Lifeblood Skateboards was created about six months ago when long-time skateboarder Bryce Kanights started conversations with the founders of Portland, Oregon’s Unheard Skate Supply Ethan Bettencourt and Colin Sharp. Kanights, who grew up skating in San Francisco, has been in Portland for close to three years and has pulled together a crew of skaters for the new brand that includes Kevin Kowalski, Johnny Turgesen, Frank Faria, Mason Huggins, Oudalay Philavanh and Cody Lockwood. Anchored with other regional brands under the Unheard umbrella, Lifeblood’s main goal is to grow organically over time.
“Unheard Distribution has a healthy relationship with all of the big core shop retailers, including distribution and online retail,” says Sharp. “You can expect to see our products at Eastern Skate Supply and AWH distribution as well as a number of International distributors in Sweden, Spain, the UK, Japan and Australia. The online shops such as Skatewarehouse.com and various core shops around the country are excited to start carrying Lifeblood products.”
Kanights answered a few questions for TransWorld Business about the new brand and gave us his take on the evolving and ever-changing skate industry. Here’s what he had to say:
Why did you decide to launch Lifeblood right now? How long have you been working on the idea and why did you decide to launch the company in the first place?
The timing of Lifeblood’s launch wasn’t so calculated really as we’ve all busy with our day jobs and numerous other projects in process. The idea for the brand developed towards the end of this past spring after a few conversations with Colin Sharp. We both thought it would be a good fit to represent the up and coming all-terrain skaters of the Northwest and beyond. From there, we discussed it with Ethan and agreed to move ahead with the plan to film our debut promo video with the team and move our collective involvement and investment forward.
Tell me a little more about Unheard Skate Supply.
It is a small, yet growing skate distribution business owned by Colin Sharp and Ethan Bettencourt of whom I’ve partnered with for Lifeblood skateboards. Together, they founded Unheard in 2009 to help nurture several Northwest skateboarding brands and various companies that help fuel and support skateboarding in the region and other areas.
Do you plan to continue your career in photography, or will you be too busy with this new business venture?
Like skateboarding, my photography work (inside and outside of skateboarding) will continue as a part of my lifeblood (no pun intended); it’s what I’ve enjoyed doing for the past twenty-five years of my life. In fact, I see Lifeblood skateboards as another extension of my photography work and I’ll be working closely with our team riders on all marketing materials and shoots in the months and years ahead.
How do you see the brand growing over the next year and what are your long term goals for growth and development?
Out of the gate and in this economic downturn, we’re aligning ourselves with the phrase, “Slow and low, that is the tempo” by the Beastie Boys. All the while, we intend to have fun in what we do with Lifeblood and its team of riders and contributors. We’ll begin to work on a full-length video in the coming year along with some shorter, viral-specific marketing pieces too. In the months ahead, we will continue to build upon the team that we have in place by adding a few riders in select regions to help grow the brand. There are other ideas and goals in our mix, but if I told you, I might have to kill you.
When will initial product drop and what will it include?
We’re aiming to have our first offering of goods available this fall. As a new brand, we’d like to grow organically by offering only a few decks, a few tee shirt designs and build up into a healthier catalog in the future.
What do you think of the overall state of the industry today compared to when you first got involved and how do you see that changing and evolving in the next few years?
Well, the skateboarding industry as a whole is a much larger beast than it ever was in the 80s. Consider that we now have the internet, mobile media devices, online retailers, a surplus of blank boards, free videos online, televised skateboarding competitions, public skateparks, skate coaches, and more. Skateboarding is more polished and accessible to the mainstream today and sure it’s completely changed for businesses, but then again go ahead and ask a die-hard pool skater or street skater and it could very well feel quite the same to them as it did years ago. At its core, the purest form of skateboarding is skateboarding, despite all of the change and ephemeral stuff. Nothing endures but change, and as a business you need to be resilient to it.
Why do you think there is a place for a brand like Lifeblood in the industry and what do you hope to accomplish with the branding and marketing of Lifeblood?
Skateboarding is going back to its roots. We grew up skating everything that we could get our wheels upon. As kids we skated the streets, backyard ramps if and when they were available, ditches, pools, pipes… it didn’t matter; there were no divisions or categories of skaters. That’s what Lifeblood is all about; no boundaries, skate everything! We want to reach out and inspire the skaters and kids that want to ride it all.