoe brands you know and imagine what the shoe would look like?

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SMDM:If everyone needed something out of the ordinary, Supra would be killing the skate game.  With that said, what are your 5 all time favorite shoes? 

Kevin: As skateboard shoes go, in no particular order

*Van Classic slip on

*Adidas Samba

*I path Cats (the vulc one they did at the end)

*Gravis Dylan Slip

*Emerica MJ

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Add 2 more non skate

*Clarks boots

*Original wino’s

SMDM: Wow, a year went quick. What’s in store for State in the future?

Kevin: Video. We are making a 3 part video for 2017. To be released early, mid, and end of this year. All around 10 minutes featuring the whole team. Colin Read (Spirit Quest) is editing the videos. Very excited about that!

SMDM: Colin is a master at his craft, I think that’s a solid move.

 

Make sure you check out State Footwear on the web at www.statefootwear.com, and first and foremost, at your local skateshop.

 

 

 

The Man Behind A Movement. An Interview With Noah McKizzie.

        To some, skateboarding has been a form of expression  for years.  It can best be used as a creative outlet, which can be reflected in tricks, clothing style, and even how you put grip tape on your board.  No matter what level you’re at skill wise, there’s always a way to find enjoyment and creativity in skateboarding. This is what I believe drew me into it back in 1989.

          Let’s fast forward to present day.  With internet accessibility, the general acceptance of skateboarding, and the ease in which one can have items manufactured, starting a “brand” seems to be the new way for people to express their creativity.  Not understanding how much these smaller “movements” can actually hurt skateboarding as a business, they seem to be an epidemic that pops up all over.

           Introducing Noah McKizzie.  A 20 year old skateboarder, and starter of his own “movement,” Aurora skateboards.  Noah has a different approach than most.  He started his own brand, but still sends out emails to other brands for sponsorship and critique.

SMDM:Ok, lets start off with the basics.  Whats your name and what do you do?

@nvrmndsk8: My name is Noah Mckizzie. I’m 20 years old, and what I do  is skateboard, film, and create. I am the founder of Aurora Skateboards.

SMDM:What is Aurora Skateboards?

@nvrmndsk8: Aurora skateboards is a movement I’ve created to express my art style and whatever inspires me to create the graphics.  I started back in 2015 in my home state of Colorado.

SMDM:Did you send yourself a “Sponsor Me”?

@nvrmndsk8: Haha, no.  Since it’s not very big, I try to promote it as much as I can.  I have three good friends that back the movement and ride for Aurora. I’m more of a TM when it  comes to the Aurora stuff.

SMDM:That’s good. You can’t get kicked off that way.  I heard a rumor that Henry Sanchez was made TM of Lucky Skateboards, so he couldn’t get kicked off. Not sure if that’s true though.  So, is sending out your footage to other brands part of your duty as TM?

@nvrmndsk8:Honestly, Aurora is something in my skateboarding life that I want to keep fun based. If it goes big that would be cool, but for right now, it’s just all fun and keeping the passion in skateboarding alive.  You will never catch me turning myself pro from something I’ve created. Nobody likes an Andy Schrock! HAHAHA *(editors note: Andy Schrock is not pro for his own brand, but is still a kook)

SMDM: How many of these “Sponsor Emails” have you sent?

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@nvrmndsk8: I’ve sent a few. I’ve got some good feedback from brands like Santa Cruz and Acid Chemical.  I don’t send footage to get free shit, At this point in my life I could care less. I just want to see how much my skateboarding has progressed.

SMDM: You title them “SPONSORSHIP”. Thats very misleading.  I guess it’s good though, sell your brands stuff and ride free stuff from someone else. Very cost effective.

@nvrmndsk8: I have a good example for you.  Look at Kelly Hart.  He is pro for Expedition One and Es.  At the same time he’s also a TM for both brands.  Nowadays he’s more busy with the managing stuff, but at the end of the day he’s a skateboarder like you and I, trying to progress and stack these clips! The hustle never stops.

SMDM: Um, yeah, but he doesn’t send “Sponsor Me” videos to other brands….

@nvrmndsk8: No, but the difference between myself and Kelly is he doesn’t have to send footage, because he already established himself years ago, before I even started skating.  Maybe there is a part of me that still has hopes for my skate career, but who knows.

SMDM: So, just to be clear, you own/run a brand, and try and get free stuff from other brands.  So, why have a brand in the first place? 

@nvrmndsk8: I guess it’s wrong to have dreams like that at my age.

SMDM: I just don’t get it.  Maybe I’m old.  You run a brand, yet your Instagram looks like a Habitat advertisement.  Earlier you stated that you send to brands you support.  I sure as hell didn’t see any Santa Cruz decks on your page……

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@nvrmndsk8: I never said Aurora was a brand!

SMDM: You did in the first question, but continue….

@nvrmndsk8: Aurora is a “Movement”.  We don’t make profit from people buying our boards. That money goes right back into making more boards.  Like I said, Aurora is all for the love of skateboarding, especially representing Colorado skateboarding! Back to your question about sending footage to brands like Santa Cruz.  When I was a kid, I had a Santa Cruz board and loved their image.  So I thought I would send some footage and get some feedback.

SMDM: How did that go?

@nvrmndsk8: The TM hit me up a couple of days after I sent it.  He told me he loved my skating, but it didn’t fit the standards of the Santa Cruz team, which I can see and respect.   He also told me to keep the passion alive, so that was very motivating.

SMDM: Do you think the smaller brands you send your footage to make profit? I don’t think you know how rough it is out there.

@nvrmndsk8:I do know their struggles.  I understand why they can’t add more riders to their roster or even flow.  I send my footage in to these brands to get feedback.

SMDM: So, why title the email “SPONSORSHIP”, and not mention anything about feedback?

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@nvrmndsk8: That’s how it’s always worked for me since I’ve started filming and sending footage in. “Sponsor Me” tapes are raw clips you send to a brand you like and see what they have to say.

SMDM: I see.  Back to Aurora.  Do you sell your boards to shops or online?

@nvrmndsk8: With selling boards, I handle orders through my Twitter and Instagram accounts.  If a customer wants a board, they shoot me a DM. So, technically I sell them online through social media.

SMDM: So not only are you stealing sales from some decent brands, you are also taking shops business as well.  You are definitely helping the skate community with your “Movement”.  I feel like I am learning a lot.  I’m older, so this whole new generation of Social Media is new to me.

@nvrmndsk8: First and foremost, I would NEVER do that!  Shops are doing fine without me. I haven’t sold enough boards to effect any shops.  My “Movement” is definitely not big enough.  This year I actually have plans of going back home to Colorado to see if they want to carry Aurora boards at the shop there to get some sales.  For years, I have wanted to help the Colorado skate scene grow, for the shops as well!  I feel like this is the year for Colorado skateboarding!  Again, I never want to hurt the shops. That’s the last thing I want to do.

SMDM: Very noble. So, let’s talk about your other sponsors that you list in these emails.  You list “Vans flow,” and whats the other one?

@nvrmndsk8: Suburban Specialty.  It’s an embroidery clothing brand based in Syracuse, New York, supporting a bunch of amazing talent from photography to skateboarding.

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SMDM: Very dope. So core.  Skateboarding and rock climbing are both so dangerous.  So, on to Vans.  Do you deal with a TM? They are pretty big. Do they pay you?

@nvrmndsk8: No, they just gave me free shoes.  Nothing too crazy.  They stopped sending me shoes last month, so they can flow a new bunch of people.  It was fun while it lasted.  My first skate shoe were all black Geoff Rowley shoes, and they didn’t stand a chance! It was a blessing for sure.

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SMDM: So, if they booted you a month ago, why are you still putting them as a sponsor in your emails?  Did you forget to fix your “Cut and Paste”?

@nvrmndsk8: Probably, yes haha.  Definitely need to fix that.  Now, I have a quick question for you!  What was it like sending footage to companies? I want to go about the proper way in the future.

SMDM: In my day it was VHS tapes and it cost money.  So you didn’t send one unless you actually had a clue, or something to offer.  Or you wasted $10. I am also confused.  You are looking for a critique? Or a sponsor?

@nvrmndsk8: A little of both, but definitely more on the critique side.  Sorry if my views are abnormal.

SMDM: Unfortunately they aren’t abnormal at all these days. Would you like a critique?

@nvrmndsk8: Just looking for advice from someone who has been in the game for a bit.  At the end of the day I skate the way I skate.  Ray Barbee told me when I was 14, that no matter what happens, just keep skating the way you want and have fun doing it.  I live by that everyday that I am on my board.

SMDM: I think you misinterpreted his message.  I think he meant, skate, and have fun. Not to send your footage out to 100 brands like a cheap whore?

@nvrmndsk8: If you think about it, everyone can skate, but how are people going to notice your talent if you don’t ever branch out?

SMDM: Why do you feel the need for approval? Surely you can watch a video and see how you stack up against sponsored skaters.  

@nvrmndsk8:  Every pro I know has done what I’ve been doing for years until they found homes with companies.  From this interview, it gives me more fire to prove to people on and off the board to follow what their hearts tell them, regardless of what anyone says.

SMDM:Yeah, but those pros were probably talented in those tapes.  You sent rocket kick flips and tricks down a 2 stair.  Look at this picture of you and a pro. No offense, but you can see the difference, right?  (I sent the picture below which features a Vans pro, and Noah,an ex Vans flow rider, side by side)

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@nvrmndsk8: Yes.

SMDM: I think kids-well, you’re 20 and should know better, but most of these kids see a video and pick out a wallie or no comply that is done in a video, not even understanding that there’s a style that these tricks are done with that make them look cool, and feel they can get sponsored. They don’t realize that there were much harder tricks that were also done in the footage.  

@nvrmndsk8: Thanks for the interview. I appreciate the learning experience from it.

 

Check out @aurora_skateboards (movement?) and send Noah a DM.

Making the Mistake of Being a Basement Brand as Opposed to a Garage Brand. An interview with Mike Gigante of The Northern Company.

  Skateboarding is bigger than we can imagine, it’s easily accessible, and it’s everywhere; commercials, music videos, television. Access to Skateparks is now available worldwide. Huge televised contests result in enormous cash prizes  for the winner, and every big brand wants a piece of the pie. Corporations invest tons of advertising dollars to have their logo embroidered on as many Street League skaters hats as they can.  

   Now, on the opposite end of the spectrum, there are a few brands that are fighting the “good fight”.   The guys who are skating for the love of it, making hardly any profit with no financial backing.  These guys are scraping by just for the love of skating.  Some call these brands crazy, but I say they’re exactly what skateboarding today needs.

 

SMDM: Let’s start off with the basics.

Mike: I’m Mike Gigante.  I co-own The Northern Company.  I do most of the art direction and graphic design.

SMDM: Sweet, you’re an “art director”.  How long has Northern been around?

Mike: Almost 4 years I think? Do the first few months count? Is this like skating, where you lie about the first year you started so you sound better?

SMDM: Yes, exactly like skating.  So it’s been around 3 years.  Is it still as enjoyable as when you started?

Mike: It’s different…. I would say the year it didn’t count was the most fun.  No pressure.  We had no idea what we were doing. No idea if we could sell 10 boards.  One graphic.  Can’t beat that.

SMDM: How small did you start?

Mike: Really small.  To be clear, my buddy and I had no idea we would get this far into it.  Steve, my partner, made the first graphics by taking a picture of an axe at his job, which took him 5 minutes.  My girlfriend and I sewed patches on the first hats we did in her basement.  We put just enough money into it to have one graphic made. We just wanted to do something for ourselves, to keep us involved, if that makes any sense.

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SMDM: It makes sense.  Too bad you didn’t start out of a garage. Instead you chose a basement.  Bad move. Starting from a garage is the new thing.  Just ask Numbers….

Mike: We just weren’t lucky enough to start from a garage.  Those are reserved for the Nike sponsored skater’s who run “small” brands.  We were lucky enough to be able to store the boards at Steve’s job, without his boss yelling at him.

SMDM: So you started small. How was starting up? Must be easy. Everyone seems to have a brand these days.

Mike:Honestly, starting up wasn’t that hard. The reason why there are so many board brands now is because it’s not too expensive to start pressing boards.  Also, people don’t know how many you are making, so make 10 and BOOM! You’re a brand!

SMDM: So basically this was all a random idea and you made boards.?

Mike:Steve and I had ideas of what we wanted to do.  I would always think of brand names and stuff.  Also, I should mention that Steve knew some wood shops we could try.  He had past experience.

SMDM: So basically your partner is an industry whore?

Mike: Ha, let’s just call him a dreamer…

SMDM: OK. We can be politically correct.  So, does it bother you that everyone and their nephew who doesn’t skate has a brand?

Mike: It does when they don’t offer anything new or interesting.  To hate something because it’s new isn’t fair.  Northern is fairly new, but I do believe we offer stuff other companies don’t.  It sucks when something comes out and looks the same as the other 5 brands out, and all the teams look like mini Brad Cromers, with tiny beanies on. (for the record, I like Brad Cromer).  I think it bothers me when huge pros start their own companies to put their buddies out of business.  I get wanting to leave when things get stale, but maybe it makes more sense to support a smaller thing than to make up an idea for a company you don’t really even have…

SMDM: I’ll agree. It would have been cool if some pros went to smaller companies as opposed to starting their own brands that suck. It’s not in line with what were saying, but it would have been dope if Jake Johnson rode for Scumco.

Mike: Yeah, Jake Johnson rules!  I get that situation though.  Alien went out before they left and they wanted to stay a team.  That’s totally different.  Quasi also offers something different, so thats cool.

SMDM: It’s crazy they haven’t really put out any content and are huge.

Mike:Yeah, they are killing it.  That team is solid. Stands on its own.

SMDM: Yes, Tyler Bledsoe is my favorite………… Do you feel video edits are the lifeblood of a brand?

Mike: I do, at the moment I think edits are really important.  I think  that branding, solid direction, and spot on graphics are probably most important.  The edits/videos are like respect back up what you do.  With that said, some brands can put out little to no video content and be successful.  Image is everything.

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SMDM:Do you feel for a small brand you need to put out constant updates?

Mike: With edits, the sad truth is that they get lost in the shuffle, no matter how rad they are.

SMDM: It’s all disposable now. Kids have short attention spans.  Being small, whats your biggest outlet to the public?

Mike: I would have to say Instagram is probably the most consistent outlet, which is insane. When we do put out edits, we usually get reposted around, and our last edit was featured on the Transworld Skateboarding website.  Mostly though, its all Instagram. It’s powerful.

SMDM: Instagram.  That leads me to the “Sponsor Monsters”. How are they treating you?

Mike: Ahhhh. Good lead in.  Well, it’s hilarious for the most part.  Kids are so brave, but so dumb at the same time.

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SMDM: I’m assuming it was flattery at first?

Mike: Um, yeah, at first I think it was “oh cool, I’ve never been on the other end of this before”.Some of the people we met in the beginning were ok…but now it’s a joke.  It’s a lot of trolls.  I can’t believe kids send flatground tricks and ask for free. Like, when did that ever work?

SMDM: Do you think it’s because they see your pros doing single backside flips on flat in videos? Like, “FUCK, this dude is pro and I can do that! I’ll get “sponsed” for sure!”

Mike: Yeah totally.  I get what you mean. What they don’t see is the style.  Their eyes aren’t trained for that.  I’d rather watch Jesse backside flip on that than some kid bounce flip at a park any day.

SMDM: Likewise.  These kids don’t get that you have to know how to push.  They just don’t look good doing tricks.  Have you ever sponsored one of these little DM bastards?

Mike:Zero. If we are talking Instagram, no one.

SMDM: Ever get any crazy ones?

Mike:There was one where the person didn’t know we had a team or boards.  I was so confused as to what they even wanted for free.

SMDM: That’s normal.  All these kids are lost from what I hear.  So for the record, you have never sponsored from a DM.  Kids, pay attention!

Mike: Hmmmm, no, can’t say we have.  Usually the way it works is someone we know, or trust suggests someone to us.  Then they send you a link to some footage, YouTube, or whatever.  It needs to make sense.  Usually the people you would be into aren’t going to hit you up blindly through Instagram.

SMDM: Interesting, I surely thought your whole team sent in clips of parks through Instagram in 15 second clips.  

Mike: Nope.

SMDM: So, it’s just you and your partner, no financial backers.  How is that?

Mike:It’s stressful.  Once you start bringing people on and you have a team and pros it changes.  Your goal is to then look out for those people. You are the last in line for everything, but it’s rewarding when you pull something off.  It’s just Steve and I.  I have to give credit to Steph, my girlfriend, for basically being our free “on staff” production artist. Without her none of the final products would be possible.  I wish we had financial backing, If anyone is interested I’m taking applications!

SMDM: Maybe someone would loan you money if you were a garage brand, not a basement brand. That mistake is going to haunt you forever.  Live and learn. With that said, you seem to draw comparisons to being “Rasa Libre 2.o”, but with less dream catchers.  Was that the plan?

Mike: No, definitely not the plan, but I think it naturally got the comparison because of Jesse (Narvaez)  and Bryan (Botelho), which is fine.  I loved Rasa, all the versions.  They were ahead of the game. Matt (Field) is a great dude.  With that said, I’m very conscious not to bite his shit. That’s his style and ideas. These are mine.  It’s like actually skating.  It’s rad to take an influence, but lame to directly copy something.  I haven’t done a dreamcatcher, yet……

SMDM: I don’t think dreamcatchers are your guys style.  You guys are definitely more drugs and graffiti.  Straying away from that, I was curious, do you pay your pros? I want to ask because you guys are small, and kids want to get sponsored to get rich. 

Mike: Yeah, we pay our guys.  It’s definitely not as much as we would like,  since we are small and can only generate so much revenue.  Everyone on Northern does it for the love, and the free boards. Haha. It keeps it honest.  I don’t know what board company can pay pros enough to live off of. There isn’t enough market space. I’m sure even the big brands are hurting.

SMDM: I think its all shoe money that lets people just skate.  The boards just get the pro’s names out. 

Mike: I agree about footwear actually providing the dough.

SMDM: Were there ever any guys you tried to get on that just didn’t work out?

Mike: There are always people that you try and get on board, and for whatever reason, it doesn’t always work.  I really was rooting for Nate Broussard when we did the guest board with him.   He is a really awesome dude and a great skater.  I felt like he fit the vibe well, but the reality of him being in Texas, plus real life stuff, it just didn’t happen.  The rad thing with skating though is that Nate and I keep in touch.  We have common interests aside from skating.  He also still rips when he skates.   He doesn’t send “Sponsor Me” tapes out.

SMDM: Kids take note! Someone who doesn’t send a “Sponsor Me” tape.  Well, it sounds like your an industry guy now.  You weren’t a pro or “sponsed” skater, so how is the adjustment to being “someone”?

Mike: Ha, I am really nobody.  I’m just some dude who loves skating.  Same goes for Steve, my partner.  That’s probably my favorite part of the whole deal.  Nobody knows what we look like.  That’s good.  I like the low profile.  I don’t even know if Northern qualifies as being in the “Industry”.  We are still so small in the grand scheme of things.

SMDM: Do you get lots of free stuff?

Mike: Ha, oh man.  No.  I pay for all skate related stuff besides decks.  I do know some people who get some free stuff.  I should probably hit them up and maybe I’ll become a “Sponsor Monster”.

SMDM: Well, you got caught.  It’s all going to be in print.  Aside from planning on harassing shoe companies for free stuff, what are the plans for your brand in the upcoming year?

Mike: Damn! I almost made it out.  Well, I think the gas is more exposure in any way possible.  I like to not let too many details out.  We will have a few surprises soon.  Hopefully the brand will survive to see 2018.  Thats the plan. Survival.

 

Check out @northernco on Instagram, or on the web at www.thenorthernco.com

 

Gang Members and Sponsor Monsters, an Interview with Nick from Escapist.

            I remember my first time going to a skate shop.  It was around 1989, and I was 11.  I remember being overwhelmed with all the boards, and intimidated by the real “skaters” that were in the shop. My first board was a Tony Hawk, which I picked because I saw it in an issue of “Sports Illustrated for Kids”.  After picking out all of the components for it, and making sure they all matched the color scheme, I remember having to come back a day later to pick it up because it had to be  “assembled”. 

           Let’s fast forward to present day. From a shops perspective, skateboarding has gone through many changes in 25+ years.  Aside from the different brands, there are also tons of “mall stores” that make life a living hell for the local “Core” shop.  Parents find it easier to shop at the mall because of convenience.  Unfortunately, most of these “mall stores” are run by non skaters, or even worse,” Long boarders.”

           Through the Sponsormonsterdm Instagram account, I had the pleasure of meeting Nick who co owns a shop in Kansas City. He was very kind and  allowed me to interview him and cover these topics and more. 

 

SMDM:So Nick, how long has Escapist been open?

Nick: The shop has been open for 16 years. We opened May, 2000

SMDM: Congrats on that! That’s an achievement in itself.  Now, not sure how pertinent this is, but was/is there a shop called “High Roller” in the area? I’m just asking because when I was at Woodward in 95′ there was a kid in my bunk who rode for them.  He claimed he was on their “Rail Division”. 

Nick: I think you mean “Let it Ride”.  Yes, that was a local shop. My partner Dan and I worked there.  I don’t think that kid rode for it though.

SMDM: I remember the kid being very excited that Jaime Thomas put a sticker on his board. The sticker had dice on it, probably why I confused the name.  He killed flat bars. He basically would grind all over Woodward in one go.  Sucks I was duped for all those years.

Nick: Dan and I worked for another shop in 93′ before Let it Ride opened. A lot of our early Escapist team was on Let it Ride before they went out of business.

SMDM: Damn! So you have 20+ years in the industry?

Nick: I have worked at/rode for shops since 1990.

SMDM: So, through all those years, what era produced the most “Sponsor Me’s”?

Nick: Mid 2000’s seemed to be the biggest as far as the shop getting them.

SMDM: The AWS era?

Nick: VHS was still  king! Zero and Toy Machine.

SMDM: How many tapes a month did you get?

Nick: Not that many, but definitely more than we get now. Most of it was a blur, I wouldn’t watch most of them.

SMDM: Is it more of a “send me free” messages now?

Nick: Yes. The Instagram/Facebook kids all want free stuff.

SMDM: They are entitled, didn’t you know that? Skateboarding means free….. Do the kids even buy from the shop?

Nick: Most of the DM’s are from kids who do not live near the shop. They probably don’t even know where we are.

SMDM: Nobody likes to support first.  It’s an epidemic.  You’re a charity organization.  Free to all who ask…

Nick: Kids always want free stuff, but get lazier by the day to get it.

SMDM: Some effort would be nice for sure.

Nick: We have a thing on our website about not giving away free stuff or discounts.

SMDM: So I’m guessing the kids don’t read that?

Nick: Basically, that’s a big FUCK NO!  We give out promo stuff daily, but they still want more. Whatever stickers, posters, etc.. that brands send us as promo goes out to kids at the shop.

SMDM:  That’s nice you do that. I’ve seen shops sell all of that, or at least attempt to.   I’m assuming you are competing with mall stores, and online shops. That must be a struggle.  All this while trying to support some good “Core” brands that don’t sell as fast.

Nick: Yeah, we had 3 mall shops open up in the past year.

SMDM: Do you try and avoid brands that sell to mall stores?

Nick: We sell a lot of brands that are exclusive and no other shops in our area can carry, including the mall stores.  We focus on those brands and our shop apparel and exclusive Girl Skateboards product.  If the mall carries it, we tend to get sour to it.

SMDM: So the exclusive stuff helps?

Nick: Exclusive stuff is big.  Quasi, Bronze, Dime. They all do really well. We carry the big brands as well, but those are the more exclusive brands we stock.

SMDM: On top of those brands, you have the Jungle Book kid on your shop team.  That has to count for something.

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Nick: Yeah, Sean Malto still rides for us. He has been with us since he was 10 years old. We sent his tape to Girl and DC.  He has helped us open some doors, and we will forever be thankful.

SMDM: Do kids even know he is on? I would say that sets the shop sponsorship bar very high…

Nick: People know he is on. He is a legend in Kansas City. We sell tons of Malto stuff.  Again, lots of exclusive Girl Reissues and Limited Edition Malto boards. We have 6 exclusive Malto decks in the shop right now.

SMDM: So you have a top pro riding for the shop, you would think kids would respect that and be aware of the level of talent that goes with riding for the shop.

Nick: Most of the kids who send the DM’s just want free.  A majority of them don’t even live near, or have ever been, to the shop.

SMDM: I remember working at a shop.  Kids would bring in “Sponsor Me” tapes, and if we told them no, they would just go to the shop a few towns over and they would put all these kids on.  It was funny, because most of the kids weren’t even that good at the time.  There was no loyalty, just the wanting of a sponsor.

Nick: There was a shop here that was doing that. Basically giving sponsorship for sales. It lasted about a year or so then they went under.  Some of these kids are far away and it makes zero sense to sponsor because it wouldn’t even help promote our shop.

SMDM: So do these new DM kids offer you a spot on their Instagram? “I have 20k followers, you should sponsor me and I will spread the word”?

Nick: Yes. That’s a common one.

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SMDM: Do you even answer?

Nick: I just talk shit to the kids.  None of them are customers.

SMDM: It’s never your customers.  That would make too much sense. Always random.

Nick: Yeah, kids in Tanzania, it’s crazy…I think they think we’re a brand, but were not.

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SMDM: Have you ever sponsored a shop rider through a DM?

Nick: Never ever.  We sponsor through word of mouth.  We make the kids earn it, have them keep showing us their footage.  We don’t just sponsor anyone.

SMDM: And to explain it better to the kids out there thinking shop sponsorship is a paid retirement, what exactly would a shop rider get?

Nick: Far from retirement.  We usually give a discount and some shop product.  The goal is to get them on the flow program with brands we sell.

SMDM: Interesting.  The shop by me would give 30% off.  They used to ask us for tapes to send out and one day I found them all in the back just sitting there. They weren’t skater owned, and when the Nike money started slimming down they closed up.  The kids by you should be thankful they have a skater owned shop to support.  Do you sell stuff to cater to non skaters?

Nick: We don’t promote or carry “Streetwear”.  FUCK THAT! No hackey sacks, no frisbees.

SMDM: You don’t even carry the Frog hackey sacks?  That’s kind of skate related. 

Nick: We try and carry what our customers want, even before they know they want it. It helps that we skate and know whats going on.

SMDM: I feel it’s important for a shop owner to get whats going on.  Is it difficult to keep up with things while your shop is getting destroyed from cars running through it?

Nick: Yeah, there was a drive by in front of our store a while back at like 2 a.m. Nobody was in the shop, but the security cameras captured it all.  The car smashed into the front of the store with people who were shot in it.  Someone must have put them there and let the car ghost ride.  Luckily nobody was in the shop.

SMDM: That must have been fun to open up to. Is there often violence going on at the shop? 

Nick: The alarm company called.  And there is some gang activity near the shop, but it’s usually not too bad. There are parts that are far worse than where we are.

SMDM: I’m sure, you did mention that a mall store exists near you shop……..

 

Thanks Nick! Check out the website and buy something, especially if you plan to DM a sponsor me  WWW.ESCAPISTSKATEBOARDING.COM

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10 Sponsor Me “Don’ts”

Years ago,  when someone started to reach a level of talent with their skateboarding, and had a desire to try and pursue it as a profession,  one would film and send out a VHS tape to a company that they liked and believed in.  This was called a “Sponsor Me” tape.  There wasn’t internet access like there is today, so it had to be sent via USPS. It usually would cost between $5-$25 to mail, depending on the transit time you wished it to arrive.  You waited for the team manager or brand to get back to you, if they did at all.  

Let’s fast forward to the present day.  Every brand has an Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Web address.  Every kid has a cellphone with video and internet capabilities.  The number of “Sponsor Me” requests that are sent out daily are astronomical.  Most are so awkward and pitiful that they hardly warrant a response, let alone get looked at.  

We have decided to make a list of things NOT to do when sending a sponsor me DM.

1.DO NOT forget to change the name  of the last company you sent your DM to.

Kids. We all know you are sending hundreds of these out per day, but don’t let the brand KNOW that’s what your doing.  The first thing a brand wants is loyalty, so the least you can do is pretend like you know the brand and think they’re cool.  Get this one wrong and your crooked grind  body varial is sure to never be seen.

img_64112.DO NOT say that you need a sponsor because your family is poor and you can’t afford to buy product.

Cry me a river. Everyone is poor.  Especially the smaller brands that you kids think are easier to ride for.  This line never works, and makes you look stupid when it is followed by “Sent from my iPhone 7 plus”.  How about you sell the phone, get a flip phone, and buy a deck from your local shop?  No? Well, your not as poor as you thought then, are you?

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3. NO SKATEPARK FOOTAGE

This should probably be #1, but if you obey the first 2, you should at least get your footage looked at.  Now, sponsors don’t really care about someone skating a pre fab park in their hometown.  Get down in the streets, or go home.

4.Make sure your filmer doesn’t suck.

One of the worst things is watching a poorly filmed “Sponsor Me” video.  It’s bad enough most of them are little kids in their driveways, but add a shaky camera to the mix and its like having a case of motion sickness.  If your filmer can’t handle holding a camera, chances are you’re not good enough to have a real filmer capture your skating.

5. Keep the edit to 2 minutes or less.

This one is key. It’s bad enough watching most in the first place, but even for a talented skater, sending in 6 minutes is a bit overwhelming.  In all honesty, someone knows after the first 1-2 clips if they are even going to keep watching.  If I saw a 6 minute tape, I would ignore it. Who has time for that?

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6.Make sure to rep the companies product that you’re sending the tape to.

This one will eliminate you getting a rude response.  If you are already supporting the brand in your footage, that means the world to a potential sponsor.  If you were to send a tape to The Killing Floor, and aside from not being a vegan, you were decked out in Plan B and DGK gear, you’re probably not going to get an answer, or will get told to send your tape to those brands.  At least if you’re wearing the gear, the brand may tell you points to work on, and to possibly send a tape back in the future….

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7.Use Spellcheck.

Not the end of the world, but it also looks better if you take the time to spell at least 1/3 of the words correctly. Put in a little effort to make it seem like you’re trying to be a professional. It also makes it easier for the potential sponsor to actually read your message and make sense of it.

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8.DO NOT try and use leverage to get a sponsor.

Don’t start off your “Sponsor Me” message by saying “If you sponsor me, I will get your boards in my local shop”.  This is not what a brand wants to hear.  Obviously you are buying boards at the shop now, and if you want to ride for a brand, it should be their boards you are buying.  Basically it comes off as “Your brand is cool for free, but I usually buy Primitive”. Getting the boards in your shop prior and possibly riding for a shop are better ways to start a relationship with a brand.

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9.Make sure your skating makes sense to the brand you’re sending it to.

It wouldn’t make much sense to send a hardflip down a 20 set to a brand such as Traffic, as much as it wouldn’t make sense to send a wall ride from a cellar door to a brand like Plan B. You can be the best skater on the planet, but if a brand can’t market your skating to its clientele, it’s worthless to sponsor you.  There is a reason Zero guys usually have all black on and skate rails, while DGK usually sponsors suburban white kids with inflated 90’s skate shoes.

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10.DON’T SUCK.

This is the most important.  If you’re actually good at skating, sponsorship will most likely come along without sending footage out.  For the exceptions where you live out of the way, or not in an area where your favorite brand resides, the “Sponsor Me” is a great way for them to see your skating and possibly send you some product to represent them.  From my own experience, you can usually notice right away if someone is good or not.