Hoping For A Hook-Up

BroForm.com is organizing a pro-form clearinghouse on the Internet.

Pro deals are one of the great perks of working in a shop, and one of the great headaches if you’re a manager or owner. The paperwork, phone calls, and hassle associated with this low-cost product offered by manufacturers to shop employees often outweigh the benefits–for manufacturers and retailers alike.

But a new Internet start-up called BroForm.com hopes solve many of these problems by offering a one-stop source of pro-deal programs from a wide range of snowboard, skate, surf, BMX, wakeboard, and motocross brands.

"BroForm.com was conceived as a service solution that utilizes the Internet to solve what I found from my own experiences as both supplier and buyer to be a poorly executed marketing and distribution channel," says BroForm.com’s CEO John Telfer. He notes BroForm.com will not compete with any other existing distribution channel and is an entire area that’s escaped attention in the dot.com blitzkrieg of the past six months.

According to Telfer, BroForm.com offers four important selling points. First, BroForm.com provides virtually unlimited intra-industry market reach for a manufacturer’s pro-form program. It also eliminates collateral expenses such as those from design and mailing, and frees up a brand’s customer-service representative, says Telfer. Next, the program hopes to allow brands the ability to communicate directly with the industry. "Finally, it allows manufacturers to get up-to-date results on their pro-form program, which is a valuable planning tool reflecting where their new products and brands stand with the most influential users."

Telfer emphasizes that he hopes to form a long-term service company: "Our mission is to enter into a service partnership with suppliers. We’re listening to the needs and demands the industry has for a centralized business-to-business Internet site, and we hope to provide everything they need. Finding out those needs will be one of the primary jobs of our category managers. They’ll proactively understand the changing mechanics and demands of their specific markets and develop the solutions to those demands."

Telfer says he’s had several companies already sign up for the program and fully expects many others to come on board this spring. "Everyone we’ve pitched the idea to likes it and seems really interested," he says.

Telfer, who has been in the snowboarding industry for years, says he’s trying to keep his organization close to the markets it serves by only hiring people from within the action-sports industry. "We are committing to that mission to the point that we intend to limit ownership–in terms of private investment in the company–to individuals within from the action-sports industry with the exception of some limited personal friends and family. While the Internet investment community would surely take exception to limiting ourselves so exclusively, we’re convinced it’s necessary to ensure that the interests of the industry come first–after all we’re establishing a long-term service company."

If everything goes as planned, Telfer says he hopes retailers and manufacturers will one day view the entire pro-form process as simple and positive: "Our goal was to reduce the negative vibes associated with pro-form programs and put the positive vibe back into the hook-up relationships–we’re putting the bro back into the pro form."