How do you build a snowboard coaching company that sells over 17,000 training videos per year? Join us as we interview Nev Lapwood, founder of Snowboard Addiction.
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About Nev Lapwood
Nev is a pro snowboarder turned business owner and lead coach for his company, Snowboard Addiction. He is a CASI Level 3 coach, a CSF Coach and a CASI Course Evaluator.
He has extensive coaching experience including coaching for camps such as Camp of Champions, as well as experience coaching as a staff trainer for the Whistler Blackcomb Snowboard School.
Text Transcript (click show)
Jedidiah: Hey, everyone. I’m Jedidiah Tan, founder of Snomie.com, the home of snow travel, help tips, and advice. So how do you build a successful company around a love for snow? Well, joining me today is someone who’s done just that. Nev Lapwood is the founder of a snowboarding coach company, SnowboardAddiction.com, and it aims to take your riding to the next level. How is it going Nev?
Nev: Good, thanks Jedidiah. How are you?
Jedidiah: Good, thanks. Thanks for joining me today.
Nev: No probs.
Jedidiah: So snowboard addiction has grown pretty big. You’ve got 11,000 Facebook fans. You’re selling DVDs, training videos. You do private coaching. You run camps in Japan, Canada, New Zealand, and you’ve got loyal customers all over the world. Tell me a bit about that and how things are going.
Nev: Okay. Well, Snowboard Addiction, our mission – I’m just reading it off of our wall here – is Snowboard Addiction provides the world’s best video instruction, making it available to all shredders worldwide. So what we do is we make a series of snowboard videos, teaching people how to do things on a snowboard, and we provide it either by DVD or download to anyone anywhere in the world.
We’ve been doing that for just over three years now, and our program now sells in eight different languages around the world. So we’ve really grown quite quickly. To give an example, during 2010, we sold 15,000 digital downloads of our DVDs and 2,500 physical DVDs. We have over 2,000 subscribers getting all of our material each time it’s released. So, yeah, growing fast and enjoying what we do.
Jedidiah: All right. Nice. So business is going well then.
Jedidiah: All right. So I’m going to talk about your history now. You started as an instructor and just moving to Whistler. You were working for Whistler Backcomb and a few snowboard camps. How and why did you get the idea for a snowboard coaching company?
Nev: Yeah, when I moved to Whistler, I got a job as an instructor because I wanted to get a free season’s pass because season passes there are really expensive. From there, I sort of moved through different coaching organizations because coaching freestyle and stuff is pretty fun. It turned into a business really because you can help a lot more people with their snowboarding through DVDs and downloads than you can one-on-one. So that’s kind of the main reason behind that.
Jedidiah: All right. So that was the main reason you made the change?
Nev: Well, the main reason I had the change was I was doing a lot of coaching. A lot of companies around Whistler were asking me to coach for them, and even though it sounds great, the more coaching you do for other people, the less time you get to snowboard for yourself. So that kind of sucked. I really wanted to go snowboard with my friends and have fun snowboarding. So turning it into more of a business means that I can actually go out there and do more real snowboarding and less physical coaching.
Jedidiah: All right. So I imagine, as well, if you’re coaching for other companies, they take a big cut of your pay.
Nev: Yeah. It’s always the company that’s making the money.
Jedidiah: Yeah. All right. So how do you make your product? Like you go to film and get it put online and all that, how do you do it?
Nev: Yeah, most of making products for us is around creating videos. So it starts off with having a team of writers, and we have three writers in every single video we make – myself, Jesse Millen, and The Junkie, the mystery writer. We do most of our filming in California, at the moment, at Northstar. They’re a very supportive resort and look after us. We also do some of our filming up here in Whistler because Whistler is building a relationship with us now and supporting us too, which is good. So, yeah, we usually get a section of the year where we go down and film all the content.
Even before filming though there’s a lot of writing, creating the material, making shot lists and scripts, a lot of behind the scenes work. Then after filming, a lot of editing, post production, diagrams. There is always a lot more work that goes into it than what most people would think. Even after that, when you’re exporting and compressing and making a product for download, making a product for DVD, translating into different languages, the creation of our product is ongoing. Sometimes it will be released in English, and then it won’t be released in other languages until a year later depending on the speed of our different translators.
Yeah, so that’s kind of our main stuff to make our products.
Jedidiah: So you make your product. You’ve got to put it online and you’ve got to set up the website. How did you go about setting up a website, because I know you weren’t really strong in, like, the technical website sort of deal? How did you do it?
Nev: When I first started in business, the person who I was partnered with his cousin was very good at website. However, that only lasted a short time. Then when I went out on my own, I actually had a friend in university who was really good at web techie stuff. So he taught me how to do some very basic things over Skype. So our first ever Snowboard Addiction website was set up by me and a girlfriend I had at the time with very basic HTML coding.
However, it’s changed quite substantially with what we do now. I actually have two web developers who work for Snowboard Addiction, and we have a completely custom-built website on the Ruby on Rails platform. So I have very little to do these days with the website. It’s quite a bit over my head, and I’m not really that interested in getting involved in it, but apparently we have a very technical, well-functioning website.
Jedidiah: All right. Nice. So, basically, you outsourced and got other people to do the things that you weren’t strong at.
Jedidiah: So when you sell your products, I’m just curious, back then I’m guessing you had to go the post office and deliver any DVDs yourself kind of thing and send it out?
Jedidiah: So your business was starting off and going okay. How did you market and get your product out there?
Nev: We’ve got a ton of different ways we market. One method that is extremely successful for us is YouTube. YouTube is ginormous for us. There are so many people going on there and searching for different things on how to snowboard. We always have a couple of samples of our videos on YouTube. We have teasers for every single video we have on YouTube, and that’s huge for us, that alone.
Other than that, there is just tons and tons of ways we market. We have our own email marketing list, which we’re always growing, of snowboarders. We have 20,000 plus people on our email marketing list. Of course, we use things like Facebook and Google AdWords. A lot of things with forums and different snowboard communities around the world. We’re on some competitions. We sponsor a couple of smaller clubs, like Shred Love in New York, and we ran a competition in conjunction with Camp of Champions.
There is actually too much stuff for us to name, but our two most successful methods of marketing are YouTube and our own personal email database, which we regularly send newsletters to. On top of that, we get a hell of a lot of word of mouth because we make sure our product is really good. We’re always ensuring to put out the best possible tutorials we possibly can put out. So because of that, we get a lot of people talking about the quality of our product.
Jedidiah: All right. So quality is key. On that topic, I noticed you guys have a money back guarantee, like 110%, something like that.
Jedidiah: 120%. Oh, okay.
Jedidiah: How many people actually get that because I wouldn’t imagine it’s a lot.
Nev: Very, very, very few.
Jedidiah: All right.
Nev: Basically, what we do is if you buy our product and you try to use it and it doesn’t improve your riding at all, we will give you 120% money back guaranteed.
Jedidiah: All right. Nice.
Nev: We’ll give your money back plus a little bit more, and it’s very rare that someone can’t find something that they can put into their riding.
Jedidiah: All right. Cool. So your business was going pretty okay at that point. I mean, you were selling DVDs and training videos. Then you expanded into camps and that sort of thing. Why did you do that?
Nev: The main reason we started doing camps was probably just because they are fun to do. However, we’re slowly drawing a little bit away from the camp model, because there is a ton of companies out there providing camps and it’s very competitive and it’s a lot work. It’s a ton of work trying to organize, set up, and run a camp. So we are doing some camps still. We have a camp at the Camp of Champions this year, and we have a camp in Japan. However, we’re not hugely expanding on the camp model. It’s definitely fun to do, but a lot of work and we’re going to focus more instead on our videos and our online coaching program.
Jedidiah: All right. So just going a little bit into camps. What’s the process setting up accommodations, passes, hiring coaches, that sort of thing?
Nev: Yep. The most important thing really is having customers who are going to come, and if you get customers who are going to come, then yes, you’ve got to set up accommodation. You’ve got to set up usually airport transfers. You’ve got to get classes for everybody. You’ve got to have coaches. Food, if you’re doing food, and again, a lot of behind the scenes stuff. Processing payments, dealing with waivers and people in general can be difficult at times. There are a lot of different things, but the most important thing to run a camp is the customers. If you can get customers together, you can get a camp together.
Jedidiah: All right. So on that topic, when you thought of doing camps, did you have to market at all, or did you already have the customer base?
Nev: Yeah, we were lucky because we have a huge customer base through our DVDs and our downloads. Our marketing was purely through our email database. It’s kind of like an option for our customers. If they really want to, they can come on camp with us and have an awesome time, and everyone who has come on a camp says it’s a really awesome time.
Nev: So I’m no just trying to push it here. It’s a pretty sweet camp to come on.
Jedidiah: All right. Well, I should know. I’ve been to one of the camps.
Jedidiah: All right. So I know you secured some sponsorship from Burton and that sort of thing at some point to help you produce your videos. How did you do that, and why did they sponsor you?
Nev: Burton is a great company for snowboarding because they support all of the areas of snowboarding, and they’re one of the only companies that could see a potential of a video instruction program. So the actual way that I got support from Burton was going to the trade show in the States for snowboarding and pitching my idea to a lot of different companies and seeing if anyone would be interested in being supportive and the cost that it would be for us to make this program. Burton was one of the only companies that could front up and give us some money and gear towards production. So we were really happy with that. We’re really stoked on their gear, as well, and they’re really supportive. They’re even giving us some clips of their pro riders and stuff to put in videos as we move forward, which is cool.
Jedidiah: Yeah, that’s cool. So, basically, you went to trade shows, that sort of thing, just to make connections and network?
Jedidiah: All right.
Jedidiah: So you employ a lot people, as well. What was it, 16 people like on and off?
Nev: Between all of our full-timers and part-timers, yeah, I’m actually up to 16 people.
Jedidiah: Why do you employ people, and how does it help you with automating your business?
Nev: When I started, I tried to do everything myself, which was good. But if you want to be big, you’ve got to employ other people because there is so much stuff to do. So to give you an example of what we have at Snowboard Addiction, we have snowboard coaches. There are three coaches. We have an admin and customer service manager. We have a marketing person during winter. We have a filmer/editor. We actually had two filmers this year. We have two web developers who are maintaining functionality and everything at the website. Then we also have eight different translators, one for each language, who are working on putting out programs in different languages. We also have a part-time graphic designer. So lots of different full-timers and part-timers, and we usually have around about four full-time staff operating throughout the year.
Jedidiah: All right. So how do you employ people then, because good help is hard to find?
Nev: Yeah, we’ve had a mix of good people and bad people, as well. Usually we’ve been pretty lucky with getting good people. It’s usually through people I know or people who approach me about Snowboard Addiction. For example, with the translators, a lot of them I’ve never even met. Many of them are actually customers who are, from say Germany, fluent in German because that’s where they grew up and fluent in English because they learned English. I might never have actually met them, but they are the translator for that country. So that’s how we met them. Yeah, it’s usually just through people I know.
Jedidiah: All right. Cool. So last thing. What’s one piece of advice that you’d give to someone else who is just starting to go into business?
Nev: A big thing that we found was systemizing your business, making everything as organized and as automated as possible. Write down everything you do so that you can refer back to it, because there are a lot of things that you will go back to and it’s so much easier if you’ve done it and have some kind of system in place. So just making sure that everyone is on the same task and organized and they have a stepping stone process to follow, if it’s not the first time you’ve done it.
Jedidiah: So, just a little bit on the writing down things as you get them, do you write them down on the spot? I find I have to write things down on the spot, otherwise I just won’t remember it later. I’ll have a good idea, and I go to write it down before I forget it because there is no way I’m remembering it later.
Nev: Yeah, to give an example, we have a system of manuals for our business. We have an office manual, we have a film editing manual, we have a web developer’s manual, we have an accounting manual, and we have a processing sales manual, basically, and we add to these all the time. There are online documents that can be shared between anyone who’s working in our business. If we find something that’s not on there as we’re doing it, we add to it. So it’s a never-ending document or a set of rules on how to operate our business.
Jedidiah: All right. Cool.
Nev: That we’re always building on.
Jedidiah: Thanks a lot for joining me today and, yeah, thanks.
Nev: Cool. Thanks, Jedidiah. It was a pleasure.
Jedidiah: All right. See you.
Nev: All right. See you later.