Five women have joined together to rock the snowboard world. With a little bit of help, they hope to pioneer a 'core snowboard company aimed at the growing women's market but equally respected by the critical men's pro realm as well. The idea was first bounced around by Leslee Olson, who quickly recruited well-established top female pros Cara-Beth Burnside, Janna Meyen, Roberta Rodger, and Tomo Yamakoshi from Japan, and dubbed the project Chorus snowboards.
With rumors leaking out about the company early November, Olson, Burnside, Meyen, and Rodger bum-rushed the SNOWboarding Business offices on three days' notice to explain just what was going on with the new brand. Interestingly, no other team has shown such enthusiasm or willingness to talk about their project.
"It's going to be sick," says Meyen with obvious excitement.
"This hasn't been done before," adds Olson, referring to the women's brand. "We're going to push each other, but all work together."
Olson got things started in July by approaching Junki Yoshida, the Portland-based owner and financial backer of M3 and MLY snowboard brands, and Premier snowskates.
With Yoshida on board, the brand got instant access to M3/MLY's Portland factory, plus administrative services and the increasingly important M3 and MLY reps. The sales effort will be overseen by Mark Miller, while the brand brought in former Morrow marketing director Georell Bracelin as its new marketing director.
"This will not be labeled as a girls'-only board line," says Bracelin. "But we've seen so many girls riding guys' boards, we know there's a market for this."
Rodger explains why she thinks the girls' team will benefit in performance and further the level of its riding: "It's hard being the one girl on a team full of guys. But we're friends, and we want to support and help each other. Of course, we want the respect of guys as well. We all have the skills. If we ride together, we can do it together and improve the image of the women's market."
Miller says previous attempts at women's-specific snowboard lines have either gone after the girly market or simply been an afterthought. "We're not going to design boards with pink and blue colors," he says. "If you look at one of our ads, you won't know if it's a boy or a girl riding."
He believes the line is going to be quickly accepted. "We've already talked to retailers and reps," says Miller. "They see what we're doing, and the shops are in. It's not a conflict for our reps because they really only sell men's boards right now." The brand will also have instant access to eighteen distributors in Europe, Australia, New Zealand, and Japan. But Miller admits that the U.S. is the place where it all has to start.
He isn't as concerned about getting the products in the shops as he is about getting them out. "People are always looking for something new to carry and create hype. So we have to create a pull in sales."
To help with this, the company will have rider-driven marketing, backed by a full budget. The teamriders understand the importance of photoshoots and filming, but they'll also travel to contests and shops trying to spread their enthusiasm about Chorus.
"We want to be the standard," says Meyen.
However, the group knows this isn't going to be a slam dunk. "We know it's a building process," Bracelin adds.
Miller is excited about the group's chemistry. "If you look at the teams that have been around, the successful ones had riders who decided to hang together and as a group became more important than just their individual talents would have made them."
This team hopes something similar will happen. "We left good things to do this," says Meyen about parting with Burton as a sponsor to pursue the new project. But she has no regrets.
The brand will be offering an introductory small freestyle-board line with five sizes, ranging from a 142 to a 157 in size. The boards offer a dual-progressive sidecut with full-length woodcores and full-wrap edges. Base material is sintered with a stone-ground base finish. The boards will be made in Portland, Oregon.