Recently, I had the opportunity to interview the founder of Loaded Boards Don Tashman. For those not in the know, Loaded Boards is a leading manufacturer of high performance bamboo longboards, longboard wheels, longboard skateboards and snowboards. Currently, they have just released a new conversion kit the can motorize any skateboard on the market with electric power.
Tell us about your background.
I grew up in Los Angeles and went to New York for college. I studied literature but spent most of college building skateboards as a way to get around NYC. After college I traveled for a bit and ended up back in New York in the late 90s and ended up working at a “dot com” during the first internet growth period. I got super lucky and sold all my stock options in early 2000 (just before the crash) and moved back to LA. After many years of building skateboards as a hobby, I launched Loaded in September of 2000. 19 years have gone by and it’s been a hell of a ride. Aside from many years of fun and learning via Loaded, I’m now technically an adult (I guess), with a wife and three kids and doing my best to maintain a healthy work/life balance.
Give me one word that describes you the best.
I asked my wife and she said either curious or passionate. I’d say irreverent.
Who got you into skating?
My mom. She grew up in LA and built skateboards out of her old roller skates and planks of wood. So all my siblings and I grew up with skateboarding in our blood. That said, coming across snowboarding in the early 90s is what really stimulated my passion for longboard skateboarding and trying to recreate the experience of snowboarding on pavement.
What can you tell me about Loaded Boards as a company?
Loaded Boards’ mission is to grow board sports through performance, community and creative expression. The impetus of the company is and always has been to gather a great group of people together to help push the boundaries of what a skateboard can be, to share the stoke of skateboarding far and wide, and to facilitate the growth of worldwide community via the vehicle of skateboarding.
What do you hope to accomplish within the next year?
As a company, our goal in the next year is to expand on our electric skateboard endeavors while continuing to grow our standard skateboard offerings. My personal goal for the next year is to maintain work/life balance while spending even more time focusing on developing new and innovative products.
What do you value most about your company’s culture and vision?
To paraphrase the Real Estate cliche: it’s three things: people, people and people. It’s taken a long time but we’ve got a great team gathered with similar goals and ideals. We’re dedicated to creating innovative products and experiences and to sharing the joy and stoke of skateboarding. This makes it much larger than any one person and is, in our opinion, a very noble pursuit.
What was the worst early struggle to creating your company?
Candidly, it was the initial seven years of being financially upside down. I did believe in what we were doing but there were many points during those first seven years that I almost threw in the towel. I also credit that experience of constantly having to pick myself up as one of the most strengthening experiences of my life.
Describe your a-ha moment at which point you knew your venture might actually become a success.
It was actually a few things that came together all at the same time (2007). We had just found a wonderful manufacturer (Ernie DeLost at Capital L in San Diego) allowing us to produce consistent high quality product, we rebuilt our sales team, we started launching videos on youtube with Adam Colton, and we launched the Dervish board–which was a culmination of the technology we’d been developing and which was the first drop through flexible carving board.
What was the best advice anyone ever gave you, and did you follow it?
Graduating college I spent a lot of time soul searching. My dad pushed me to jump into the corporate world. My response was, how can I do that if I don’t know what I want to do. His response was to jump in and use that to figure out what I wanted to do. He was right. I ended up spending a few years moving through and within companies, learning all about different aspects of business and what I liked and didn’t like. That said, I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up.
What do you like to do for fun?
Spend time with the family of course. I also still like to skate but I’m a bit more focused on surfing, snowboarding and bike riding right now. I love living in LA and sampling all the diverse and exciting things this city has to offer.
What is Loaded working on now?
All kinds of stuff including new boards, new wheels and some innovative electric concepts. Unfortunately I can’t share much more than that at this point. Stay tuned.
What can you tell me about the new Electric Skateboard Conversion Kit?
Last year we teamed up with the immensely talented team at Unlimited Engineering in Barcelona. They had developed a modular kit that could be applied to pretty much any skateboard. We partnered with them last year and are now doing worldwide marketing and distribution of the kits as well as custom completes using our boards and wheels. There are many great electric skateboards on the market and we wanted to do something different. These kits are the first to allow you to use existing high performance skateboard components to enhance the skate experience. It may seem like a subtle distinction but it’s really quiet profound and, most of all, tons of fun.