Industry: Lifestyle & Consumer
Products: Binding-free powdersurfing boards
What do you do if you can't find the right equipment to actualize your dream? After coming up with a different way to get down the mountain, Jeremy Jensen started his own company.
"I started Grassroots Powdersurfing because there was not anything out there like it," he says. "I discovered a new way to have fun in the snow -- a new way to interact with the mountains. I wanted to share that." Jensen loves skating, snowboarding, and surfing. He knew it was possible to combine aspects of all three sports into one, but the tools weren’t there.
At first, it was a passion project for Jensen. "I didn’t start it with the idea to make money," he explains. "I just wanted to spread the new style and share with the rest of the world what could be done by combining all three sports. If it made money, great. But I think that passion is what makes it special. We are unique and sharing something completely new."
Jensen created his first boards in his own home, collecting scraps and other items he could find. "I built presses and molds. I experimented for years with the materials I could find. Everything started, really, from nothing because I did not have any extra money to spend," he says.
Once he had a good model, it was time to show the world what he created. Using video, photography, and social media, Jensen continues to share his products and adventures online while improving his boards.
"The product has been refined over the past decade as R&D continues and we continue to push the progression of powdersurfing into bigger mountains and into varying snow conditions," he says, noting that he's tweaked "board thicknesses, base materials, and species of woods used in production" over the years, as well as the contoured channels and traction pads on the boards' bases. "I am always refining what I create to give the rider the best possible experience."
Researching and developing more optimal shapes is a primary consideration for Jensen. "They have to be as good as they can be," he adds. The fact that this particular part of business requires him to spend more time with a sport he loves is an added benefit, he admits. "I have to constantly test boards and gather media of the boards in action. This creates an outlet where I can get out riding a lot. For my business, I have to make it a priority to get out."
Grassroots Powdersurfing boards are found in shops all over the world, including retailers in United States, Europe, Japan, and Canada.
"I would say 65 percent of the business is direct sales online," says Jensen. "I focus most of my efforts on selling direct because the greater return is absolutely crucial for my small and niche business. I do like to work with core retailers and specialty shops in certain areas of the world to help strengthen and spread the Grassroots name. Even though the return is not as great, there are still many benefits to having our product in shops that are passionate and knowledgeable about powdersurfing."
Currently, Jensen sells between 200 to 300 boards a year. "And that has me building all year long," he says. Before he can make the decision to manufacture more, he needs to see an increased demand, which has been happening gradually over the past decade.
"Powdersurfing is growing," Jensen says, particularly due to the short films he produces and shares on social media. "It's getting more popular. But it will never be as big as snowboarding, never be on the same scale, because this sport takes real dedication. It's not for the casual weekend warrior. You don't have to have insane skills. But you do have to make the effort to find the right terrain and the right conditions -- like surfing. It takes a little savvy."
"This process has been cool," Jensen concludes. "To see it grow from an idea in my head to a product I created all on my own to an item that is sought after by people all over the world. It’s especially cool to have many of the professional athletes that I used to look up to so much in my youth coming to me to buy my creations -- that is very rewarding."
Challenges: Education. Because both the sport and its equipment are new, Jensen must educate before he can sell. "People did not believe it was possible to snowboard without bindings," he says. "They did not know you could be in control without being strapped in. For the first three or four years, it was me dealing with the doubters and nonbelievers. It took a bug push to show them what was possible."
Opportunities: New promotional initiatives and events, including a film with Warren Miller. Jensen will also be promoting his business more extensively in Japan. "There's a big following there," he says, "because they have a different attitude. They have more respect for handmade boards."
Need: Time. Jensen is growing Grassroots Powdersurfing organically, but he knows it could grow faster if he had more time to dedicate to it. "I've finished my master's degree, work other jobs, and I have a family. It's a hefty load to carry."