How to Make it in the Snowboard Industry: Building a Snowboard Brand
Reading time: approximately 6 minutes
With Sports & Outdoors Week happening this week we wanted to hone in on one industry that’s receiving a ton of attention. There’s lots of conversation around the snowboarding industry becoming a dying breed and how difficult it is to survive in the industry. With articles circulating around with titles like ‘The Only Thing Killing the Snowboard Industry is the Snowboard Identity Crisis’ and ‘Can Snowboarding be Saved’, we wanted to see what it takes to really thrive and survive in the snowboard industry.
Maybe snowboarding is just getting a few grey hairs and undergoing the necessary changes that most sport verticals go through. Perhaps the sport is growing up just like the rest of us?
We chatted with a stellar snowboard brand on Hubba, Gilson Boards, about what it takes to rise above the rest, how they go the extra mile to stand out in the industry and their advice to up and comers in the sport.
View Gilson Boards Products in Hubba
A science lab fluke that turned into new snowboard design
The two founders behind Gilson Boards were middle school science teachers and wanted to practice what they preached. They had the kids doing hands on labs, and so the two young teachers decided to do a lab as well. They revisited a concept for snowboard design that one of the founders conceived when he was 14, and after several failures, they landed on a concept that substantially outperformed the normal snowboard. Really, Gilson as a company was started by accident.
It was a science lab that turned viable, and then the two built a team and took the three-dimensional concept to market, building the Gilson brand around the new design approach. We were lucky to chat to the CEO of Gilson Boards about their journey so far and how the snowboard industry is evolving.
How has the snowboard industry changed over the past 10 years?
Snowboarding was born out of a juxtaposition to skiing, and that counter culture mentality fostered the industry’s exponential growth for a long time. Snowboarding was growing faster than skiing by a tremendous amount for many many years, but times are changing. The counter culture kids are now having kids. The demographic is maturing and the young ones joining the community are responding to new and more progressive messaging.
Most snowboarders head out with their group or family for a fun day on the mountain, most of those groups have skiers in them too. Most snowboarders don’t hate skiers. I have given my skier friends the best powder lines too many times to count, and they have done the same for me, and we always wait for each other at the bottom.
Lots of media out there still encourages our rivalrous past, but I am hugely positive about these evolutions in our sports, and it makes me beyond excited for the future.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to start building their own snowboard brand?
When building a new brand you can choose to focus on the product (what you build) or the marketing (what you say). It is very hard for a young company to do both well. I believe the reason we have been successful is because we have focused intently on designing and building the most progressive snowboard. As we grew, we let word of mouth about our work do the rest.
What have been your biggest challenges with building and establishing Gilson Boards?
We have two primary challenges. We operate in a seasonal market, and we offer a made-to-order customizable product – and those two challenges are related. Snowboards are primarily purchased between August and January. Last year, our build team was working 80 to 100 hours per week during those months. In June, we were focused on infrastructure. We could stock inventory, but we’re a young company, and we don’t have enough data to make those decisions and still be able to sleep at night.
Perhaps more importantly, inventory takes away from the feeling people get when purchasing a board from Gilson. We make each board for an individual, even if it is one of our collection models. Your board isn’t waiting for you on a warehouse shelf. Your board doesn’t exist yet, but we will build it for you. There is something special about that.
Where do you see the industry going over the next 10 years? What kind of trends are you noticing?
We’re pioneering a new two-fold message. 1. There is a better way to design snowboards that enhances your feel on the mountain, and 2. You don’t have to do flips and tricks to fit in our community. That’s neat, but being cool isn’t just about how good you are at riding, its about who you are as a person. The response to this new line of thinking has been inspiring. Snowboarding as a sport isn’t flattening, it is maturing, and we are excited to be at the forefront of this new growth.
Huge thank you to Nick and Gilson Boards for taking the time to chat with us and share the Gilson story!
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