Sven Alwerud, President of Jelly Skateboards Inc. doesn’t look like your average CEO.
Sven Alwerud – with the “Man O’ War” longboard
But honestly, I wouldn’t buy a product from someone who didn’t live and breathe the world around skateboarding – would you? As Tony Hawk once said, “skateboarding is an art, a lifestyle and only in the end – a sport.” Alwerud truly understands this concept and with his clear, customizable, flexible skateboards (for all levels) that combine the essenceof snowboarding and surfing, Alwerud not only lives the lifestyle necessary to run his brand, but he also embodies the traits of a highly successful entrepreneur.
His tenacity, integrity, creativity, passion for his product, humility, and remarkable customer service and brand management skills are just a few reasons Alwerud will make Jelly Skateboards the next big thing in the $5 billion dollar skateboarding industry.
The Genesis of the Jelly Skateboard
The idea behind Jelly Skateboards originated from two Southern California locals with a deep passion for surfing and skating. At just 15 years old, high school friends Sven Alwerud and Cody Leuck began to “design their ideal carving machine, hacking away at crude skateboard prototypes made of bulletproof glass, in a side garage nonetheless.” But let’s face it, most of the greatest inventions/ideas happen in garages – right Apple?
Alwerud loved a particular prototype so much that he rode it everywhere – right up into his college years at Cal State San Marcos. While cruising around campus every day, students quickly took notice of Alwerud’s model skateboard and became obsessed with wanting one; they loved the original take on a classic concept. So once again, the partners began crafting additional prototypes in Cal State Chico’s machine shop (where Leuck had been attending school.)
According to Alwerud, “by combining vintage shapes and modern cutting-edge materials, we were able to create a bulletproof, clear, customizable, flexible skateboard that captured the essence of surfing and snowboarding. And in March of 2012, the company was officially incorporated and Jelly Skateboards was born.”
Facing challenges and the importance of networking
Alwerud found a unique way to not only locate investors, but to support himself and market his product. But it wasn’t easy. I had a chance to speak with the entrepreneur recently and here’s what he had to say about his initial experience funding Jelly Skateboards.
VS: What would you say is the most challenging part of beginning a start-up and what lessons can you share from this experience?
SA: The most challenging part for me was finding the capital. I bootstrapped the venture and it wasn’t easy. However, I realized that networking is really the key and used my job bartending at an up-scale restaurant to my advantage and eventually it paid off – literally.
VS: How So?
SA: I made friends with many of the customers and several of them were pretty wealthy. I told them about my product and ideas and eventually met my key investor. This partnership allowed me to grow the business and eventually I tripled my revenue. However, before I met this investor I bootstrapped everything by bartending at night from 7PM until 3AM, then traveled around to trade shows all day – some several hours away – and then drove home to go back home to work again at 7PM. I did this 5-6 days a week – for 2 years. The grind was brutal, but so worth it.
SA (con’t): It’s all about networking and using what you do have (even if it’s a mindless day/night job) as leverage. I found an investor by working at a place where I was able to meet new people everyday – high quality people who gave me great advice/contacts and that’s also very important. And working at night also helped because I had time during the day to market my product at tradeshows etc… But it all took time and the willingness to never give up.
What makes Jelly Skateboards unique?
Unlike wooden boards, the clear Jelly boards are customizable, heat resistant and 100 percent recyclable. Wooden boards require a layer of Polyvinyl acetate, making them impossible to recycle. Jelly boards don’t require that layer. These factors combine to offer a skateboard that provides stability, flexibility, and serious durability, and all in an eco-friendly recyclable product. And honestly, they look pretty badass.
The Man O’ War and Kingslayer
The Jelly line offers 2 skateboards:
- the KingSlayer, a short board with a 20 degree kicktail that combines the flex of a snowboard and the flow of a surfboard
- the Jelly Man O’ War, a longboard on Bear Grizzly 852 trucks. Flipping the hanger on the Man O’ War transforms the carving truck into a downhill truck – making it highly versatile. The boards come with Jelly Rolls center-set, square hard lip urethane wheels. Attachments can also be customized.
Yes, technically the Jelly skateboards are bullet resistant, but don’t go using your board as a shield anytime soon as the only gun a Jelly Board could stop right now – is a .22. But of course, unless you’re a secret agent or a mafia boss, that’s not the point of the product. However, it’s certainly a cool fact about the strong design. As Alwerud states, “the clear thermoplastic polymer construction provides the flexibility of a snowboard combined with the flow of a surfboard – making for an incredible ride.”
Jelly Skateboard meets BLOCK Risers Innovation
Once Alwerud had an investor in place, he and Leuck began working out of a shared office space (called Co-Merge, San Diego) which housed other innovators, creatives, and start-ups. While there, they had a fortuitous meet-up with Ari Hoffman, Chief Operations Officer of BLOCK Risers Innovation who then introduced the Jelly Team to the Founder and Chief Technical Innovations Officer of BLOCK, Kevin J. Seele. And the rest, as they say, is history.
The BLOCK Risers Innovation universal BLOCK system fits any kind of skateboard and turns your riser into a mount for different attachments. The GoBLOCK and StashBLOCK are the first two products from this design movement and are made for the base BettyBOX riser. The BettyBOX is essentially a hard plastic riser with an open side that fits into different connectors. All innovations became a great fit for the Jelly skateboards.
GoBlock with Go Pro camera
The first of the two innovations is the GoBLOCK. This gadget can be used as a mount for GoPro cameras and lets you film cool shots from the lowest possible angle, directly under the board. This allows creative freedom to catch front or rear shots with much less vibration and more room than the typical Go-Pro mount. Concealed by a top cover, the second innovation called the StashBLOCK allows the rider to carry money, keys, medications, or any other valuables they need in a discreet generously sized case.
GoBLOCK and StashBLOCK
Recognizing the natural marriage between the two innovations – Alwerud and Seele decided to crowdfund Jelly Skateboards and the BLOCK system together through the Indiegogo platform.
In addition, the two companies are also passionate about giving back to the community and 50% of their profits will be going to the Life Rolls On (LRO) campaign. LRO is a non-profit organization dedicated to improving the quality of life for young people affected by spinal cord injury and utilizes action sports as a platform to demonstrate the infinite possibilities beyond paralysis.
The Indiegogo campaign is 144% funded and both individual and retail orders are currently being taken with shipments starting September 2015. There are perks still available with discounted options for both long and short board Block system combos. But hurry as these perks, starting at $138, are going fast. You can also follow Jelly through these social networks for current updates and specials:
Photos/video courtesy of Jelly Skateboards