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May 2008 | Vol. VII - No. 5
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Sport Technology Goes with the Flow

Distinctive Boards Take Innovation to the Right Markets


“We ask kids because what we think is cool may not be.”
Want to snowboard in the summer? Ten years ago the answer would have been, “Yes, but…” Now, the answer is the Flowboard. Its distinctive construction — arced axels with multiple wheels — enables one to carve at a 45-degree angle on concrete, just like snowboarders or surfboarders do on snow or water. Michael Kern, CEO of Sport Technology, told TDmonthly Magazine how the Flowboard became the flagship product of Sport Technology, the company for innovative sport boards.

CARVING INNOVATION

We led the innovation with the Flowboard. Other people have tried to make devices with the same kind of motions, but no one has come close to creating the Flowboard feeling — the fluid edge and motion of surfing and snowboarding.

After the scooter died out, people were looking for the next thing. The Flowboard emulates surfing, snowboarding, skateboarding, extreme sports — everything that was getting popular. When I first saw the Flowboard, I knew that it was a viable product.

Before the Flowboard, I was in manufacturing, distributing, importing and licensing of clothing and other products. In 2001, a guy in our warehouse brought the Flowboard by before it was on the market, and we thought it was cool.

We had to patent the Flowboard before moving forward, so we found the guys who originally made it in San Francisco. We already had distributing and manufacturing in place, so we licensed it and bought the patent and the company in 2002.

DOING DEMOS ON THE ROAD


Growth was fast, which allowed us to market and attend trade shows. Snowboarding and skateboarding writers were publishing articles about the Flowboard.

We advertise on national television and attend trade shows from Toy Fair to action sports and surf shows like the SIA (Snow Industries of America), ASR (Action Sports Retailers) and Surf Expo. Sales reps across the country represent our products.

We sponsor a lot of competitions — like the U.S. Open and the X Games — where we do demos. We have a 40’ tour bus that we take to state shows and skate parks so we can demo the product.

HITTING THE RIGHT DEMOGRAPHICS

Before the Flowboard, four-wheel skateboards were the only thing out there, and a lot of people wanted to stay with what they were already using. We had to target different demographics because the Flowboard wasn’t welcome in the pro channels. The toy market and surfers were more open to it.

We’ve launched products that we thought were viable, but the buyers weren’t there yet. It can take five years for the public to “get it,” so now we don’t take things until they’ve proved positive.

Because of the Flowboard, a lot of people have come to us with their inventions. That’s how we got Snowskates, which is doing phenomenal. Our new products have allowed us to expand internationally.

Focus groups are key. We ask kids, because what we think is cool may not be. When assessing a new product we look at what it will take to manufacture it, the margins, what the market can bear, and whether it fits into our distribution.

DEVELOPING GROWTH

We’ve grown by 200 percent since 2002, and the size of the company has probably tripled. Seventy percent of our manufacturing is done in China, and we have 30 to 40 employees here for isolated assembly and another 10 in upper-level positions.

We don’t invent things; we develop them. We want to help people get into the business.

We find inventors and help them bring their product to fruition by manufacturing, selling and distributing it.

If you want to get into the business, listen to people who have been doing this for a long time. Don’t be stubborn and think you have the greatest product or idea.

We see a lot of people who think they can do it on their own, but in this "Information Age" it’s sometimes better to let other people do the distribution because it takes six to seven years to build momentum.

Here’s the Flowboard and some of Sport Technology’s other products:






The Flowboard is built with the patented 14-wheeled Deep Carve System (DCS) which sets the Flowboard apart from regular skateboards. The design enables a rider to carve through 45-degree turns with smooth, fluid transitions from edge to edge. Challenge All Cars dimensions are 36"L x 10"W with a concave design.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 18209      (added 4/1/2008)
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AD




The Snowskates that "actually" skate. Easy to ride, just like a skateboard. Solid construction with stainless steel hardware, for durability and has adjustable ski suspension to customize the feel. Don't get caught on the slopes with out it.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 17462      (added 2/11/2008)
.
AD




The Flowboard is built with the patented 14-wheeled Deep Carve System (DCS) which sets the Flowboard apart from regular skateboards. The design enables a rider to carve through 45-degree turns with smooth, fluid transitions from edge to edge. ATOMIC BETTY dimensions are 42"L x 10"W with a camber design.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 18211      (added 4/1/2008)
.
AD




The 7-ply Canadian Rock Maple wood skateboard features 7" lightweight aluminum alloy trucks, bomb abec-7 bearings, cast polyurethane wheels and a deck dimension of 37"L X 9"W. No assembly is necessary.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 18213      (added 4/1/2008)
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AD




Sport Technology Inc. Pro Skateboards Completes are available in 31.5” X 7.5”, 7.75”, or 8” and in medium concave. Canadian Rock Maple wood with poly resin glue. Fully assembled truck set w/ hardware and wheels, and choice of colors.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 18215      (added 4/1/2008)
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AD


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Elizabeth GreenspanWriter's Bio: Elizabeth Greenspan edits and writes for trade and technical publications. She has interviewed and collaborated with some of the top practitioners in their fields. She lives in Philadelphia and travels extensively for her work. Read more articles by this author

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