How Lean Startup helped a Skateboard Company

An entrepreneur named Nick Jones recently reached out to me after reading The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Customer Development. Nick is the founder of Lavish Longboards.

“Skateboards?”, you might be asking yourself? Yes, I might answer you, “skateboards”.

You might then ask, “But don’t Lean Startup and Customer Development only pertain to technology startups?”

While I could outline why I have a passion for applying Lean Startup thinking to all sorts of domains outside of technology startups — I thought Nick’s own words speak volumes.

(Nick has allowed me to share our conversation over Facebook, which I have annotated slightly.)

Nick Jones:
Hey Patrick–Thanks for putting the Entrepreneurs Guide to Customer Development out there! It’s helped me with both longboard customers, and growing a user base for my skate-app! Looking forward to your next book!

Patrick Vlaskovits:
awesome. great to hear. would love any specific stories about how it helped.

Nick Jones:
It helped me with the boards by pushing us to define our actual target customer, and getting a little more precise with our product-market fit.

We were under the assumption that our eco-friendly board was a “one size fits all” product, which was complete BS. We were using google/facebook ads and targeting everyone from teenagers, to age 40-50 athletic/outdoor men.

[This is the default belief upon which many entrepreneurs first operate.

Who wants my product? Everyone.  WRONG! 

With The Lean Entrepreneur we hope to stamp this out once and forever.]

After 18 months of basically shooting for every possible skate demographic under the sun, breaking even, and marketing to skate shops nonstop, we decided to drill down and only market to two key groups.

One was the new entrants to the sport, the other was ppl who liked #Longboarding or #Skateboarding, and #Recycling on facebook. So we hit those two groups hard with ads, and sales grew by 2.5x in a 2 month period.

[As Brant Cooper often notes, think ‘small’ to get big.]

Of course we realized that these were our 2 biggest segments based on returns from our previous ad spends, but we were skeptical about ONLY marketing to them. We haven’t looked back since, now we’re hitting them hard, as well as only marketing to small handmade/funky/quirky retail shops.

[A product and segment are a dyad. Like two puzzle pieces, they have to fit without being forced.]

Stings a little bit to not be killing it with skate shops, but having a high return with the quirky shops helps ease the pain. We estimate that 70% of our customer’s first board is a Lavish one, so moving forward we’re slowly rolling out more advanced models for the riders looking for a more intense experience (downhill/freestyle).

[This shows strong understanding of their segment.]

Whenever we design a concept board, we email just 10 cruiser-customers to hear their response on it, usually around 4 are interested and willing to pre-order. So I guess my major takeaway would be committing to segments, and not thinking our board is a one size fits all type product.

[Sounds simple, right? Certainly simple, but not easy. Kudos to Nick for getting this far. The future of Lavish Skateboards is a bright one.]

Brant Cooper’s and my next book, The Lean Entrepreneur takes Lean Startup to the mainstream. Expect more stories about how a Lean Startup approach moves the needle in businesses big and small.

PS You should order The Startup Pack so you can get video tutorials on how to segment your market properly.


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