So, angrysnowboarder.com is reporting that long running snowboard company, Technine, is being sold off and possibly moving to Utah. With so many companies going broke or running into problems, it brings about the question:
Why do so many snowboard companies fail?
While Technine is one of the larger companies to be changing hands, there’s still always been a steady flow of companies entering and exiting our sport just as quickly as they began.
We can blame the economy and bad snow seasons, but in the end I think there’s a few bigger reasons for this. A bad economy can make companies fail faster, but in the end it still takes other factors to put a snowboard company in the position to fail.
1) Entering a crowded space
One of the biggest things you’ll notice is that nearly every upstart snowboard company is a clothing or snowboard company. While I get that clothing and snowboards are the biggest products in snowboarding, it’s an insanely crowded market.
Crowded markets aren’t always a bad thing, it shows that there’s a market out there, but it also means you have to offer way more than everyone else to be successful.
Entering a crowded market such as snowboard clothing means you’ll either need to spend millions to advertise yourself to the masses or have something that really stands out and makes you different.
Unfortunately, from what I’ve seen in most upstart companies, they aren’t really different from everyone else.
2) Cool designs and claims of ‘local’ and ‘by rider for rider’ aren’t enough
Nearly every single snowboard company claims the same thing. They say they’re ‘local’ and ‘core’ and they claim to have awesome new designs and technology that make them way more awesome than others.
Well guess what… everyone else is claiming the same thing too. Whether they are actually ‘core’ or not doesn’t matter and claims of new technology don’t matter unless they truly are HUGE, new and useful changes to the way things are normally built.
By huge, I mean something really different such as Now Bindings. Snowboard features like ‘super grip edge’ and ‘hyper super jump bar’ aren’t enough win over the average consumer from bigger companies with bigger budgets.
If you want to compete in a crowded market, you have to have something amazingly different, not the same old marketing that every snowboarder has seen hundreds of times before.
3) They fail to keep things small as they grow bigger
Some companies do make it past their starting year(s). They manage to grow a little and get some traction into the snowboard market. Then they stop growing and stagnate.
Small snowboard companies usually do one thing great, they listen and respond to their customers. They care about each customer because they don’t have a lot of business yet.
However, as they grow bigger, their support drops to an ‘okay’ level and what previously made customers loyal to them becomes the same as every other big snowboard company.
It’s easy to claim ‘core’ and ‘local’ and ‘great customer support’ when they’re a small company. It’s whether they can keep doing that as you grow into a big company that really matters in the end.
4) No real business chops
Many snowboard companies are started by previous pro snowboarders or veteran snowboarders with many years of travel and snowboarding. However, being good at the sport doesn’t make them good at business and unfortunately, a passion for snowboarding doesn’t translate to good business skills.
One of the key points Anthony Leffelaar (founder of Vivo Headwear) brought up in my interview with him is that someone can’t just jump into business and start selling clothing or snowboards. They need a real plan behind them.
This means they have to know how they’re going to make money and grow. Unfortunately, it seems like many small snowboard companies start up with the plan of “We’ll start selling snowboards and clothing and make money”.
Knowing their goal isn’t the same as knowing how to get to their goal.
One more thing…
You know what 99% of these companies could do to make snowboarders care about them and buy their gear? Care more than everyone else.
Look at every snowboard company selling clothes… it’s all mostly the same stuff. Heck, I can (and do) make my own Snomie.com t-shirts using the exact same blank t-shirts that big companies use. If the gear is mostly the same, they need to be different in the parts that matter.
Let’s make a hypothetical question. Let’s say you bought a new snowboard from a new company and at the checkout they took your details to enter you into some prize draw for a holiday in Whistler.
Now let’s pretend the guy running that snowboard company is smart and instead of just taking your details, he personally calls you to thank you for buying a snowboard from them then proceeds to mail you a free bar of wax and some stickers.
On the phone he was friendly and generally was excited that you decided to buy from them and also gave you his personal email address to ask him if you need any help or even had some general snowboard questions.
I bet you dam well that you’ll really consider telling your friends and buying another snowboard from them when the time comes.
Customer service is huge.