Hey all, been a while! We had a hell of a 2017…something for the books! A huge learning experience, failures, successes, some stuff to be really proud of, and some stuff we’ll never do again. Comes with the territory of trying to manage a small business and a family.
2017 was year two in Colorado. We once again moved to a new spot–a little further up into the mountains for that free-range life we’ve always dreamed of. Cost of living is hardly more than places in the city, and you do have to work for it a bit, but the benefits really work for us. We have a greenhouse, a sweet deck, super awesome neighbors, and a dead-end dirt road that our son can play on without worry. We even have a local bear, who makes himself known by throwing our bear-proof trash can halfway down the road once a week. And apparently there’s a mountain lion in the neighborhood, too, but he’s a sneaky bastard. There’s a bar with good music across the street and a super dank mac and cheese place within walking distance, several parks within 5 or 10 minute’s drive, and even hiking trails a 5 minute walk away. We’re 15 minutes from Lookout Mountain and 5 minutes from my local trail that I tend to skate on the most. We hold our product in a small barn owned by a neighbor down the street and pack and ship from there. What more could you need?
We moved our manufacturing this year to Denver, looking for a place where we could experiment and have hands-on interaction with the boards we are selling under our brand. I worked and co-managed the workshop alongside Aaron, owner of Liqwood Boards, whom I saw was hired first thing once the shop was somewhat put together and machines were in place. Aaron is an engineer through and through. If there’s a problem, he wants to fix it himself. If the shop needs something, he wants to make it himself. His most recent exploits involved making a heat transfer roller from scratch–something the shop needed from the day it opened, as the old one was chunked up and caused graphic problems left and right. If you’re a shop and you need an American quality heat transfer roller (Ron Mills has been the only source of these, but they recently went through a move and they had been unwilling to make them for the past 9 months), Aaron can probably make one. Leave it to that guy to figure it out.
The entire experience of making skateboards here is a long story, and something I ultimately don’t want to dive deep into. It was extremely rewarding making the boards, emotionally speaking. But I didn’t own the shop, I hardly had time to skate all year, and the work itself couldn’t support my family. I tried for several weeks to hold another job to make it work, but utimately I gave it up. I was working 50-60 hour work weeks at the factory job alone, getting paid a salary that didn’t cover the bills, and digging a hole was finally getting deep enough to where I was worried I wouldn’t be able to get out of it, so I left and decided to focus my energy back into PANTHEON and my family. And on the side, I am driving for Lyft and making sure the ends are met. Driving is pretty rewarding most of the time, as I’m on my own time and get to talk to tons of people about life in Colorado, our brand, new podcasts and music, whatever, and it’s all an opportunity for connection and learning.
We are entering, now, what I am hoping (and working for) will be a new beginning. I’m spending more time on PANTHEON now than ever. Many have asked us why everything we make is out of stock. Well, that’s what the hole ended up looking like. So here we are, working our way out of it, and the best part of the situation is that things are already looking way up, even after being so deep into it only a couple months ago. A couple months ago, I was negotiating terms so that we could place an order of 20 decks. Now we have nearly 300 decks on order and an order of tee shirts and sweat shirts on the way! So bear with us. It will get better. I say that to Wifey, too.
The path forward is still not completely clear. The good news is we have options. We have learned by DOING, and we are learning what works and what doesn’t work as a result of physically going through it. We could’ve taken the easy route on day one when we started this thing 4 years ago. If I got to start all over again, even knowing what I know now, I’d probably do exactly what I did. I now have the skills to help start a factory, design fixturing and zero-ing systems that help make decks get cut perfectly centered, every time. I have experimented with several constructions and pressing methods. I have tried a TON of different shapes, modifying our molds nearly every year we’ve been in business and experimenting constantly on the search for perfection. Which I don’t believe in!, but which we are edging closer toward every year. I have worked with four different factories, made awesome relationships with shops, partner brands, event organizers, riders, and our customers. We finally have some molds that I really don’t think need to be changed (a couple that still do), and we are making some of the best feeling boards in the world. That I am sure of. It’s time to bring it all together.
Moving Forward (on skateboards)
Next year is going to be a significant shift. We are moving into making completes and selling/recommending optimized setups direct through our website. You are free to do your own thing, and I think this is especially applicable for our downhill products, but for our pushers, I am settling on a few key setups that really maximize each board. I want you to have the best possible riding experience, and I’m taking charge in that. I am a firm believer that a positive riding experience is what will drive more people into skateboarding and ensure the success of our company and those around us. I urge other companies to do the same. Focus on function. Maximize function and price, but do not choose one at the expense of the other. Give the customer options when they make sense, and explain them well. Become more knowledgeable, and never stop learning.
More message. More creativity. More substance. More sustenance. Those are my goals for 2018.
Lastly, here are some short term expectations. We have tees and sweatshirts on order. They will be ready in about 2 weeks. We have 20 Embers and 20 Scoots on order that will be ready in time for Christmas, so we will sell during the Holiday season what some of the bigger companies will sell in one day. And then we have a big ass order of 2018 Trips and Embers on order that we hope will be ready some short time after the New Year. The new double drop Trip is bangin, with a 1.3 inch drop and 33″ length. Most importantly, the mold is spot on and perfected, improving the lamination and strengthening the deck. And the Ember commuter deck has proven itself as one of the most utilitarian boards ever. I truly believe it is the best mini commuter board in the world. It was designed as such, and we worked all year to perfect it, so the fact that it is being recognized in this light is really a treat, and it is appreciated! Update: If you are trying to decide between the two boards, read this blog about the differences between our two most popular commuter boards.
Thank you to all who have stuck with us. Thank you to those who continue to support us in varying ways, from riders and customers to suppliers and vendors. You know who you are. The mountain has been a steep one, but steep mountains are the most fun to ride down, and we have never shied away from a good climb, have we? We will focus on learning the word and using our skateboard brand as an outlet for expression.We ask that you continue to contribute when you feel inclined, continue to be stoked when we provide reason for it, and continue to spread the good word when the word is warranted.