How I Built This: Burton Snowboards: Jake Carpenter
|David Senra||Dec 11, 2018|
The predecessor to the Snowboard: The Snurfer. It was like riding a bucking bronco downhill. It allowed you to surf on snow. They sold 800,000 @ $10 each.
I saw Snurfing as something that could be developed: I was sure someone was going to continue to develop the Snurfer. No one did. I thought I could make a better version of Snurfer. If I could make 50 a day I could make $100,000 a year. That would be awesome!
How did you get the money to start the company: My mom died young. So when my grandmother died the money that my mom was going to inherit went to me. I inherited $200,000 and spent $150,000 developing Burton Snowboards.
No one cares about your idea. You have to make them care: I told manufacturers I was making a modern rendition of the Snurfer. I was afraid the minute ski companies found out they would jump on it, and I would be out of business. But nobody cared. I was so alone.
Initial distribution & the importance of perseverance: I was a traveling salesman. I would load up my car with snowboards and visit ski and surf shops. I went out with 38 boards and came back with 40. One guy gave me two back that he bought and said this is a joke. No one wanted any part of it. I was getting rejected all day long. I had a few days where it was tough to get out of bed.
The opportunity for Snowboards: Skiing costs $20 a day. That was a lot of money. Snowboarding was a cheap way to have fun with snow on the ground. It was a low-cost alternative to skiing. Ski companies were oblivious to what was going on in front of their eyes.
There was no major point where the company started to really take off: It was slow, consistent growth. It was not like internet companies that can explode from day one.
It doesn’t happen overnight! We had to convince ski resorts to allow snowboarding one by one. It took years. 10 years after founding Burton Snowboards fewer than 7% of ski resorts allowed snowboarding.
Why did you keep the company private? I met with investors and I didn’t like the vibe. It wasn’t us. Wall Street takes things and projects unrealistic expectations. People have realized working for a private company has many advantages.
The company culture reflects Snowboarding culture: No suits. Meetings on sofas. Bring your dog to work. If it snows over two feet it is an automatic day off for the entire company.
Why didn’t you sell the company? I wouldn’t take those phone calls. This is the best job in the world. Why would I walk away from it?