For all of you who love the rush of snowboarding and live for the time on the slopes you steal every winter, you might wince every time you see a “famous” snowboarder’s face on an American Express commercial. The team at StepChild Snowboards feel your pain—they don’t feel that snowboarding should be taking itself quite that seriously either.
“We don’t think of snowboarding as an Olympic sport,” explains Scott Murray, StepChild’s head of operations and international sales. “We remember when we had to break into golf courses to board, since they wouldn’t let us on the ski slopes. We like being small; it lets us push the boundaries and be outrageous.”
You don’t have to look far to find the reason that StepChild is more about fun than selling boards. Just look at the founders, Sean Johnson (a self-proclaimed “washed-up 90s pro snowboarder”) and his childhood partner-in-crime on the slopes, Brad Richmond. They grew up together on the slopes of British Columbia, Canada. Sean eventually started recording his antics for a video series called Whiskey starring Johnson’s alter ego Boozy the Clown. The name alone makes further explanation of the video series content unnecessary…
Once Whiskey started gaining some notoriety, Johnson and Richmond decided to start StepChild—not a bad idea, considering Johnson’s pro background and Richmond’s family owning one of the first skate and snowboarding shops in Western Canada. The company started independent, and remains independent to this day, and have the reputation of “standing out amongst a sea of mediocre brands lacking any kind of personality.”
And that’s the way the StepChild team like it. There is no board of directors, no investors, and all profit is sunk back into the company to keep it hopping. They’re all dedicated to snowboarding—they all ride, although at differing levels—to the individualism that the sport started with, and to the progression of the sport. Although not down the corporate route; StepChild prides itself on being the naughty monkey of snowboarding. In fact, their name comes from
back when Johnson used to ride professionally. He was always rowdy and therefore was referred to as the “red-headed stepchild”, spawning the logo of the kid viewed through a keyhole, like a latchkey kid.
The quality of their boards is proven with the professional riders that not just use the brand but have part ownership of the company: Simon Chamberlain of Quebec and award-winning J.P. Walker from the U.S., who was named as Snowboarder magazine’s top 20 most influential riders of all time. Need more endorsement than that?
So, if the boards rock and StepChild isn’t set on dominating the world of snowboarding, why start a clothing line? Simple: the kids dig it. That and the fact that StepChild is smart enough to see that Chamberlain and Walker are trendsetters, and take their advice about what they’re wearing while they board. Snowboarders who are more about the ride than the image will actually wear what’s comfortable.
“Younger riders were moving away from traditional outerwear and wearing hoodies,” says Murray. “We adapted by creating thicker, custom hoodies with thumbholes.” At first, production was hard to get on a regular schedule, so the products were coming out after the season’s start—which luckily, only made them more desirable.
After the recession hit, StepChild saw that if they were going to keep producing clothing, they were going to have to refocus their efforts, and stick to hoodies and t-shirts. When introduced to CPI Resources through a mutual friend, they quickly realized that they would be paying the same for manufacturing in the U.S. as they were in China for the same quality. Plus, logistics and communications would improve, as well as their ability to provide a steady supply of product to their selected small “mom-and-pop” stores that sell their product in the U.S. and Canada, many of whom they’ve worked with for over 10 years.
“Overseas factories deal with major brands, and we would often get pushed to the bottom of the pile, and the lead time was too long for us,” explains Murray. “CPI made us feel like we were at the top of the list, plus they’re very flexible and help us get the job done on time.” They’ve worked with sales rep David Vallandigham since the beginning, and the StepChild team has appreciated his patience, his understanding of the brand’s vision and his help in finding suppliers for different pieces. With the help of CPI, StepChild can create custom pieces that will be new and different, without having to wait for the product to be produced in China and shipped over.
“We are happy to do things domestically. We feel we’re a North American company, not just a Canadian company. We have many U.S. and Canadian riders, so we represent both,” says Murray.
Keeping it small and humble is what StepChild Snowboards strive for, and doing the right thing for the company and the sport. “We sometimes wonder how we did it,” says Murray. “How, by hook or by crook, we’re still in the game. We take heart in the fact we must be doing something right—and our suppliers are part of that. We look forward to building the relationship with CPI Resources and working with them for years to come.”
For more information on StepChild Snowboards and for a list of their dealers, visit www.StepChildSnowboards.com or use their online form to ask a specific question. For more information about CPI Resources and their services, visit www.CPIresources.net, or call (949) 975-1631.