Skateboarding & business have more in common than we care to think. With the act of skateboarding, elements of timing, calculated moves, and precision all come into play. If you don’t time that nollie just right, it could mean the difference between landing your trick or ending up with a variety of injuries at the bottom of some piss-infused stairs. The same could easily be a metaphor for business.
For those reasons and more, I decided to reach out to some of the most respected skateboarders & businessmen on a topic that isn’t so searchable on Google: “How do I launch a Skate Shoe brand?” Successfully, at that…
Damon Way is the first of many on our list of ripping entrepreneurs. He co-founded DC Shoes, Droors Clothing, Dub Brand Outerwear, and currently runs FACT Brand. His experience is immeasurable when it comes to launching a brand so we had to pick his brain and find out more about what it takes to get into the riskiest business in skateboarding. If you’re looking to take the plunge someday, take notes…
Where do I start? What sorta background, aside from being a skateboarder, helps?
Getting started will require the following:
a. Product Vision
b. Footwear Factory
c. Ample Funding
d. Design Chops
e. Development Skills
f. Connected Sales Lead
g. Differentiated Marketing Story
Where do I find a reliable designer who’s willing to help me?
The best way to find a designer is to poach them from an existing footwear brand (preferably one that is non-endemic to skateboarding such as Nike or Adidas) with a compelling offer tied to aggressive upside potential such as a meaningful equity stake. And if they are good enough, and there is chemistry in the air, then consider making them a full partner, and go at it together… Something I highly recommend based on my own experience. And if you are not convinced, then ask Pierre Andre from Sole Tech what it is like to go at it alone… Getting perspective from both sides (partners / no partners) will be important.
How do I fund this project?
Funding can come in a variety of ways… Here are some ideas.
a. Friends and Family
b. Factory Arrangement
c. Brand Partnership
d. Distributor Investment
f. Venture Capital
How do I find a factory to make my shoes?
The best way to find a factory is (1) to ask the people you know that work at footwear brands, (2) search the internet, (3) pack your bag and travel to China and Vietnam, or just scour Alibaba with the hope that you land something reliable.
Aside from a designer & an investor, what else do I need?
The biggest considerations beyond funding is marketing and sales. If you have an undeniable story such as “FA/HOCKEY starts footwear brand”, then great, high five. But if that is not the case, you will need to have a connected sales guy that can pull favors to open doors. Then hope your story rises to the top through relentless storytelling. Or just make an amazing video that people don’t see coming with the next crop of kids from Montreal.
Don’t do it unless you are seriously funded and have the right story, as you will be going to war with the superpowers of footwear. They will buy everything out from underneath you, including your riders… The only weapon that will hold up in this battle is having enough influence on the street to change public opinion and the brand leaderboard. Again, if Dill and Ave went to war with the big boys (with Supreme’s support) they may be able to do it… Gravity, gravity, gravity! That’s the game.