We catch up with East Coast stoke spreader – Mike. He tells us about his time on the Foreign exchange tour, his new Sales Rep role and Shop local kids!
How’s your day going?
It’s going. Spring decided to disappear and revert to winter here in the northeast, so that’s a bummer. Otherwise, staying busy juggling a few projects and doing well! Yourself?
Great thanks. What projects are you juggling?
The biggest is my event, Central Mass 5. It was just approved by the Board of Selectmen, so I’m hitting the social media airwaves and finalizing my sponsor proposals.
Yeah buddy! How stoked are you?
Incredibly stoked! For the first time, we’re expanding to a 3-day event. The first day will feature a rad mini ramp, and will essentially transform the town centre into a skate park. The Board of Selectmen had some gripes, but we came away with strong approval and a 4-1 vote in favour.
After 4 successes, surely you just had to send them a selfie with #CentralMass5 to get approval?
I wish! One member of the Board was a bit of a stick in the mud, but everyone else was excited and supportive. As the event gets bigger, it’s understandable that the town wants to make sure the event’s growth is healthy and sustainable for both residents and skaters. After some tough questions, I got their vote of support.
What’s led to the 3-day format?
More people are skating more things these days, and the lines between disciplines continue to blur. It’s rad to be able to skate everything, not just race and freeride; people are hitting pools, bowls, mini, parks and street too. By adding a 3rd day with a big mini ramp, I can encourage and support this growth of well-rounded skaters, while also getting certain types of riders involved who wouldn’t attend otherwise. The more the merrier.
The mini ramp in the town center also makes for a more centralized and exciting headquarters area, which will make my communications easier and will keep the riders entertained. The first day will also allow me to casually check in riders, collect waivers, distribute event tees, etc. – stuff that otherwise would encroach on race day.
“By adding a 3rd day with a big mini ramp, I can encourage and support this growth of well-rounded skaters, while also getting certain types of riders involved who wouldn’t attend otherwise. The more the merrier.”
Is there more growth for future CM events?
Definitely. I’m not sure if we’ll expand beyond 3 days, but there are always ways to improve and increase the programming offered during those days.
What else will be new this year?
Our after-party is one of the fun growth areas. We’ll bring in multiple bands from different genres to really kick ass and show people a good time. Otherwise, it’s just about making sure everything runs as smoothly, painlessly and enjoyable as possible. I’m considering some tweaks to the downhill format.. nothing definite yet.
Last time we spoke was just about CM4, what did you get up to that summer?
Last summer was wild. I attended a lot of amazing events on behalf of G-Form, including Monterreal, Giant’s Head, Push Culture Family Picnic and Maryhill. We made a big push into the skate industry and it was exciting to lead that charge. It all wrapped up with the Foreign Exchange Tour in Europe. That was a dream.
What is the FX: Tour?
Resource Distribution organized the tour, in part due to the strong growth of the international skate community. With so many awesome scenes and markets, it’s important to go out and experience them – especially if your brands are relevant outside the US. Team riders had the opportunity to skate terrain in foreign lands with young, growing scenes, with the goal to put together a radical documentary about it all. It was also a good opportunity to meet and talk shop with distributors and key shops.
Good to be back home?
For sure. I’ve missed Europe dearly since my time abroad there. Each time back – first for ISPO, then the FX Tour – has been amazing. Great to re-connect with the Euro homies, it really is a special scene over there. En plus, je peux pratiquer mon français. La France me manque!
Who did you go with?
Joey Pulsifer (Resource co-owner), Justin Reynolds (Riviera Brand Manager), Andrew Parker (Resource filmer/photographer), then the riders: James West, Kody Noble, Ari Chamasmany, Amanda Powell, Brian Peck, Matt Kienzle, and one of the Kickstarter supporters, Patty P.
What did you think of the first episode?
I loved it. It captured the vibe of the first leg of the trip very well. This goes back to my question about the expansion of Central Mass – it’s good for everyone when riders are pushing their skills on all types of terrain.
Where were your favourite stops?
Every stop in France (Paris, Lyon, Marseille… okay, I’m biased) and Amsterdam. Beautiful cities with great culture, cuisine and night life. I enjoyed every stop, really.
Will we see more GP style narrative in future episodes?
Perhaps – I know we’ll be seeing some interview footage – but I think the skate edits will be mostly action. The documentary that pieces them all together will likely get more into the narrative, but not to the extent of Greener Pastures.
How many more episodes are there to come?
There will be 3 more skate edits (4 total) then the full-length documentary.
What did you get up to when you returned?
I headed back to the G-Form office in Providence for my full-time work as Director of Board Sports. I resigned from that post at the end of the year.
Was that a hard decision?
Yes and no. Yes because I had spent so much time and passion there building a strong skate market, and because of all the amazing experiences they’d opened up to me. I learned a lot in a hands-on, bootstrapped manner. When I felt that my learning potential had diminished relative to my other opportunities, it felt like the right time to move on. I really wanted to pursue a skate-specific direction, and I saw an avenue to make that happen without abandoning what I had worked so hard to build. I resigned from my full-time role, but stayed on board as G-Form’s skate team/marketing manager. The G-team continues to kill it!
What did you enjoy most about your time with G-form?
Really carving out a new market, defining a path that aligns with my passion and taking on a strategic role. When I joined, skate wasn’t on G-Form’s radar; when I left, it was a key market for us. This would not have been possible without leadership that allowed me to follow my instinct and pursue what I considered to be good business opportunities. That pursuit allowed me to meet amazing thought leaders, tastemakers, event organizers, brand managers, international communities, sales managers, and team riders, all of whom have linked together into a really great network. I had a few great colleagues and really enjoyed the work – especially the travel.
Who sits in your old chair?
There is no direct replacement. Our VP of Sales took on my sales accounts, while I continue to manage the skate marketing.
Is there a new MG?
I definitely have plenty of new things on my plate! I’m now the Northeast Sales Representative for Loaded, Orangatang, Predator & XS Helmets, and all the Resource brands (Riviera, Paris, Divine, Five Mile, Timeship, Project). I continue to manage G-Form’s skate marketing and organize Central Mass, and I’m starting to write for Concrete Wave. Fortunately I will also be able to race the whole Push Culture DH Cup series – it will be my first race season!
What lessons from your time at G-form can you share with people looking for that dream job?
If you are ambitious, don’t feel sated with or constricted to your role. If you don’t seek out new opportunities and you merely do what’s asked of you, your position will remain static. If you overachieve, add insight and put in some entrepreneurial grit, you will likely earn more responsibility, which means more learning potential and ideally a strategic role in the brand.
That being said, it’s important not to be headstrong or impatient. Be humble, learn whenever possible, and follow your ambitions – you may just be able to carve out your own path. Use your network to your benefit, and never stop building it! You never know who will be a client or employer in the future.
How did you hook up with Riveria?
Through G-Form and Central Mass, I got to know some of the Resource guys – Dubes, Cam, Joey, and Kurt. Our relationship grew over time, and by the end of the Foreign Exchange tour we knew each other well. I let them know of my resignation from G-Form and then we started talking shop.
Do you ride all the brands that you represent?
Just about, yes. I ride for Loaded Boards and Orangatang wheels, so I’m always on their boards, wheels, gloves and hardware. I wear Predator Helmets, and almost all my setups are on Paris Trucks. I use Elephant boards for park/street, and I try to get some riding time in on Divine and Riviera product so I can be familiar enough to sell it well.
What’s your typical day like now?
It really depends. If I’m on a sales trip, I’m in my car driving through any number of states, visiting existing and potential dealers for the brands I rep. Before, between and after meetings, I stay on top of G-Form marketing and Central Mass stuff by iPhone. I collect CW story ideas along the way, and there’s always back and forth between the accounts and manufacturers when it comes to soliciting and submitting orders. If I’m at home, I’m usually following up on the trip I just returned from and preparing for the next.
Are you enjoying selling these things?
I am. It’s definitely a tough grind, but there’s a whole lot to learn, and the sales experience will serve me for the rest of my life. Selling a phenomenal product is easy; selling a fleet of related products in a crowded market takes a certain personality type, a refined sense of brand trends and shop politics, regional dynamics, buying styles, marketing and loyalties. It’s an art I’m trying my best to learn.
Plus, I get to make my own schedule, interact with a huge variety of people and shops, catch up with friends, and travel often.. all good stuff in my books.
What will you be writing for CW?
I will be their “East Coast Correspondent,” reporting on the East Coast events, shops, brands and personalities that make this region tick.
How is the East Coast community growing?
It’s doing well! There are pockets of very motivated and vibrant communities, and they’re increasingly starting to come together and create on a bigger scale. The East Coast has some natural hurdles to overcome – namely winter, the flight of talented skaters to other regions, and the relative lack of media coverage. We can’t get rid of winter, but we can vastly improve upon the other issues. My job change was motivated in part by my desire to help grow this community.
I think events will play the most important role in accomplishing this goal – I’m particularly excited about the Push Culture DH Cup series, new for 2014.
What is the PC DH Cup series?
The PC Cup links 7 premier Northeast US events into a points-earning circuit. You can buy a discounted season pass, gaining entry to all events and some other nice perks. There will be an overall series podium with big prizes at stake.
This concept will ideally foster a sense of regional pride, loyalty and healthy competition, and will allow us to gain greater media coverage and attract more skilled riders. It helps that 2 of the events are IDF World Cup qualifiers on truly world-class roads.
How are the Davenports?
They’re great. Professional, helpful, and easy to work with. Homies for sure.
Why are you #1 Dad?
Haha, hmm. Well the Team Mids guys started calling me “Dad” back in maybe 2010, right around when we started riding together. At the time I was the only one who was college-aged, and I had started organizing Central Mass. I guess the age gap and my event work led them to start calling me Dad. I try to offer some guidance and leadership when possible, and maybe that’s dad-like. I never really embraced the nickname, but it stuck and I supposed I’ve accepted that. #1 might be a bit of a stretch.
Do you have a skate dad?
In the industry; I’d say the folks at Loaded have been the most dad-like, offering valuable wisdom, inspiration and support throughout the years. They’ve taught me a lot as mentors, bosses and friends. Shoutout to skate dads Don Tashman, Dan Briggs and Pablo Castro.
How is your year going?
It’s going well.. a real flurry of activity. In January I skated in Socal with some Team Mids homies, lurking at SkateHouse and skating the roads of our dreams. I hurt myself at King of Kona right before it, so I mostly drove the van.. bummer, but Socal’s not a bad place to lick your wounds. I had meetings with Loaded and Resource while we were out there, and spent February getting my rep stuff off the ground. Since then it’s been a hyperdrive effort to get to know the shops in my region and to dial in Central Mass 5.
What are your plans for the rest of the year?
Ooof, a lot. First, Ithaca Skate Jam. Then I’ll head to Catalina Island Classic in early May – Dubes (the organizer) wants to race this year, so Resource graciously reached out to me to fill in for marshal duties. I’ll race at Red Bull Big Drop in Philly, Push Culture Family Picnic in Burke, VT, Madison Country Gravity Fest in Munnsville, NY, Downhill Throwdown in Killington, VT and ACME DH in Port Jervis, NY. On my “wish-list” are Monterreal, Giant’s Head and Maryhill. Throughout I’ll be working on my sales, team management and event organizing stuff. Central Mass 5 will be my big personal highlight.
Buddy buddy. Super fun doing this for the THIRD time. Big hugs man. Hope we get to lurk soon!
Likewise Gbemi, always a pleasure! It would be great to finally meet.
“Shop locally! Seriously, if at all possible, don’t buy online. There is more hinging on this than you think.”
Any last words?
Shop locally! Seriously, if at all possible, don’t buy online. There is more hinging on this than you think.
What happens if nobody takes your advice?
It would be a massive blow to the industry. Shops are an amazing place to meet other skaters, test out products, learn about upcoming events, get inspired, and form a sense of community. Behind each shop is an owner who spends hard-earned money to invest in brands, support the scene and hopefully break even. People don’t get rich running skate shops; they do it because they love skateboarding. If no one shops locally, hundreds, if not thousands, of these shops would go out of business, their employees and reps would be out of jobs, and their communities would suffer.
“People run shops because they love skateboarding. If no one shops locally; hundreds, if not thousands, of these shops would go out of business, their employees and reps would be out of jobs, and their communities would suffer.”
Why are online shops so bad?
Online shops don’t tend to invest in their communities; since their customers are everywhere, they don’t even really have a local community to support. They don’t offer the customers a place to gather, learn and collaborate. Without an emotional connection to their community, the focus is more on the bottom-line. A CA-based web shop won’t host a comp in Vermont any time soon.
Unless they have a big physical store, they don’t have nearly the same costs (relative to revenue) for employee wages, rent, utilities, and all the other expenses that local shops struggle to cover. Due to these low relative costs, online shops can afford to discount in ways a physical shop can’t. Given their broad geographic reach, these discounts steal sales away from customers far and wide, and this devalues the brand they are discounting and can lead to price wars. It’s a nightmare. With higher profits, online dealers can afford to stock a bit of everything, rather than investing strictly in the brands that support them in return. If you see a product in a physical store, it’s there for a good reason, not because some kid in Tuskegee or Akron might buy it after reading a Silverfish review. Buying local not only supports the shop, but also the right brands.
“Buying local not only supports the shop, but also the right brands.”
If you order online from the opposite coast, you’re not only likely neglecting a local shop who has already invested in this inventory; you’re also creating unnecessary emissions to send a small amount of product a long way. Buy local and you can have it that day, at the same price, without paying shipping, and without duplicating emissions. Fistbump mother nature on your way out the door.
Don’t get me wrong – online shops do serve a purpose. If you want a super obscure item that can’t be special-ordered to the shop, or if there is no shop near you, you don’t have much of a choice. But don’t be part of the reason your local shop goes out of business.
“don’t be part of the reason your local shop goes out of business.”