Arbor Collective just crossed the 25-year anniversary mark and I had the good fortune to sit down with founder Bob Carlson and talk about their history, the early days of skateboarding, and more.
And we’re going to give away an Arbor Skateboard on the show this week. Listen to my convo with Arbor Collective Founder Bob Carlson! In celebration of Arbor's 25th Anniversary, they are giving away an Arbor Skateboard to one lucky Outdoor Biz listener! The deadline to enter is January 22nd at noon Pacific time. The winner will be announced Monday, January 25th.
Introduction to skateboarding and snowboarding. When surfing sort of started growing in Southern California, one of the big scenes in LA was State Beach, Will Rogers State Beach, and in the seventies, a great single fin shaping tradition began there around a shop called Natural Progression. And a lot of great surfers came out of that era and that zone through the sixties and seventies from Mickey Munoz right on through shapers like Robbie Dick. And I kind of grew up in the middle of that, loving it, loving sort of just the whole outdoor life around the beach and surfing, and the culture and the people aspects of shape and art and color really captivated me. And probably I don't know, it's gotta be around the middle of elementary school I started skateboarding.
How did you meet Chris Jensen? I knew Chris in junior high. We became good friends in high school. And Chris was an amazing individual, you know, he woke up in the morning and the adventure started, he was always in the pursuit of fun. So he was that guy you wanted to be around because whatever he was doing was going to lead to good times. And he had a magnetic personality. He was a total charmer and he was just, he was a great friend. And we spent a lot of years traveling up the coast and down the coast. His family had a little piece of property on the beach North of Santa Barbara, that we used to camp out all the time. I still actually do. And so we were just good friends. Through that early part of life, a group of us went on a lot of adventures together that really kind of forms those lifelong friendships.
The Sustainability Idea– I remember the trips up the 395 from Venice to Mammoth and talking about our business and what we were going to do next. And the idea of making snowboards came up. We could do koa top snowboards, no one was doing koa tops. No one was talking about sustainability at that time in snowboarding, everything was oriented towards the teenager, you know, bright, heavy graphics, big rock star athletes, and ambassadors. Fashion play baggy pants, really the focus on sort of urban culture. And as young environmentalists, but moving into our work lives, there was really not a lot out there for us. For people in this group of snowboarders that were going into their twenties and thirties and forties. And there was nothing oriented towards the non-teenage customer, the customer who was looking for a little ethos in their product or was looking for a different sense of style. That was cleaner, more craftsmanship oriented. And we, so we clearly knew that there was something to be had had there.
So, at some point I said to him, look dude, Go make one board, go make one snowboard. And if you can make one, I'll be in. And he went out and he had a top sheet made and he went and found this guy, Michael Lish, who was running a little snowboard factory in the Valley. I'll never forget the day he walked in the office and held it up and I was just like, okay, that's life-changing now.
Follow up with Bob
01:36 – 02:32 Intro
01:09:30 – 01:10:24 Advice
01:18:10 – 1:18:53 I also want to say:
[00:00:00] Hey everyone. Welcome back. This November Arbor crossed the 25 year Mark and I have the good fortune to sit down and talk with founder, Bob Carlson about this incredible milestone. The show, Bob. Thanks for having me. I really appreciate it. It's an honor. Thank you. Good to talk to you. I left to catch up one of these days when, when you do come back up to go riding, now that we're still kind of in the lockdown phase, I'm sure it'll pass though.
[00:00:24] We will pass as all things do. So let's start off with when you [00:00:30] began skateboarding and snowboarding. Okay. I grew up in in Southern California. I grew up in a place called the Santa Monica Canyon. We just kind of tucked between Santa Monica and Palisades Malibu. It was, yeah, I, I was born in 68, grew up in the seventies, eighties.
[00:00:52]In the seventies, the Santa Monica Canyon was, was a real surf community. It's today it's, it's more of a hoity-toity zone. [00:01:00] But back then it was more working class. It was really oriented to the beach. I think the culture that was there was kind of a remnant of a day when. When Malibu wasn't open people, people forget that PCH didn't.
[00:01:15] Didn't go through Malibu for many years, the family that owned Malibu fought for years to keep their land not open to the public and the proposal to put a train through there and a road through there. They've thought [00:01:30] I don't think Malibu got open until the the fifties early fifties, late forties timeframe.
[00:01:36] And yeah. When, when surfing sort of started growing in Southern California, one of the big scenes in LA was state beach will Rogers state beach and in the seventies or a great single fan shaping tradition there around a shop called natural progression. And a lot of great surfers came out of that era era and that zone through [00:02:00] the sixties and seventies from Mickey Munoz right on through shapers like Robbie, Dick.
[00:02:06] And I kind of grew up in the middle of that, loving it, loving sort of just the whole outdoor life around the beach and surfing and the culture and the people aspects of shape and art and color really captivated me and probably. I don't know, it's gotta be around middle of [00:02:30] elementary school. I started skateboarding.
[00:02:32] That was you know, I started skating on a, on a, a Gordon Smith. You know, great little flex deck that I still fondly remember. It was a time where the whole Dogtown and Z voice thing was happening just down the street. And we used to go skate the all the local schools are Revere Kenner Canyon.
[00:02:55]And, you know, I, you know, I was never a great skater, but I [00:03:00] was a kid who got the chance to see Tony Alva, Stacy Peralta, Jay Adams, escape. And you know, they, I love the old footage of those guys skating. Yeah. Skating those schools. And you always see these little kids in the background watching, just in looking at those kids, Fontana, we would come out there and do the same thing.
[00:03:21] I had a little infinity, one of the first fiberglass, infinity decks, and it was, I collect old skates. I think they're such a [00:03:30] Testament to her. A great time in history and everybody did it. Like you said, the little kids in the background. I mean, it, wasn't just a handful of folks like the sports, you know, not everybody did sports, but everybody skated.
[00:03:41] I mean, to me, to me, it was freedom, you know, back in the day, this is before cell phones and Apple TV and you know, any kind of digital things. So you just spent what you were. You know, done with your chores or whatever you were outside. And if we were in at the beach, we were skating and [00:04:00] our, you know, mission in life back then was to talk our parents and to taking us up to Kenner up to par Revere, to escape the banks, you know we followed everything that those guys did, you know, Tony Alva invented the front side air was just monumental to us.
[00:04:18] And I I got this, I remember my, one of my favorite memories is. Walking. We were walking at the time, but we used to go up to the Palisades and skate around and mess around, just get away and get in [00:04:30] trouble. And we were coming back down Chautauqua to walk down to the Canyon. We looked over this fence and there is this, and we'd heard about it.
[00:04:39] This radical. Cement half pipe with no transition. I mean, no flat spot at the bottom. It totally unscalable. And this guy is skating. It just absolutely destroying it. We realize it's Tony Alva. We sat there and watched him skate for an hour. And I think we probably went back 10 times to see if we could see him [00:05:00] again.
[00:05:00] And He he never was never there, but year two, a couple of years ago, I was at an event and he was at, and I actually asked him about it and he totally remembered it. He remembered the guy who owned it, and that was dad was in the construction business and built the half-pipe forum and how how to whack it was, but how much he loved it, because it was so hard to skate.
[00:05:19] And, you know, those things that, that place in that time really influenced, you know, my, my life and my thinking on, on on just the whole. [00:05:30] Outdoor and action sports world and, and you know, got me oriented the way I am around my pursuits. Personal pursuits. It was a different world back then. Yeah, I think it it shaped a lot of us in different ways.
[00:05:40] Yeah. How did you meet Chris Jensen? Chris and I were friends. I knew Chris in junior high. We became good friends in high school. And Chris was an amazing individual heat, you know, he woke up in the morning. And the adventure started, you know, she was always in the pursuit of fun. So he was that [00:06:00] guy you wanted to be around because whatever he was doing was going to lead to good times.
[00:06:05] And he had the magnetic personality. He was a total charmer and he was just, he was a, he was a great friend. And we spent a lot of years traveling up up the coast and down the coast. He had a, his family had a little piece of property. Yeah. On the beach North of Santa Barbara, that we used to camp out all the time.
[00:06:24] I still actually do. And so we, we were just good friends, you know, [00:06:30] through, through that early part of life and went on a lot of the, him and a group of us went on a lot of adventures together that really kind of forms those lifelong friendships. Yeah. It seems like that. Doesn't it. I don't see your answer.
[00:06:43] Sorry. Yeah. So all around activity. Yes. Surf and skater, khaki say camping appears snowboarding and skiing. Yeah. Yeah. It seemed like the, the kids don't form those bonds with that neighborhood posse, if you will. I had the same thing. There was about there's about five or six of us that are still to this day.
[00:07:00] [00:07:00] Good buddies. And we get together and hang out pretty, you know, not as frequently as he's used to, but these days kids are on the go a bunch and you know, a lot, a lot more things to do these days, too. But it was a different world. It's great. It breaks my heart. And I, you know, we're, you know, we, with our kids, we are constantly battling just, you know, between the w the, the balance between indoor and outdoor activities.
[00:07:21] Right. We want them, you know, we want them outside. We've got a rope swing in our backyard and all sorts of tree houses and trails around this hillside that [00:07:30] most people wouldn't use. But to me, it's a little adventure. And when you grow up. You know, with the S like we did in the seventies with the, I think it was a safer time, maybe it wasn't, but it sure seemed like it certainly the culture was more trusting.
[00:07:45] You know, my, my rule was I had to be home by dinner. Yeah. Yeah. When the lights went on, everybody who had to be owned by the street lights came on, get home. Right. So that allowed it for a lot of, you know, getting out there and getting on an adventure, taking chances. You [00:08:00] know, making mistakes and in ways that wouldn't kill you, he had banged up, but you wouldn't die.
[00:08:05] And we burned the candle at both ends too, right up early and home late. Every day, we used to go sewer sliding. There's this legendary spot in the Santa Monica Canyon, where you'd crawl into the sewer sewer. We call it to her siding, but it was re it was, you know, just the runoff, you know, the gutters we crawl under this, this sewer at the top of the Chautauqua.
[00:08:28]And it was [00:08:30] like a water slide all the way down to the Creek and the Santa Monica Canyon. And it was. I mean, it was full on. And it's funny at first waterflood creeks, like a few years ago and I was thinking he wanted to know about it. She's like, were you one of those Canyon rats? And I was like, absolutely.
[00:08:50] That was a, that was a huge part of making me the. Making me into a formidable young man, you know, we would, we would, we would squeeze [00:09:00] dish soap down it. So it goes super fast. Didn't bring flashlights and go and change. It was that's awesome. Think that stuff's happening poor. Yeah. It's too busy and too much traffic and various things, but it's crazy good times.
[00:09:13] What, what inspired you to lots of business? Were there other, other entrepreneurs in your family? Well, I, you know my dad was a bit of an entrepreneur. He kind of carved his own path in Hollywood. He was a stuntman and a hand model and an actor and found [00:09:30] his own way to survive. You know, not being famous, but being a working professional.
[00:09:36]Yeah, I think I, I come from a family of people who hustled for sure. Am, you know, my folks broke up early in life. That certainly drove me to skateboarding. You know, mom was working, dad was working. I had a ton of free time, so I was out skating as much as I could, but it's certainly made me an individual individualistic in at the core.
[00:09:59]I think [00:10:00] the business really ties back to Chris and I being from that first generation of kid that. Learned about the environment in school and on TV, you know, wild kingdom. Yeah. The concept of, of the environment and the problems of the environment had moved off the protest field, into the schools and into meet the media.
[00:10:20] And, you know, if you grew up in the seventies and eighties, you were aware, starting to become aware of the problems. And I ended up going to the university of Colorado, got myself [00:10:30] a snowboard, as soon as I got there. And it was a pretty place where that those initial thinking and beliefs on the environment really formulated into my academic experience.
[00:10:42] You know, I, wasn't a great student know I was a C student on tests, maybe a better student on the papers that I wrote and that, you know, when you have the opportunity to pick what you want to write about and what you want to study for me, it was the environment. And [00:11:00] and if. If you, if you're into the outdoors, surf, skate, snow, camping, hiking, whatever it is, you're constantly reinforced with the need to protect the playground.
[00:11:10] So when I got out of college first thing I wanted to do was put a backpack on and go see the world. I did a couple of months doing treks in Nepal through India, Thailand Yeah, tracked in Tasmania and New Zealand and just budget traveled around the world and [00:11:30] on my way back to Colorado, which is where I was going to spend the rest of my life, because all I wanted to do at that time, really, all I wanted to do at this time is go snowboarding as much as possible.
[00:11:41] And Colorado was the place that I was going to. I was going to spend the rest of my life and I, and I went to Southern California to see my folks on the way home. And ran into Chris Johnson and we were out drinking beers one night and he starts telling me what he's up to. It turns out he he's dating this [00:12:00] girl in Hawaii.
[00:12:01] And of course, and her dad has this huge piece of land on Maui. I think it was 700 acres. And he is restoring it. With the sort of eventual goal of, of donating it to the Holly Arcola national park, which had eventually was donated to, and, you know, and how he got that land and why he owned the land is a long and interesting story.
[00:12:26] Maybe for another podcast. We'll do another episode. Yeah. [00:12:30] Yeah. He, what he was doing, his friend was worked for the state and forestry. And what he was doing was, was trying to eliminate the non-indigenous species. Island ecosystems are so threatened by introduced plants and animals because they haven't developed the defense mechanisms.
[00:12:48] And Hawaii, Hawaii is overrun with feral pigs that came when the Polynesians came, goats and cattle that came with Westerners. And plants like [00:13:00] strawberry guava that were introduced as ornamentals for people's gardens. And they, all of that has really taken over the, these coal forests. This coal would for us in Hawaii Cola being their major large hardwood and it stopped them from regenerating.
[00:13:15] So he was trying to eliminate the, that those plants and animals. And he was replanting areas that had been had been, you know, basically mowed over by the animals that were grazing and. He was selling the lumber [00:13:30] locally to fund the project. Wow. And he thought Chris was the guy to take that, that operation and bring that, that what was sustainable wood to have at least a national market.
[00:13:44] He was, believe it or not. He was helicopter logging. Wow. The standing dead or the windfall trees and milling those in Maui and selling those to artisans around Hawaii. Those of people [00:14:00] who work with wood will recognize the term Hawaiian Koa. It's this beautiful, colorful sort of tropical wood that is known in, you know, in, in the crafts world furniture manufacturers, guitar, and ukulele manufacturers.
[00:14:16]All sorts of artisans, love to work with Cola. And it has gotten increasingly rare as the S you know, the forest has been protected or just damaged beyond repair. Right. And so he was doing pretty well, but he thought that he could do [00:14:30] more with this, this source of environmentally friendly would, if he could take it to the mainland.
[00:14:35]And being kind of a local boy he didn't have anybody over there and he chose Christiansen, Chris, of course, like, yeah. So I get to come to Hawaii and help with this helicopter harvesting and surf. And of course I'm going to do it exactly. Yeah. Who would say no to that? Right. And by the time I showed up, you know, idealistic and you know, having seen a bit of the world and All right, again, on my [00:15:00] way back to the mountains at key, Chris basically started telling me the story and seeing if I wanted to be involved.
[00:15:05] Yeah. And Chris could sell ice to the Eskimos. He's that guy. And it wasn't a hard sale. I mean, he's like, look, it's sustainable environmentally friendly wood. Chris was using the word sustainable. I think that's something that came out in the sixties, seventies, right? Well, Hey, well, you know, we were, we were talking about sustainability in our first catalog in [00:15:30] 95.
[00:15:30] It's certainly something that came from my exposure to, you know, the, the difference. The environmentalism at school. Yeah. And you know, when he started talking about environmentally friendly would where we're not building any roads were hell helicopter, lumbering, only dead trees, no green trees and money is going back.
[00:15:51] You know, it certainly, it certainly appealed to that. Environmentalist inside of me and the idea of going to Hawaii and [00:16:00] surfing and building my own business around the environment. It's something I actually knew I would always do. But all of a sudden here it is, I've got to get a job and it's falling in my lap.
[00:16:10] Sounds romantic and amazing and everything I want. I basically dropped everything. I, I, I ended up posting up at my parents' house and we started this little business. Yeah, I didn't get back to Colorado for a year and gather my things. Because we jumped in with both feet. We started this little [00:16:30] company called coalition and the idea behind coalition was to introduce the forest products world to sustainable sources of wood.
[00:16:41] And at least that was the plan. And we launched with this Hawaiian co the sustainable source of Hawaiian Koa. And really failed right out of the starting. Yeah. Where are you selling it? Just to artists as just wood for making other products at the time? Well, you know, he had, she had started trying to sell [00:17:00] the lumber and we realized no one was going to pay for.
[00:17:05] You know, you can imagine when you're heli, heli logging, it's more expensive than dragging stuff out of forest bulldoze, right? Yeah. And no one was going to pay what we were selling the wood for, because it was way too expensive. And we just got laughed out of these meetings. And, and some of that had happened before I showed up, so we decided to start veneering it.
[00:17:25] And when you veneer a log you're, you're slicing it. And it's, it's [00:17:30] interesting because you. When you S you soak the log, you soften it, and then you slice it like cheese. Okay. When you pass a saw blade through something, that sawdust is a by-product that reduces the sort of usable wood So it's, it's a really great way of stretching resource.
[00:17:46] You get a hundred percent of a, a log and sheet the near the, you know, and so it's, you know, if you're thinking about a rare resource, are you thinking about environment, the planet, stretching resources, really? Yeah. [00:18:00] You don't want to waste anything. Yeah, yeah, exactly. And by veneering it, we were stretching the resource and, and, you know, veneer is a wood product.
[00:18:07] A lot of people use to make faces, you know, Do different products. So we started selling veneer and we actually could be a little bit more competitive. But we still were expensive compared to. Other COVID years that were out there. And I remember trying to tell people about the fact that this was environmentally friendly.
[00:18:27] Since early nineties, people would talk [00:18:30] about talking about sustainability. And I, you know, these are small, old, you know, kind of good old boys and I got a lot of sustainable work. Yeah, right. Yeah. You want me to pay what? Yeah. Yeah. Ultimately we realized that we just had to keep bringing the materials down the product life cycle.
[00:18:47] So that we could catch up and be competitive. So we started making door skins. We started making molded picture frame, all the things that we were selling back to a company in Hawaii called pictures [00:19:00] plus, and other, other, you know, small picture frame manufacturing businesses. We were doing crown moldings door skins were doing.
[00:19:09]We even had a little line of furniture where we started. Kind of clawing our way to a little bit of success. And we were kids. I mean, I was, you know, we were in our early twenties. So we weren't, or I I don't, I wouldn't say we weren't taking it seriously. We were, we were taking it seriously, but.
[00:19:26] As much as a 22, 23 year old, can you still [00:19:30] had to go surf and skate and drink beer? Right? We were in Mexico surfing all the time. Yeah. We were up in bare snowboarding in a mammoth snowboarding all the time. His folks had a little condo up in mammoth and we were up there working and riding as much as we possibly can.
[00:19:43]And you know, on those, those trips is when you start working, you can't. Always chase every storm, you can't chase every swell. You can't chase every, you know, every powder day. And when you're going, [00:20:00] just to ride the groomers, you slow down a little bit and it, you, you enjoy the ride a little, you enjoy that trip a little bit and yeah.
[00:20:07] I, you know, I, I, I remember the, you know, the trips up the three 95 from Venice to mammoth in and talking about, you know, our business and what we were going to do next. And the idea of making snowboards came up. Yeah. We could do what top snowboards, no one was doing what tops. No one was talking about sustainability, you know, at [00:20:30] that time in snowboarding, everything was oriented towards the teenager, you know, bright, heavy graphics, big rock star athletes and ambassadors.
[00:20:38] Yeah. Fashion play baggy, baggy pants, you know, or, you know, really the focus on sort of urban culture. You know, and as to kind of young environmentalist, but moving into the, our work lives, there was really not a lot out there for us, for people in this, you know, group of snowboarders that were going into [00:21:00] their twenties and thirties and forties.
[00:21:02] And there was nothing oriented towards the non teenage customer, the customer who was looking for a little ethos in their product over was looking for a different sense of style. That was cleaner, more craftsmanship oriented. And we, so we clearly knew that there was something to be had had there, but I was resistant to be honest because Chris was the dreamer and I was the doer and I did business needs vote.
[00:21:30] [00:21:29] Right. And you know, he is coming up with some of the, the. The crazy ideas. And I was executing on the ones that seem viable and my bandwidth was full. I'm sure you guys are born at both ends. Yeah. Because none of that stuff is easy. We were having a blast. Yeah. Well, I only remember those days and try to duplicate them whenever I can.
[00:21:53] So, you know, I you know, I, at some point I said to him, look, dude, Go [00:22:00] make one board go make one snowboard. And if you can make one you know, I will I'll be in. And he, you know, he went out and he made, we had a top sheet, he had a top sheet made and he went and found this guy, Michael Lish, who was running a little snowboard factory in the Valley yamas awards.
[00:22:21] And Michael Alicia's still out there somewhere. I think. He lives somewhere on the three 95, he's a P used to be a big mano border. [00:22:30] And Michael, if you hear this a miss you bud. Anyhow, he he made one board and I'll never forget the day he walked in the office and held it up and I was just like, okay, that's life-changing now.
[00:22:41] Wow. This has got to be late 94. Somewhere in, in mid to late 94 and it was beautiful and it was, it was so different than everything else out there. And I, you know, and I, I knew that that was the whole, want beautiful Hawaiian to a top sheet was [00:23:00] sustainable and it had no plastic on top. So it was re reduced use of plastic with sustainably sourced woods.
[00:23:07] And it was, it might just be the, you know, the environmentalist and the entrepreneur and the snowboarder and me were all just at the same time, jumping up and down and screaming. Yes. Now, did you, were you the guys that you ran with and did all your activities with, were any of those folks also, I mean, you must have, have had other [00:23:30] friends that were concerned about the environment.
[00:23:31] So you kinda did, you know, you had a bit of an audience, at least a bit of a customer base at that time. No, the environmental is a, is an interesting thing. And one of the problems with it is that it tends to be so she'll economically upscale, right. And you know, I was, I was, I had two hardworking parents.
[00:23:50] I was lucky enough to have enough of of a life that I could think about things like that. And I we've. [00:24:00] Really in our lives at Arbor have really worked hard against what to me is sort of, you know, God bless whole foods. They do, they do a wonderful job, you know, with the, the things that they sell, making them locally grown and sustainable, but it's expensive.
[00:24:19] And it is you know, if you're not part of the one or 2%, you really can't afford to shop there. So you can't participate in that effort to help. With the [00:24:30] production of food and drink making a better lesser lessening, the impact that the production has on the planet. Yeah. So we've been at Arbor, you know, we've, we've had a $300 snowboard forever.
[00:24:42] And w for us, it's about making sure that everybody who walks in the door can participate what we're doing at Arbor. So, no, not everybody that I ran with was, was into it, but enough. Yeah. So you knew you had a few folks. Yeah, yeah, yeah. And I, and those people that were. [00:25:00] Got it for sure. They love that the classic kind of Woody vibe and the surf vibe, they, they, the craftsmanship the quality, the look, the feel, the, just how different it was.
[00:25:11]And the sustainable story certainly resonated with enough of my friends where I, I felt that we had something, but we ended up in, in March of 95 waking up, you know, probably. Three in the morning, getting in the car and driving out to Vegas, to the SIA show and [00:25:30] seeking in. We literally snuck in the door and went walk the show.
[00:25:36] With the board. And it's funny, every year that I go to a trade show, I see those two young kids walking, walk in the trade show with their snowboard that they've made and how they're going to change the industry. And my heart goes out to them. Cause I was that kid. We walked around the trade show in 95.
[00:25:51] Wow. This was a time when the ski industry was still wearing suits. Snowboarding was regulated to this little [00:26:00] side room where the party was happening. It's not locked in there, you know, and, and t-shirts and jeans and vans, and and found our tribe. I mean, it was, it was Complete raging party. And just the kind of people that we were drawn to.
[00:26:17] And we were home and we got, we showed up, met a ton of people and showed the product to a bunch of people. And the board are one board and. Got such good feedback that [00:26:30] by the later that month in November and we, we were prototyping through that period of time and we incorporated and launched Arbor in November of 95.
[00:26:39] Wow. Very cool. And called it Arbor because it's the Latin word for tree. We had a, we had a customer called Arbor veneers that we were selling Cola veneer to. And I always thought that it was a cool name. Yeah. So we have, we've kind of poached that name and thought that it was a good name for our snow board company, because, you know, [00:27:00] trees where the, the resource by which we were getting this, the wood that was making us.
[00:27:05] Stand out and be different. We early decided early on that we were going to take a portion of our proceeds to to plant trees and Hawaiians we've been doing since 95. And, and I think in, you know, we launched, we were definitely the first action sports brand founded to focus on sustainability and to give back.
[00:27:27] And I say that now, and it sounds like we were [00:27:30] such. Such innovators, but we were so far off the cutting edge. We were out when somebody once called it the bleeding edge to me and made every mistake in the book, frankly, in the nineties when everybody was so radical, you know, we were out there in talking about, you know, you know, this team, right.
[00:27:47] Or that team, or this rock star athlete, this being this, you know, big graphics, big fashion. We were out there talking about sustainability in wood tops. Yeah. It wasn't as cool to [00:28:00] the industry. Socks on your head. Exactly. So you launched in 95, when did it really begin to take off right away? Did you guys hit the ground running?
[00:28:10] I know, but so nobody in their right mind would've started a snowboard brand in 95, there were 300 snowboard brands, you know, with just like the third wave of snowboard fans. Everybody had jumped in. And it was, it was a hugely growing. Activity, but way more product was [00:28:30] being produced. And there were way too many brands.
[00:28:33] I think at first SIA, there was something like 200 brands. And if you counted the global brands, there literally were like 300 brands and snowboarding making snowboards at that. It's a lot of stuff. Yeah. And, and, you know, we were so different that we cut through a lot of that noise at a time when retailers were caring.
[00:28:54]I never stopped. There were no websites, right. You really only [00:29:00] sold at retail. So at a time when most of our retailers are carrying 20 boards, we made the cut. We helped diversify this, what range of, of snowboards and as different as we were it with that kind of a layout, you know, our, there was a place for Arbor.
[00:29:19] And Benny Pellegrino who for years bought for a shop called Milo sports out of Utah. I used to say, or once told me, you guys were so alien. We were, you [00:29:30] were aliens in the snowboard industry. That's how different we seemed. Yeah. Well, you're right. I mean, 95, it was a whole different world. We, I was at Eagle Creek then, and, you know, the internet, wasn't a thing, trying to convince people.
[00:29:41] It was a thing was, you know, what we were doing and you go to those trade shows and the snowboard group was still the, kind of the rough and tumble ragamuffin kids out there, you know? Yeah. Interesting. Yep. And you said the hit or in 96 or 97 or [00:30:00] no? No, there was an SIA. Combined with or yeah, right in there.
[00:30:04] And we did that show. Yeah. That was a fun. That was my first real exposure to the outdoor world, which was important for our brand. And we will talk, we should talk about that. And it, actually, I actually wrote about the need for Arbor to be in the outdoor world because. The outdoor industry had embraced environmentalist earlier than the action sports industry, probably because of the leadership of Yvon Chouinard.
[00:30:29] Yeah. [00:30:30] Patagonia. They drove that bus. Yeah. So before we get the first snowboard I ever gave away was to Yvon Chouinard really was my absolute mentor business, not my mentor, but certainly my, my Business hero. And I wanted Arbor to be so much like Patagonia and a lot of what we built the model, the brand around was what, what Patagonia was doing.
[00:30:50] That's very cool. So anyhow, in the mid nineties, you know, mid, mid to late nineties, we were, we did okay. We started building the business, we made a ton of mistakes. You know, we, we. [00:31:00] We our first trade show, we sold a thousand boards. We had no ability to make progress, going to say, could you make them?
[00:31:08] Oh man. And we took a huge deposit from a Japanese distributor and we we spent that deposit on, on trying to build our little teeny factory that we had. We had opened into something that can scale up. We could not scale up. At, you know, midway through the production year, I had to tell the Japanese distributor, we spent all this money and we hadn't made any, you know, maybe make 50 [00:31:30] boards.
[00:31:30] Oh my God. And I had to go quickly and find a factory partner and we ended up partnering with creed, snowboards Dan in San Diego. And I basically lived at the factory for the next few months and we made 400 boards and save the brand barrels immediately. So that happened a few times. Yeah. Yeah. And, you know, started you know a different type of business where we focused on innovation and design and, and, [00:32:00] and really on moved away from manufacturing and found better manufacturing partners.
[00:32:04] Mm. And you build sustainability, you build sustainability into the manufacturing process, too, right? A hundred percent. Yeah. Again, re reduce use of plastic. We started using we, we started insisting that the Poplar we were using in our cores was farm grown. And we worked with the guy, a company called Beau woods, Paul Sethi.
[00:32:26] And we're, we're using, you know, farm grown, non forest [00:32:30] based Poplar, obviously sustainable wood tops, no plastic, top sheets. And we went from there. Our first skateboards, which we were prototyping right from the start were actually, the first skateboards were just snowboards that week. We bolted a one by on and put some little tracker trucks and we'd go bomb the S this local Hill called Temescal Canyon late at night.
[00:32:55] And then we started cutting. Cause you know, we were making our boards, figuring it out as [00:33:00] we went and we had a lot of lamb. Couldn't throw them away because it's just not in your soul, that toss something so beautiful. So sustainable because the edge wasn't glued in. Right. So we started cutting them into shapes and, and, you know, just having fun, cutting out little surf shapes.
[00:33:15] And those are first boards, really good for bombing Hills at late night, but not much else. So. We eventually, I think by 97, we're using sustainably sourced maple. And, and we're, I think we launched [00:33:30] later that year in 97, we want to start first skateboards, which was always part of the plan. So by 2000 the snowboard industry, which was, you know, our leading products and, and, and how we were building wherever was consolidating and Those same shops that were carrying 20 brands are now carrying sometimes as few as six, five or six.
[00:33:51] And we weren't always making the cut. We, you know, we were outsiders, we weren't pro riders. We weren't, hadn't been wrapped. She'd never worked at another brand. [00:34:00] We think very little about the, the hardest snowboarding and well, the business side of, of the outdoor retail access sports retail started to catch up with all the brands.
[00:34:13] In about, you know, starting about 95 to 2000, that's when things started to get a little more business Polish put on the brands. Yeah, I think so. And if people are looking at their numbers and you know, brand's not making it, then you're not going to make the cut. So yeah, that's absolutely right. And, [00:34:30] but at the same time, at least an action sports, the shop kid had a tremendous amount of influence on the buy, right?
[00:34:36] And so the buyers who are also influenced by what was cool and snowboarding were interested in brands that were, were making the media, you know, you had the, the, the video parts have the athletes that could get those video parts, right. We're doing big, innovative graphics. We're connecting to larger street culture.
[00:34:56]And even though we, we. We knew we had an audience and we were selling [00:35:00] products between us and our customer was a core retailer, especially retailer that wasn't getting Arbor and couldn't afford to have these outside of the box niche brands. We didn't see ourselves as a niche. We thought that, you know, it was something that everybody needed to think about.
[00:35:17] Yeah. Environment. Exactly. Come on. Yeah. But it was, it appeared to be outside, not, not part of the part of what was core to snowboarding. And yeah, we were getting laughed at, we were called hippies, [00:35:30] so I couldn't have been anything farther from him. We were snowboarder guys that grew up skating and surfing and, and snowboard snowboarding and were environmentalist's.
[00:35:38] Yeah. But it was, it was people didn't get it. They just, and again, we took a lot of punches and there's a lot of chuckling when it came to what, you know, the Arbor brand. It wasn't. Cool. So how did you start really paying a price in more debt inventory that wasn't selling? So inventory levels going up, filling up a lot of sleepless nights and in by [00:36:00] 2000, 2001, I was, we had had a couple of conversations about closing the doors again.
[00:36:04] Wow. And a lot of we had seen, I don't know, there maybe there were 50 brands left at that point. So we had seen 250 brands go away. A lot of those brands had brought in investors. They had brought in, you know, people that were oriented around. Yeah. That was a big thing going on then. Yeah. Yeah, yeah. And a couple of companies had gone public and then had to go on public and put we at one point I [00:36:30] sat down and I kind of wrote.
[00:36:32] I just pulled back from the business a little bit and I wrote up a sort of. A write-up on what we were doing. Right. And what we were doing wrong. I asked a bunch of questions and I, and I realized that, you know, you know, w we didn't know it was a lot. And we were the classic entrepreneurs. We started a business because we were good at one thing, or we do one thing which was wood.
[00:36:52] We didn't know that, you know, the other 12 things you need to know to have a successful business. And we, we didn't know much about marketing and [00:37:00] about, you know, Really frankly, we didn't hadn't connected any, we hadn't built any bridges to that. The heart of snowboarding. And we had stayed outsiders. We enjoyed it, our sort of outsider approach.
[00:37:10] That's what allowed us to think outside the box, but in a, in a tighter, smaller consolidating industry that outside of the box presentation left us in a place where we were, we're not. We're not growing. We're not succeeding outside the box. Yeah. Yeah. And so I, and it's funny, I realized that [00:37:30] we had, we had team riders.
[00:37:31] Free-riders big mountain guys, back country riders, guys, like John drive or Jason shuts. Yeah, Kenny Perkins. People that could get us the imagery and help us innovate for our customer, which at that point was a real free ride customer. And the industry was really focused around freestyle and park, riding and park and street, and a super core youth oriented presentation of snowboarding.
[00:37:55] And we couldn't even get to our customer because we weren't cool in the [00:38:00] freestyle oriented. Yeah. All the, all the mountains were putting in parks. Then I remember mammoth put that park in right around then and yeah. Yeah. Mind you when Chris and I started, we were up at bear all the time. And we launched the brand with twin tips.
[00:38:13] We had added within six months, we had added directional free ride boards because that's what, when people saw our boards, they, they said, this is, this is this customer is free. Riding. This customer is riding the back country. This country's riding big mountains. And it happened that Chris and I were starting to do more of that.
[00:38:29] We bought, [00:38:30] I remember we went and bought snow shoes. We had these matching snow shoes. We're going into the back country and learning back country safety and yeah. And riding and seeking, starting to seek out powder. And so it was in line with our evolution of our writing. Yeah. And we became, you know, we never stopped making twin tips, but we, the, the biggest part of our business became free ride at that point.
[00:38:51] And. So we just didn't have athletes that connected at all. So what did you do to flip the script? What was it like? Did I had to turn the [00:39:00] pyramid upside down? I had to get myself out of the way sit at the bottom of, of the discussion and make sure we stuck to sustainability and craftsmanship. But bring in people who could help us build bridges to the, to the, to the hardest snowboarding and gotcha.
[00:39:15] And it started with team writers that started with bringing in a team writers. When we thought we didn't need to have team writers, we're going to build the brand around product. Turns out our product was so different. We needed team writers more than brands that were built around. Cause we [00:39:30] needed advocates for a different story, a different perspective on snowboards and we escape skateboards and it was, we actually had to bring in people to help us build a bridge and conversation with the heart of snowboarding.
[00:39:46] And we went out, we've hired my passage, Rob Kingwell. Morgan LaFont and we build what we kind of refer to today as our first endemic team. And we also started hiring week. We started brought in a couple of kids from [00:40:00] snowboard shops and. You know, eventually that led to kids from the media and, you know, ultimately people from other other companies.
[00:40:07] And so we started improving our sort of the management team and we, then we brought in artists and started adding art and color to our boards in a, in a way that was balanced well with the wood, top sheets and artists that were. You know, concerned about the environment. And also team writers were concerned about the environment and we, we really built what we call today.
[00:40:27] Like the Arbor collective, we went from being [00:40:30] barber to being the Arbor collective. And what that refers to is all the people that are at the table in the discussion around the, around the development of our products and our marketing and how we tell our story and how we communicate with. With, you know, the culture of snowboarding.
[00:40:47] Right. And I, you know, I, I had to, because there's nothing like failure to make you rethink how you're doing things. There's nothing like, you know, almost, you know, losing, you [00:41:00] know, the, you. You know, losing the money of people who believed in you. Good on you for recognizing that though, and, and enabling the change.
[00:41:07] I mean, you know, how many times do you, and I know brands and businesses that didn't recognize it or recognize it and stuck to their guns to go the other way. And they're gone, you know, so it takes a smart person to step back and say, Whoa, Whoa, Whoa, we gotta do gotta flip. I'm never coming to being a smart person, but I will tell you that [00:41:30] I will tell you that I.
[00:41:32] I believe failure is so important in people's lives. And we've, you know, when you're a parent, you tell people talking about it. You don't, you don't want to protect your kids from failure. It's so important. Failure allowed, forced me to rethink how we were doing things. Failure forced me to get my ego out of the way.
[00:41:49] Failure forced me to recognize that we didn't know shit about marketing. We didn't know shit about, about You know, connecting with the core culture snowboarding, which we [00:42:00] relied upon to help our story get told to the end-user. And you know, we were. The kind of kids that kind of people that really, I think could could connect with that culture.
[00:42:12] We were part of that culture, but we had never on behalf of Arbor made that effort. And by, by bringing in people who knew more about what was cool, the subtleties about what was cool and starting to listen and starting to build a collective of people that, you know, some were woodworkers, some were athletes, [00:42:30] some were, you know, came from different places, all who snowboarded, right.
[00:42:34] But we just ended up making Arbor more resonance, more relevant. Yeah. And I learned so much from guys like Mike and Rob King. Well and it changed how we, you know, how we talked about our products changed, how we, you know, we added color and art to our products. It did not at all changed the original mission.
[00:42:56] We were still doing even more. [00:43:00] With around sustainability and the craft, which leads to durability, those guys helped you turn it into a true business. Right? You were delivering what the customer wants. Exactly. Yeah. Yeah. I started growing again in the, in the new century. We, we, our sales picked back up and we we got back on track.
[00:43:18]So when did you launch the retail stores and you had one probably right out of the gate. Everybody sells out of their shop, but when did you get into. That's an interesting story. Again, not something that was [00:43:30] necessarily planned. We started growing and we had added skateboards, skateboard started taking off.
[00:43:37]We started doing apparel. We were the early adopters of organic cotton. We brought in, I used to buy our wood. Our bamboo for both of wood, wood cores. We were one of the early, I think we were the first introduced bamboo into a snowboard core. We were doing, we were the first to do a bamboo top sheet.
[00:43:57] Bamboo is an amazing material of all the Woody [00:44:00] plants out there. It is the most renewable and most sustainable to grow. And it's beautiful. Yeah. And I was up in San Francisco at this, this guy's office and he threw me a bar towel and he said, what do you think that is? I really wasn't paying attention. I said, a bartender says Carlsberg right on it.
[00:44:16] And he said, that's bamboo. Wow. I was like, What do you mean it's bamboo bamboo key. Can't be, Bamboo's like that's made from the cellulose of bamboo bamboo cellulose, and it's [00:44:30] spun into a fiber. And I learned a lot about it and we were the first to bring bamboo t-shirts into the apparel market. So things were going good.
[00:44:40] And we were kind of sticking to our theme. We, you know, where we developed the, you know, the idea that. Over time. What, what Arbor became was a broader brand that we used to say, if you can't do it between Venice and mammoth, it's not Arbor. And all those trips up the three 95 increasingly became, [00:45:00] you know, Oh, huge part of the journey, you know, the Alabama Hills, camping, stopping at some crazy saloon, you know, going up to the bristle cone Pines, just exploring the three 95 and everything it has to offer and the gear you have on that trip so that you can still stop and skate a Canyon, stop and skate, some spots, some ditch You know, you can land in mammoth with a little bit.
[00:45:25] It was some snow on the ground, you know, just every everything we were doing, we [00:45:30] wanted to add to and, and bring sustainability to. And so our skateboard program was going really good. And we were outgrowing our warehouse and We had been making our skateboards at the sector nine factory in San Diego for about five or six years, seven years.
[00:45:46] I think we started there in 2000 and by 2007, they were exploding as well. They were, you know, the first mover in that and the lifestyle skateboarding. And I we'd gotten really close with these guys. [00:46:00] And Steve had Blake and Dennis Telfer. The two founders had bought a building across the street and expanded their production.
[00:46:07] And just as I was going, Holy shit, we got move. We, we can't continue to run out of our little Venice warehouse. I'm going to have to, and we're growing. And I don't, we're our debts, you know, too much. And cause we're growing. Growth is this weird thing. When you're a small business, it can kill you because every time you grow, you have to come up with more money to manage that, that [00:46:30] growth.
[00:46:30] Then it's all extended into terms. And so we were struggling with growth and we, we, the idea of opening a warehouse somewhere And it was bigger and we could service this new wider range of products was nerve wracking to say the least you built this factory and got it done and looked at it and said, Holy shit, I feel it more than I can chew.
[00:46:54] And we were both kind of whining to each other and started talking, how could we partner? [00:47:00] And I, we ended up coming with, coming up with this plan and I'll get back to the retail side of this. I'll circle back to came up, coming with this plan where we would partner on it on a sort of a global distribution model where he became our, our exclusive global distributor and oversaw production and sales for Arbor skateboards.
[00:47:21] And we managed. All the marketing oversaw, all of the marketing, product development, art development, branding development and [00:47:30] kept, you know, kept those components of the business in our, in our, in our office in Venice. And we created, we expanded our collective model to now include our distribution and manufacturing partners.
[00:47:41] Again, people who come from the surf skate snow world, who are dedicated, who could add to the conversation. Steve used to say Bob Carlson opens up. My catalog. So he knows how to be different, where everybody else opens up our catalog to rip us off. And the truth was that I was never looking at their [00:48:00] catalog.
[00:48:00] We were just doing our thing in art or in section nine fit really well together. We were a good one, two punch, and you know, we had, we separated the brands at sales and marketing and product development. But behind that, we came together and, and saved a lot of money and built this little house of brands around skateboarding.
[00:48:17]And expanded our collective and really it was the right thing for that program at that time. And I eventually, a couple of years later did the same thing with a company called motion sports with our [00:48:30] snowboard program, and then put our soft goods program into an a third partnership. So today, when we talk about the collective it's about my, these three partners that I work with that are big.
[00:48:42] Global businesses that help our be big and competitive and provide the kind of customer service and, and, you know, business performance that people expect. And at Arbor, each of those three people have their marketing and product development people working under, under my guidance with the art [00:49:00] department and the brand team.
[00:49:01]All really being the small lab for the business that allows us to keep it close to our customer, you know, connected to our original mission around sustainability and craftsmanship and, you know, the performance and durability that stems from that. And you know, you know, really true to and focused on what we need to do to continue to.
[00:49:21] Innovate and stay authentic and not have. And frankly, it's allowed us to avoid having a big VC company or a big financial [00:49:30] firm as partnered in this business and telling us what we need to do and focusing us. Exclusively on making money rather than what's important to us, which is making rad products.
[00:49:40] The Jetta, that collective model is pretty smart. That did you, had you seen that stuff unique? I had never seen it somewhere. And P and I get the people chuckle when they hear this, because you walk into Arbor in Venice any day, and there's people drawing paychecks from four different companies. Mine, my three-part.
[00:49:57] Yeah. Interesting. Yeah. Yeah. It is the ultimate. [00:50:00] A sharing model where you share responsibilities and the revenues around the Arbor brand, super creative. I love it. Little just allows us to be big and small at the same time. Right. And that's been our secret and, you know, we don't get distracted in Venice around credit checking or logistics or warehousing or production issues, sourcing issues.
[00:50:24] We leave that up to our partners and they. Do it well, and they do it globally and it makes us be able to, it allows us to [00:50:30] stand toe to toe with the biggest brands out there. You're also, you could maintain commitment to your core values and the things that you started the whole brand on. You're not worried.
[00:50:39] We're still skating and snowboarding all the time. We're still talking about sustainability. We're talking about great product, innovative product, great graphics, great art, great art stories. Working with artists that are, that are As you know, environmentalist working with our athletes that are environmentalist and that conversation around the collective happens at [00:51:00] the highest level with all of those people in Venice, at the, at the laboratory for the brand.
[00:51:05] And it all stems from just walking away from your own ego and walking away, frankly, from your need to make all the money. You know, if you're willing to share some of the money with good people. And today those three partners are all privately held companies that all are interested in living an outdoor life.
[00:51:21] Yeah. So anyhow, we, we, so we eventually moved everything out of that Venice warehouse and we're had this empty space, which we were, [00:51:30] we threw a few good parties and a few good events, but eventually we realized it was time for us to open a store. And that was also a really good. Kind of momentous thing for us because when we opened the store and put that creative laboratory around a store, it really, it really connected the most important part of the, you know, the innovators at the collective to their customers.
[00:51:55] And then we hear your add kicks in at Arbor. And you can't stare at your screen any [00:52:00] longer. You go down and you sell a snowboard. Talk about snowboarding. Yeah. That's significant. Yeah. Every single day, you know, since well, except for COVID, we, we are immersed in the conversation about what customers want from their products, what they're looking for, what questions they have, if you want to stay connected to your customer and what's evolving you know, have beat, keep your, keep your innovators within earshot of the conversation with customers.
[00:52:27] So that was, that was a [00:52:30] great lucky stroke for the brand. You know, we had this space and we, we decided to try our hands at retail and I didn't want to, I actually went out and talked to what's a scary, it's a scary move, you know? I mean, there's a lot of things that can go South at retail. Well, I, you know, I had started a business, not knowing anything about the business.
[00:52:49] So I was gun shy about doing it again. And I did that several times actually, before we became retailers, I went and asked, talked to ICI. I talked to spider, I talked to [00:53:00] Val surf. I talked to 'em and kinda wanted them to come in and, and maybe CoLab on a space and they run it. And all of them said, no, every single one of them said, no, Bob, you need to open an Arbor store.
[00:53:14] Don't, you know, I would love to, this is a great location, but, but you know, I really can't thank them enough. And we did, and we learned how to become retailers, good retailers, and that's made us a better brand. And over the years we opened unfortunately as, as, [00:53:30] especially in California, as. A lot of specially snow and skate and surf shops have, have closed.
[00:53:36] And we filled a few holes. We opened a store in Tahoe, and now we have a store in San Diego. And it's neat because we got, you know, this at the heart of the brand or the head of the brand. There's this. The small laboratory for development branding and for getting product development. Right? And then it goes out to our three partners that sell it around the world.
[00:53:56] But through the same distribution channels, all three partners use the same [00:54:00] reps and often the same distributors, but each category, you know, sales, you know, in different places to a degree. So there are shops that carry all of our products, but not everyone. And, and, and I used to, you know, I always looked at our trade show booth and said, God, it's so good to see everything together at our retail stores.
[00:54:19] You can come in and you can see. All of the Arbor products, how they work together, how they're themes of sustainability and natural materials and craftsmanship in a [00:54:30] performance durability, all run through all those products and and tie together. And that's pretty cool. Yeah. So you guys have recently released your first Hawaiian Koa top snowboard since 2008, right?
[00:54:45] Yeah. So this is our, this is our 25th anniversary. Tell us about doing a bunch of stuff. They've got me digging through the archives and we're doing some founders, archives, social media posts, which are pretty cool. We're kind of [00:55:00] at some, at this point, I'm letting it all hang out, really showing some of the like.
[00:55:05] There you go. You got to, well, we'll link to some of that in the show notes so people can find it. That's cool. Hey, I think we're at a point where we can laugh at ourselves, laugh at the mistakes we've made. It's certainly we Arbor. We did. We, we, we, we. The innovative. We did a lot of stuff first, but I don't want to talk about that without talking about the mistakes we made, we were not brilliant.
[00:55:26] We were not, we got lucky. We stuck to our guns. We [00:55:30] worked hard. And we made a lot of mistakes. And through that humility, we became better people and a better business. And through that humility. I think we can talk about the innovations in the first that we created. And I want to do that with this, this, these archives.
[00:55:43] I want to show some of the goofy or marketing design efforts. I, you know, I'm about to post our first SIA trade show booth or attempt to read, to reveal the a piece of Hawaiian co force in Vegas. It [00:56:00] was just awful, but yeah. And then we're, we're doing wheat. My wheel, I lost my co-founder a few years ago and he had moved on and was still sort of, it had a foot in the wood products world, and he was still sourcing sustainable Koa logs and selling them to different people for veneer.
[00:56:17] And I went out and found the last two logs that he had sourced before he passed away. That's cool. And we've been near them and we made the first Koa top snowboards and the [00:56:30] first COA top skateboards since 2008. And, you know, just kind of a dinner, just a recognition of our, the old days of the original material, we still are planting our, obviously our give back efforts are still in Hawaii, which is something we should probably touch on.
[00:56:46]So our returning roots program, but also Chris and in his wild dreams and his, his idea that we could make a business around helicopter, lumbering point pillar and surfing and snowboarding and [00:57:00] making a living around environmentalism. And so, yeah, right now the snowboards out in the skateboard will be out this spring.
[00:57:08]And it's cool to be offering co Cola top sheets again, in our skate and snowboard line for the first time, since 2008. And the film, you just a documentary you just released to crushing the grain. That talks a little bit about that, right? We'll link to that in the show notes too. The documentary will, we'll be out in January.
[00:57:24] We released our first trailer and that is cross crossing the grain. And it's really [00:57:30] about the foundation. You know what, coming out as the first action sports brand founded. The focus on sustainability, the first action sports brand to make a commitment of, of proceeds of sales to giving back to the environment, then all the dumb shit we did in between.
[00:57:48] And that'll be fun to watch. I can't wait for that. Yeah. And you know, we, we talk about. Yeah, just tell us environmental wasn't environmentalism. Wasn't cool. And we, we get, [00:58:00] we take a good laugh at ourselves and we talk about some of the ups and downs and some of the drama and, and how we got, how we built the collective model and how.
[00:58:09] You know how people are, what saved and made this brand thrive and the people that have been part of it along the way. And then ultimately we get to sort of what we've accomplished over the years and where we want to go from here. And it's, it's called crossing the grain and it'll be out this this January and I'm looking forward to it.
[00:58:28] I'm not. [00:58:30] You know, Chris was the charmer. Chris was the better looking better athlete guy. He was supposed to be out in front of the brand. I was, I was a Dewar, but life throws you curve balls. And so they've sat me, got me on camera, telling some of these stories. They've got me doing this, this podcast and Well, you're a natural, you're doing a good job at it.
[00:58:48] I mean, you you've explained, you know, having been there, you really, you get the ethos across and you, and you get all the dumb shit ideas across to, I mean, it's, you do a good job at it. So don't, don't shy away from that.
[00:59:02] [00:59:00] I've I guess I've gotten, I've gotten better at, at At well, I've always been a good storyteller doing the movies, got me tuned up on the, on the narrative and the history. And I'm having fun doing it though. Yeah, that's cool. Yeah. Normally at this point I go into some sort of, you know, standard questions about.
[00:59:22] Advice and things, but I think I want to shift gears a little bit because we've talked a couple times about how environmental ism [00:59:30] wasn't cool. And I kind of feel like environmental ism still. Isn't cool. And I wonder what, if any thoughts you have on how we can continue to drive that narrative because we're still, you know, w two and up the world and.
[00:59:46] At some point, we got to reverse that and chew it up less as opposed to more. Ha what are your thoughts on that? I'm not, I know this is out of blue, out of the blue left field.
[01:00:01] [01:00:00] Environmentalism is tough. Yeah. Sustainability is, is. Is, it is a difficult road to walk. Again, we learned early on that if you want to be successful in that first business, if you want to be successful with environmental products, you're going to have to make your price points. You know, the same as the non environmental products, because people will pay more even today for something that is sustainably produced, you gotta make them.
[01:00:27]Have the same quality and performance, if [01:00:30] not better, if you're going to be talking about sustainability. Yeah. We realized a long time ago that sustainability is the tiebreaker. You better be. You better have the values of the products, better be there. The price point, the quality, the durability, the style, the story, the vibe, the overall, you know, Product better compete at every level, if not higher than that, than everything else out there.
[01:00:56] Then when you tell a sustainability story, you [01:01:00] can. You can, you can, you can usually win the argument and sell the product. Problem is along the way, you're, it's, it's harder to make the margin, the standard margin you're using more expensive materials and more expensive to produce, to source and produce.
[01:01:16] So if you want to be. Producing things more sustainably. You have to be willing to, to, to work on lower margins and you really have to know what you're doing, why you're doing it. You really have to believe in it. And over the [01:01:30] last 25 years, I've seen people try and give up because it is not the path to maximum profits.
[01:01:37] And there's usually some profit oriented guy behind a brand that, that insists that it's. It's done that way. Yeah, you're right. It's not always about the profits. You don't, you have to make money, but you don't have to make that much money. You can get by with a little bit less. Yeah. And money comes. I mean, Patagonia is a great example of a hugely successful business that is making plenty of money and doing right by the planet. [01:02:00]
[01:02:00]And they've got a successful price point. They've been able to really position themselves at a higher price, but, but along the way, it was. The fact that they were private in my opinion. And didn't have to show the ups and downs maybe some down years or some flatter years, and they didn't have to show their margin because of their private nature of the business.
[01:02:19] And they could make those choices and have to play in a public market. Yeah. And S and, and show that their margin, maybe wasn't as much as a competitor because they were doing right by the [01:02:30] planet. And and they were doing it because they believed in it at their core from their foundation on up.
[01:02:36] And that, that's a nice thing about being private. You're in the part of sustainability. So ultimately, I, you know, what I, what I saw is there was this period where people were talking about going green and yeah. I you know, it was so fake, it was so plastic and you could, I could, Chris and I. We took so many hits around sustainability that we just, [01:03:00] we just continue to put the information out there, but we stopped hitting people over the head with it.
[01:03:05] And we, you know, it was not something that the core of snowboarding thought was cool and then 90. So we, we decided we were going to keep doing it because this is who we were doing it. If, if we weren't going to be doing the building a brand around sustainability, And we never stopped telling the story, but we never, we never hit, we stopped hitting people over the head.
[01:03:24] And then we got to this, this period, I had a 2012, 13, [01:03:30] 14, somewhere in there going green was the thing. And it was, it was just a marketing ploy, right? So many companies, and it was so fake and it went away because people realized that is not the path to growth and higher profits, if, or certainly higher returns because of the cost of doing it.
[01:03:49] But today we're, we're really at an, I think a new place. I actually think that today, a lot of the action sports and outdoor industry are embracing it in a [01:04:00] very authentic way, more and more of a mile. That's right. Yeah. Absolutely. And I am very, I feel like you look at Burton, you look at Jones, you look at some of the skateboard brands.
[01:04:11] They, those, those companies are doing it from a very serious place of authenticity from a personal place. An acrylic, crystal clear understanding of what we're protecting when we're protecting the planet, we're protecting our, our playground. You know, we need snow to snowboard. We need clean air to skate.
[01:04:29] We need [01:04:30] to. Clean water to go out and surf and everything we do in between the camping and the, the, you know, the outdoors that we're drawn to. And I really actually feel like the, what you're seeing the sustainability you're seeing in the larger outdoor world today is, is authentic. And I think we've reached a critical mass where, you know, Chris and I had to build and innovate and create some of the materials that we're using.
[01:04:51] But today you can buy an off the shelf and a cotton blank, you know, there You know, a lot of the processes that we we've invented to make wood [01:05:00] and bamboo snowboard, top sheets possible are now, which we never patented because we wanted people to pick up on natural fibers or now more readily available.
[01:05:09] And a lot of our competitors have wooden bamboo, top boards. We're stoked to see it. And I feel like we're in a good place. And I actually would say that we're not there yet. And I think you're right, but I don't think that. You know, we watched the market go from gen X to millennials. We were in that gen X world.
[01:05:27] And we thought we would get more adoption out of gen X. We [01:05:30] did when we kind of, when we turned that corner and sort of flipped the brand on its head and really brought everybody to the table. Another thing happened, our customers are the athletes in the, in the new employees and the artists. A lot of them were millennials and our customers are millennials and millennials were so much more tuned up on the environment.
[01:05:50] That's right. And gen Z coming down the pipeline, they will not. Abs, they won't consider your brand worth identifying with if you're not making an [01:06:00] effort around sustainability. So I believe that the market is going to demand it. So those last corners that are not embracing it at some level are, are, are going to be forced to, to come up with you know, an effort.
[01:06:13] And, and, and I honestly think that the bigger dealers. Are going to demand that you're making an effort. Certainly big guys like REI are today. Yeah. Well their announcement last week. Yeah, exactly. It is. It is shifting. It is moving towards a more sustainable industry. That's for sure. [01:06:30] Consumers, it's going to make it, move it in the right direction.
[01:06:33] And I would say that don't. Don't make the mistake of thinking that you can make the perfect environmental product. The future is about taking steps and allowing yourself to take steps to a more, a more perfect, more, perfectly sustainable product. You know, we, we use tons of, but we use only bio resin and only bio-plastics and our boards are recycled plastics, but they're still plastic.
[01:06:59] Yeah. [01:07:00] Bioplastic is the same chemistry that plastic is made from, and it has a much, much reduced carbon footprint. You know, you're getting that chemistry out of living plants, not plants that have been dead for a million years. You have to drill out of the ground and transport around the world process, high cost, high carbon costs.
[01:07:19]So bio-plastics are a good solution, but they still don't. They're still neat. Don't biodegrade and. You know, I, you know, I want to, I love or our skateboards because they're made with. [01:07:30] Wood and wood glue you. When you're done skating, you can actually take the trucks off and recycle them, cut the deck up, vary your backyard.
[01:07:37] And it will absolutely biodegrade locally. Perfect. That doesn't happen with snowboards and I, and I, and we, we, my dream is in over the next 25 years, I'd like to have a snowboard that can, that is biodegradable. You know, in your backyard when you've, it's been passed through users and the last guy finally, you know, Alaska air girl kills it, that they can cut [01:08:00] it up and bury it in the backyard.
[01:08:02] This concept of Brown compostable products, where you send them back in doubling their carbon footprint to a factory where they're bathed in a toxic solution and their components come apart. So they can then be okay. Recycled or composted is, is not the solution. So we haven't, we're not making the perfect snowboard yet.
[01:08:22] Despite the fact that the wood, all the metals are recycled, all the woods, sustainably sourced, all the plastics are bioplastic. The waxes are [01:08:30] environmentally friendly. We got it. We got to work towards getting there and for the industry to move in that direction, they have to, you gotta be okay with it.
[01:08:38] You gotta be okay with taking steps towards that brighter future. And that allowed that thinking allows people to take up, make a move and move towards a more sustainable line of products and feel good about it, you know, and that way we're, we are headed that way. It's, we've come a long way. So in guys like you and Yvonne, you know, leading the [01:09:00] charge good on ya.
[01:09:01] Yeah, you won't hear me put my myself in his company. Maybe he is, he's an icon to me, Nikon to all of us, but you're doing a damn good job. So keep it up. Yeah. I appreciate that. I love it. Do you have any suggestions or advice for folks wanting to get into the business? Whether it's a manufacturing business or don't go, don't go, go.
[01:09:29] You know, [01:09:30] I, I think. Go do an internship at a company that you admire. That's a really good one. Go off for your services and go learn. I wish we would have been a faster growing company. If I had gone out and not learned everything the hard way and failed every time I've gone out and actually gone and maybe gotten done an internship or got a job somewhere, I really think it will help you or eat yourself around.
[01:09:57] All the things you're going to need to do to [01:10:00] start a company. But having said that, you know, don't focus too much on, on the failures that lie that may lie ahead for you because they will make you, it will teach you some important lessons and you just gotta go for it and believe at some point you know, ask questions, be willing to, to hear advice from people especially around finances, you know, the idea of.
[01:10:24]Cashflow is really a difficult thing for people to get their heads around. It was for me, [01:10:30] I think I was naturally oriented to the P and L, but if you don't understand your balance sheet and really, if you don't understand a cashflow statement, it's very difficult to keep a business healthy, so seek help on those things.
[01:10:43]That's good advice. Internship is a great one. Yeah. I, I honestly believe that the, you know, I think it's hard getting harder and harder for companies to do interns ships because of some of the changes to employment law. But where, if you can find one, get, take it because it is it [01:11:00] is just to see, you know, behind the curtain will help you understand the, your vision for your behind the curtain.
[01:11:08] Yeah, that's true. Honestly, you gotta, you gotta love what you do. You gotta believe in what you do. You can't. You can't change an industry if you don't lead from a place of total authenticity and you, you, you, you can't you can't come at it unless you're coming at it with a passion that is personal.
[01:11:30] [01:11:30] And from that, you can actually, you can actually get out there and offer something unique and different and special. And worthy of shelf space. Yeah, that's right. Yeah. Yeah. I can't imagine there's a lot of brands today are starting with just a website. They're not starting with it. The wholesale effort, but I think that's a mistake.
[01:11:53] I believe the brands that don't understand that their retailers are their partners [01:12:00] and honor that, that, that they show rooming their products. And, and don't understand that that touch and feel is that is the way to create Is the way to create a connection to consumers that is very, very authentic.
[01:12:14] I don't want to overuse that word. It's very tangible. And you can't do that unless you're, you're working with retailers and selling to them in a way where they make money and are successful with your brand. And we are really big advocates for our retail partners and how important they are to [01:12:30] telling our story.
[01:12:30] Yeah. Letting people come in and, and, and, and experience the product. And I, I actually don't believe that retail is going away. I think the Amazon aspect of the world of retail and the COVID shutdowns are just making retailers better. And the retail experiences out there that are going to just get better and more compelling cultural hubs, clubhouses for activities, places where you can connect.
[01:12:59] With [01:13:00] people who know more than you and can advise you, you can just shoot the shit about product, about place, about people. They're more important maybe than they ever were in a world where You know, we're, we're, we're closed off from a lot of the things we, we used to do. Yeah. I think you're right.
[01:13:17] I think the sanity of the outdoors. Yeah, you're right. I think the Amazon type model will continue to exist for some of the commodity type stuff, but it, you know, for equipment and clothing and certain [01:13:30] tools and things, you just have to get there and physically see it and touch it and maybe even use it for a bit, you know, and that'll, that'll change.
[01:13:37] I think the. And the stores that are going to survive are the ones that recognize their cultural impact. Yeah. And there, there are stores that just blow my mind today with how welcoming they are, how they're gathering. Yeah. Yeah. That's right. And you know what, today? People's bandwidth is so short people's attention, span the show short, thanks to our media, that I [01:14:00] I'm constantly amazed how many people come in the door on their way to go snowboarding on their way to go skateboarding.
[01:14:06] And they, you know, they, they make the decision to go ride. In the morning and they're yeah, they're trying to work hard to get out of the door. Bye, bye Tom, to beat the traffic and they're heading up to the mountains and they're rolling through and buying a new board and the internet can't compete. Can't compete with that speed, which is pretty interesting.
[01:14:26] So I'm, I really advise people [01:14:30] to know that the retailer is your friend. And I'm sure, you know, new new brands today need to start with a direct to consumer business, but don't, don't forego the power of the retail partner to make your brand real for people and tangible and treat them as a partner and care about the money that they make and the success that they have around your product, because then they'll care more about your brand and your business.
[01:14:57] And they'll tell your story. And if you're a [01:15:00] startup. They'll they'll help you launch and help you, help you get the kind of exposure that you need. And, yeah. So, yeah. Yep. A couple of personal questions for you. Do you have any daily routines you use to keep your sanity? I ride my bike. I bike to work every day.
[01:15:20]I'm you know, at least when I w I'm. You know, we have a retail store, so I'm allowed to be working at my office. Thank God. My wife, my wife is very [01:15:30] thankful as well. And we have a an environment that's distant, but so I'm, I am on my bike and I, I don't, I just need that. I need to be I dunno, I need to be doing something physical before I wake my brain up and just sort of.
[01:15:49] Turn it away from work. I was skating for a while. And I still skate around my neighborhood. I need to make sure. You know, if, if you surf skate or snowboard, there's something about the [01:16:00] turn that is just create Sandy. There's something about the physical feeling of the carving. Yeah, that is, it goes right to some part of my brain that lights me up and makes me feel healthy and good.
[01:16:14] So I need to go make a few turns. I'm not commuting to work on my skateboard that became in Venice, became a little hair-raising. I'm on my bike, but I'm still skating around town and Conda. I was actually, I was actually hooking it for a while [01:16:30] because I was, I was doing, I was walking and talking on my phone and working.
[01:16:35]But I got tired of doing that. I wanted to just unplug. So I got on my bike and then I'm going to be asleep. I'm getting out and riding as much as possible. Very cool. Good for you. You're still, still living the life. That's awesome. Do you have any, I got kids now too. And they are, they, it's a, it's a part of your snowboarding surfing skateboarding that you don't plan for when you're younger, but experience that [01:17:00] is that is hugely meaningful for my snowboarding.
[01:17:02] For example, teaching my kids how to ride and riding with them and watching them get light up around making the same turns. That's awesome. That's great. Yeah. We'll have to connect when you get back up to mammoth. I don't ride, but you know, I can watch or take pictures or something and hang out and have a beer.
[01:17:22] There you go. We do that too. Exactly. Yeah. How about books? Do you have any favorite books or books you give as gifts? It's funny. [01:17:30] I'm a, I'm a big token guy. Yeah. The way he, he wrote the, the, his books and, and the it and his descriptions of the world. Yeah, absolutely. I, I just see the the, the, the larger outdoor world and the, and the power and majesty of the outdoors, and I just turned my kid onto to those.
[01:17:52] So that's just what sprang to mind. Yeah. Cool. I think I, you know, I've probably read Lord of the rings four or five times. [01:18:00] Yeah. I, it's a book. It's a book that I carried around the Annapurna apprentice circuit with me and up into the Annapurna sanctuary and so it's kind of imprinted on my DNA.
[01:18:10] That's a good one. Yeah. As we wrap up, is there anything else you'd like to say or ask of our audience? I just want to thank people who have supported us through the years. Good times and bad. You know, you are part of the collective and your support allows us to do right with ARVR, by the planet and by snowboarding and skating and [01:18:30] and everything that happens in between all the good times we seek out in between.
[01:18:33] And you know, your inspiration you know, like, you know, the feedback we get from our customers and from our dealers is helps keep us real. And Yeah, it is you know, that's, I think a big thing that I don't get a chance to do enough. That's perfect. Come see us in Venice. If you come into Venice, feel free to ask for me.
[01:18:52] If I'm there, I'll come down and say, hello as beautiful story about what we're doing. And you're, you're we're pretty open about, you know, [01:19:00] you know, we, we, we're in this great situation where we have. Have the ability to connect with our, our, our partners, who are the people that ride our boards ultimately.
[01:19:09] So come see us in Venice. Cool. And where can people find you if they want to follow up? Just go on the website, Arbor collective.com. Arbor skateboards is got a handle on, on Instagram Arbor. Snowbirds has a separate one Arbor collective. If you want to see the wider. Program, including apparel and footwear on, on Instagram.
[01:19:29] And then I [01:19:30] Marver underscore BC on Instagram. Well, we'll link to that stuff in the show notes. Well, it's been great talking to ya. We will one of these days we'll connect down there, up here or something. They'll be good to see ya. Yeah. I'd love to, I'd love to have you down and we get to see you again soon.
[01:19:46] Thanks. This has been a real honor. I really appreciate you. Give me a chance to. Get romantic about the Hindu Arbor. Well, it's been a great story. Thanks for coming on. Thanks brother. All right. Cheers.