Upstarts: Torstein Horgmo & Andreas Wiig On Being AWSM

AWSM Cofounder Torstein Horgmo

AWSM Cofounder Torstein Horgmo

In an industry laden with creative minds and innovative ideas, numerous small businesses are still finding success launching their marketing models around this type of low-cost  branding strategy despite the influx of big-budget players.

Add to that roster the masterminds behind the AWSM project—professional shredders Andreas Wiig and Torstein Horgmo—and the brand recognition meter goes through the roof.

“We started it in 2009 with just a sticker—It represented all the things that we thought were truly fun,” says Horgmo. “It had nothing to do with what we were paid to stick on our boards. Andreas and I always talked about starting a company and I think we were just waiting for something that felt right for us.”

For the two riders, the idea behind that first sticker and what it represents is still the backbone of the company. Now, a little more than two years later, Wiig and Horgmo are taking their vision to the next level by developing something for the consumers who seek “product that holds up to the standards and stresses of an active individual, while not having to compromise fashion and fun.” AWSM’s debut collection of belts, wallets, skate tools, T-shirts, hoodies, and backpacks is set to hit retail March 15, followed by signature series for newly signed team riders Christian Hosoi and Ryan Decenzo, dropping in July.

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Horgmo carved time out of his hectic schedule to sit down and answer ten questions with TransWorld Business, shedding light on the new product and the ethos behind the brand and where it’s headed.

When and why was AWSM Brand founded? As professional athletes, what inspired you to get involved in the manufacturing side of the industry?

For years, we have been involved with supporting our sponsors doing design, R&D, and providing technical input. We always come up with new ideas and tweaks on things we would like to see. It's just hard sometimes when you are not in the design process 100 percent and can’t give the final say on things. That's definitely one of the reasons we decided to start our own thing.

What gap or opportunity within the market did you see with hats, belts, wallets, etc?
We felt the accessory market needed attention. If you look at the margins, selling accessories, bringing awareness to the retailers and putting focus on them, you see that you make some great margins. When people like a brand, they want to be a part of it. When items are way too far out of their reach, then all they really can get is a sticker and they do not feel completely engaged. We are offering the consumer and retailer something AWSM and functional at a great price.

Why launch a brand now in tough economic times?
One of the best times in history to launch a brand is in tough times, when others are cutting back and struggling. We can bring some new ideas and keep the end consumer in mind by keeping the products priced right for all people to be a part of it. We just need to educate the retailers and show them that it is possible to make money and attain high margins in this economy.

What do you foresee as the biggest challenge in launching AWSM?
At this point, we see no issues at all. Stay positive, do the right thing and give back to those in need. We are trying to be apart of a larger picture, not just thinking of only us but people all over the world. We are doing many social awareness programs to bring attention to people in need in different parts of the world.

What has been the response from retailers?
We have had very limited interaction with retailers at this point. The ones that have seen the products love it and are super stoked on what we are doing. We want to grow the business day by day and always keep it fresh.

Will you be distributing internationally as well?
Yes, we have Japan and a few other countries on lock already and we have placement in a few countries as of now. Many more to come in the very near future!

How do you hope to continue to build on your team? What other ways will you market the product?
The AWSM team is really important to us and is naturally our main source of marketing. We have a really good crew right now in both snow and skate and plan to continue building on it. It just has to feel right every time.

What else can we expect from the brand in the next six to twelve months?
AWSMNESS!

Do you plan to stick to accessories, or will the brand be expanding into other product categories?
Just the fun stuff – nothing more then accessories at this point.