Looking back on 40 years in the surf industry, Paul Naude says that every chapter of his career has been a learning curve. Here are four key learnings that he’s putting to use while launching his new company, which includes new men’s surf brand VISSLA and eyewear/accessory brand D’BLANC.
1. Funding – DIY Approach: “The company is privately funded. I’d prefer to have to answer to myself. I believe that this funding together with facilities from financial institutions should be sufficient for the foreseeable future. If investment is required, then I believe there’s been more than enough interest to give me confidence that investment will be available. But at this juncture, I’d rather focus on what I’m doing and answer to myself. It sometimes can be time consuming having to explain and justify decisions to people who don’t instinctively ‘get it.’ And I’d prefer to avoid that for as long as possible.”
2. Staffing – Leaner and Meaner: “Most people starting new brands who come from large organizations do it in a more nimble, leaner manner. And this company will be no different. I think if you structure a company with a blend of strong experience and talent, you can be more nimble. I think there’s also some tremendous resources in this industry in terms of outside contractors. So with a blend of that, I think one can shape a company differently than one could do 10 or 15 years ago. So this company will be lean and focused.”
3. Feeling– Let A Bit of Instinct Lead The Charge: “From a personal point of view, I question whether this industry, which is really driven by creativity and a somewhat free-spirited approach… I question whether that’s not a contradiction with being publically traded. And satisfying what I sometimes call the ‘unsatisfiable’ shareholders. But that’s a personal opinion. There were some benefits that came out of being publically traded. I’ll take some of those public company learnings and apply them, certainly more on the financial side, to create financial discipline within my new company. At the same time, I want to have a strong, youth-driven organization, where we let a little bit of instinct lead the charge. I think it’s necessary. I think this industry was built on creativity, fearlessness, and naivete of youth. And I don’t think that’s changed. I think as an industry we may have steered away from that a little bit. Maybe not deliberately, but maybe just based on how the industry grew, and I hope we can bring a little of that back.
4. More Surfing – For Critical Perspective and Inspiration: “I don’t intend on surfing any less. I intend on surfing more. I had about 5 months where I surfed every day. It gave me a completely new perspective of surfing in Southern California. Fortunately for me, the innovation of a lot great surfboard shapers insured that I had a great time every time I paddled out. There were days there where I surfed 15 days in a row and rode a different board every day, between a 5’6” and a 9’6”. So it was really an enlightening period for me in terms of the whole surf thing. My intention is to surf as much as possible, and I think it’s important.”