We're welcoming Stereo to The Boardr Store this week so I stopped and talked with Chris Pastras aka Dune. He started Stereo with Jason Lee back in 1992. I made the conversation mostly skateboard bid'niss as I'm doing with most of these interviews. As I get older and spend more time working in the industry, I get more and more interested in others' stories about their experiences working in skateboarding.
One thing that seems to be common is this quote from Dune: It's amazing how you can start a company to skate and make art, but wind up having no time for either if you're not careful. We know all about how fun work can take over your life as you concentrate on building your skateboard company. It's easy to get trapped in the work side trying to pay the bills. Check the full interview with Dune below and browse some Stereo Skateboards products here.
Can you give me the quick history on Stereo - when was it started and by who?
It was started in 1992 by myself and Jason Lee, along with the help of Deluxe distribution. We really wanted to stand out and go against the grain with where the industry was at during that time, much like the smaller brands making a statement today. We had a strong vision with graphics, video and team, and made sure we stood out in our own way.
Is anyone else in ownership besides you and Jason Lee?
No, it's just us two.
What's your main position and day to day like?
I do a little bit of everything, and always have. But brand director and co-owner is what's on my email signature. Sounds really fancy! It winds up mostly being me just coordinating every moving part and making sure each of those moving parts have deadlines, and that all those deadlines match up correctly. Team, sales, art/design, video, and the budgets for them all have to be on point and working together with Syndrome (our distribution), so I have my hands in each of those departments and jump in wherever it's needed. So I guess you could claim I'm part TM, part marketing manager, part creative director, part social media guy, and part back end biz guy. But I do have an awesome crew of guys helping me out behind the scenes and busting ass too including Ron Rauto and our boy Clem, that is definitely key to all this juggling! I'm also working on adding skating and art back into that daily mix. It's amazing how you can start a company to skate and make art, but wind up having no time for either if you're not careful.
How has running a skateboard company changed today vs back in the time when you first started?
There have been a lot of ups and downs for the industry and for Stereo. The only real constant in skateboarding is that there is no constant. Ha! You always have to stay on your toes and be willing to work harder and learn. Just because a company made such and such millions and last year you bought it means nothing. I think that's why most of the conglomerates bail out after a few years. It ain't an IRA account. You have to live it and love it. Stay thirsty my friends...ouch, that was really corny.
Is skate business generally the same since the evolution of social media, videos going online, etc or is it pretty different?
No not at all. It's definitely changed. A lot of times the first thing people do when they are interested in a skater these days is check out his world on social media and their online videos. Sad to some, but true, and just a sign of the times. The way I've looked at that whole thing has been advantageous, not the other way around. Our budgets have gotten tighter, so if we can access people instantly to show a new board series, a new rider, or promote an event, and not have to wait 3 months to see it in print...why not??I'll see you there tomorrow.
How do you generally find kids that get on the flow program? Through the homies and friends network or are random kids still sending in videos for sponsorship all the time?
Online videos! Ha. Quite a few of the newer guys we have found me via a friend or their shop sending me their videos via Youtube or a link of sorts. It's a bit of both, and mostly a combination of the two...a shop or buddy will say, You have to see this kid! is how it starts most of the time.
I hear Jason Lee is pretty particular about certain things in business. Is he actually involved in the day to day at Stereo and participating in things like the rider decisions?
Not so much on the day to day office life front, but he definitely has strong input on the team and all the major decisions we make. He still gets out in the streets and shoots with us from time to time which is always the best time ever. And he provides humor. Never underestimate the power of the funny man.
You're both older and more experienced now. Knowing what you know now, what advice would you give to your young selves right now as you were starting Stereo back in the day?
I think most skaters knew exactly what they wanted and who they wanted to be by age 15. We're all just trying to learn how to get back there without the mental baggage we've created as adults. As far as what I'd say...Stay focused, stay humble, and eat your Wheaties.
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