The business of snowboarding (in the ‘90s) with Justin Jackson

Justin Jackson joins me to share the story of how he started a snowboard shop in the late 90s and what, if any, parallels can be drawn to software businesses today.
"two things that have kind of remained constant are snowboarding and music. And I mean, I like different types of music and my snowboarding has changed, but those are the two things I've always been into that stayed the same." - Justin Jackson

Watch this episode on YouTube

Justin Jackson:
Justin’s company, Transistor
Justin on Twitter:  @mijustin

Brian Casel:
Brian’s company, ZipMessage
Brian on Twitter: @casjam

Thanks to ZipMessage

ZipMessage (today’s sponsor) is the video messaging tool that replaces live calls with asynchronous conversations.  Use it free or tune into the episode for an exclusive coupon for Open Threads listeners.

Quotes from this episode:

Quote 01:

Brain Casel: The price of being into snowboarding or skiing these days is just insane.

Justin Jackson: Yeah.

Brain Casel: I mean, and that like it it's been insane for a number of years now. But then once you have kids, I mean, I've got a six and an eight-year-old who have been taking lessons for the last like three seasons. So you've got, like, rentals and lessons for them. And then, you know, four lift tickets, I mean, we go to a crappy hill in the, in the Northeast for one day plus the hotel room, plus driving there.

I mean, that's like $1,000 weekend at least, you know. Yeah, it's crazy.

Justin Jackson: It's pricey and it's always been expensive. But I think a family pass at our hill probably costs three or $4,000 a year I think. Mhm. And I've just gotten a family passes every year, even as my kids have gotten older and not been as into it. When we moved here my dream is like they're all going to be pro skiers and snowboarders that they're going to love it so much and you know, they all learn to ski and you know, they, they like it enough to do it a couple of times a year or whatever but. Yeah, especially my older too.

They're definitely not as into it as me, but you know, that's cool too. I, it's still one thing that's interesting to me is there's not a lot that's the same from when I was in high school with me, but two things that have kind of remained constant are snowboarding and music and I mean, I like different types of music and my snowboarding has changed, but those are the two things I've always been into that stayed the same. And I, I just think it's so fun to be able to enjoy something for so long and have it evolve as I've gotten older.

Brain Casel: It's really great, it is a great thing to be into as a, as like a fun sport hobby and like for me, I probably you and everyone else who does it is I love that it's so seasonal. Like, like I'm already like so like I can't wait for the snow to get here. And get into another season.
And the thing that I love about it now is being an adult and a business owner is it's one of the few things that really takes me out of the way it makes me present.

Justin Jackson: You know? Yeah.

Brain Casel: Like being, you know, going down the mountain on a snowboard like you have to be present, otherwise you hit a tree or something, right? So like, that's one of the things that, like, for me is like a forcing function to like, it's, it's relaxing it's active, but it's it relaxes my mind.

Justin Jackson: Yeah.

Quote 02:

Justin Jackson: That was like my kind of introduction to the industry. Yeah, they're still around "" and by this point, his whole story was so interesting because, you know, he was this a really good snowboarder. And then had these injuries and had to pivot. And then he started making these snowboards. And because he was a snowboarder, he and he was also just kind of engineering-minded.

He knew how he wanted to build these and shape them. And so he was doing all of this by himself. And then it got popular in Japan. So he started building all these boards for Japan and was doing great. But then there were so many orders that he had to hire somebody, and they really messed up in order.

And it almost bankrupted him as a company, And so I was the first person he'd hired since then. And he's kind of like he's just a really unique guy. Like he's kind of grumpy and just doesn't like working with people. And so I had to really prove myself. I wanted to work in the office like I wanted to do business stuff like sales and marketing and, you know, all that stuff. But he was like, No, you got to start working in the shop and I'm terrible. What year is this? This is 1999 or 2000. I'm 19 or 20 at the time and he gets me working in the shop and at this point, we're mostly, I mean.

Brian Casel: 1999 I mean snowboarding is already pretty big at that point. Like it's snowboarding a big deal by that point and like all that. Justin Jackson: Yeah, snowboarding was at that point you know, the first wave had already happened for sure. And that was probably actually peak snowboarding. I think my generation was peak snowboarding from 95 to 2005. Yeah. It's probably the best that's around the time, but we're.

Brian Casel: Probably around the same age and I yeah, I picked it up in.

Justin Jackson: Like high school and into college and yeah, I mean, it's hard to explain to people now, but snowboarding was a cultural phenomenon, like every kid had a snowboarding poster on their wall, whether they snowboard it or not. It was like every kid was buying Snowboarder magazine whether they were snowboarding or not.

Quote 03:

Justin Jackson: I teamed up with initially it was like I was working a full-time job, and so we hired my brother to manage it. My younger brother and I were probably 21 at the time. And then my friend Adrian was a skateboarder and I started my first business ever really was in grade 12 with him. We'd put on a rave together and actually done really well.

Brian Casel: And so another cultural force of the nineties.

Justin Jackson: Yeah, another cultural force in the nineties. And so it just seemed like this would be a great agent. And I, you know, he's a skateboarder I'm a snowboarder. I'd worked in the industry and it was, it just felt like this is going to be a great combination.

Brian Casel: And like location-wise, you want to do it in your hometown.

Justin Jackson: And we want to do it in our hometown, which is probably a mistake because this was.

Brian Casel: The area that that's like not that close to big mountains.

Justin Jackson: Yeah. It's we're like, yes, Stoney plain in Spruce Grove or these bedroom communities but that's still a lot.

Brian Casel: I mean, like even growing like I grew up in Long Island, New York. And then even up here in Connecticut, like there's plenty of snowboard and ski shops in the suburbs for these families who buy stuff. Yeah. So take road trips, right?

Justin Jackson: I think the problem was that Edmonton was still close enough. It was 30 minutes away It was a city of 1.2 million people at the time, probably. And I, I mean, I've written quite a bit about the real deal. The shop was called The Real Deal. I've written quite a bit about, you know, the mistakes we made. And I think one is just ignored brings people's natural momentum.

So if you're, if you're a teenager in Stony Plain, Spruce Grove on the weekends, if you're going to go shopping, you want to go to the big city, you want to go to Edmonton because it's exciting, right? It's, it's that you can hit a bunch of stores. You can go out to eat, you can cruise White Avenue and, you know, all the cool strips in Edmonton.

And we just ignored that. And that natural momentum and thought that people would care about like ideology, like, like shop local. But people actually don't give a shit about that stuff, you know what I mean?

The business of snowboarding (in the ‘90s) with Justin Jackson
Broadcast by