Sales were swimming along at a fast clip, but in order to keep growing their business, Tom Losee and Jeff Archer knew they needed to pick up the pace. So, the founders of YOLO Board, among the first stand-up paddleboard companies in Florida, launched 15 new boards that other outfitters around the U.S., plus countries like Costa Rica, Belize and Jamaica, rent out. (Consumers can buy them through authorized dealers with e-commerce sites.) They partnered with surfboard shaper Steve Brom on the race models.
After that, Losee and Archer didn’t slow down. They expanded again, by opening a second YOLO Board store in California last November. They also released a mobile app called SUP Event to provide fans with information about stand-up paddleboard races, events, news, and rentals in many destinations.
The Intuit Small Business Blog recently caught up with Archer to chat about how he turned his favorite hobby into a viable business. He’d just come off the water and changed into his typical “office attire” (a T-shirt and shorts), which seemed to embody what YOLO stands for: you only live once. “That’s how I feel when I’m out on the board. I feel like I’m a kid again,” Archer says.
ISBB: How did you get into stand-up paddleboarding? At what point did you spot a business in the sport?
Archer: I surfed as a kid, have been active my whole life, and have always worked in fitness-related careers. The first time I got on a stand-up paddleboard, two things that struck me were how easy it was and how fun it was. It’s a very simple sport with no learning curve. Plus, it’s very inexpensive. The traditional board is one entrée into introducing people to the sport.
Explain how this is a cutting-edge sport and how you’re tapping into something new.
All you really need is water, a board and a paddle. The prediction is that inland areas will be the majority when this sport’s in its maturity. It’s good on whitewater, reservoirs, bays, rivers, and the ocean.
How does the process of designing and manufacturing boards work? What have been some of your challenges?
We subcontract out the stand-up paddleboard designs to a designer in the U.S., Steve Brom. He makes us one, then we test it, and then we send the order to an overseas factory.
When we got into the sport, the only logical place to sell these was at surf shops. Initially, surfers weren’t too keen on the sport. They saw it as “goofy.” The solution was to self-distribute and to also sell over the internet (through Yolo Board’s site and other online stores).
What other income streams have you created?
We hold a race series locally, the YOLO Board Relay Race Series in Destin, Fla., which brings in 124 paddlers at a time. It’s great community building and not just a competitive event. It just completed its fifth season.
How did your previous jobs prepare you for launching and growing YOLO Board?
When I was 23, I was managing partner of a clothing line in Los Angeles called Crazy Wear. That was the beginning of learning how to run a business. I’ve also founded a home-accessories and furniture company (EastCo Trading Company, the furniture manufactured in Indonesia). They all started with the same thing – a blueprint and
a good team.