Five Companies You’ve (Probably) Never Heard Of

By • Jan 21st, 2011 • Category: Features, Latest, Random

It seems like every clown has a clothing company now. Any why not? This is America, where rumor is, you can do anything you want. All it takes is some ingenuity, a little bit of cash and a ton of hard work, and there you have it, your own clothing brand. At least, that’s the dream. Most people though, never get beyond the idea part, and having an actual operating business isn’t as common as you’d think. The following five brands come from across the country (and even one in the middle) and all have their own unique style. The one thing they all have in common: the are all owned and operated by real people who really love snowboarding.

Common Apparel

Established: September 2010
Location: Duluth, Minnesota

common-apparel.com

Yobeat: Why would you start a snowboard company in this economy?

Nate Blomquist: I started off small and just used my own money I had from working. I am pretty young for a business owner which means I have few bills to pay so the risk wasn’t too high to start up this business. I just feel snowboarding is going to get bigger and it seems like a good idea to get in to this market.

What’s different about your brand?

It would definitely have to be the exclusiveness. I don’t print too many of the same designs and I have more color choices. I make sure that my clothing is high in comfort and quality. My brand is based around a taller fit because it should just be the common fit anyways.

No really, why should people support you and not some other independent brand?

I think people should support Common Apparel because its uncommon but common at the same time to wear our products. As a rider operated company we notice the change in style in snowboarding and Common Apparel adapts to the changes. Everything made by our company is made by riders.

Who are you and why do you think you’re qualified to run a business?

Well I am Nate Blomquist and I am 18 years old. I am from Plymouth, Minnesota but am currently living up in Duluth. I have been selling stuff on the internet for years now such as broken technology I get from people I know and other items. My main business was when Nike SB Dunks were hot and were limited. So I would just buy a few pairs of each shoe that came out and sold them for more on eBay. The way I think is usually business related. I just thought, why not combine what I love to do and a career choice of business. All I do everyday is skateboard or snowboard. I just thought it would be cool to start a business in the market I fit in to. I think I am qualified to run a business because I keep track of all my records and I manage money well. I notice what sells and what doesn’t at the same time figuring out what people want. I take suggestions from people which is cool because big companies don’t get the little talk of what the riders want. I like being able to make what I want and pick the designs.

Rumor is snowboarding is shrinking and skiing is the next big thing. Do you plan on sponsoring skiers to make more money?

I don’t think I would really because money isn’t everything. Skiing has its whole different style and that would be difficult to keep up on all the trends of skiing while focusing on what snowboarders want. Common Apparel is targeted for snowboarders and skateboarders.

What will you do after you get rich off snowboarding?

If Common Apparel does get big that means I would get to ride a lot more and that is what I want. If business does increase I will just keep making the quality better and better. That would be my dream to make it big in snowboarding because I could pay my school off and not be in debt for years to come.

Epoch Apparel

Established: October 2007
Location: Tacoma and Bellingham, Washington

epochapparel.com

Yobeat: Why would you start a snowboard company in this economy?

Kyle Macdonald: Really, we didn’t start it in this economy. Truth is we’ve been a “start-up” for going on 4 years, but four years ago we didn’t know that we’d love sewing and hooking people up so much, so we keep doing it, regardless of what some big Wall Street stuffed shirts tell us about our money.

What’s different about your brand?

We make clothes that are fun to make and fun to wear, and we make them. Everything we make or ever have made was made by one of 4 people in a basement or a barn, by hand.  Because its all made by hand by one of us, we try to keep everything original and different, so no two people ever look the same.

No really, why should people support you and not some other independent brand?

We don’t want people to just support us. I think that in “this economy,” passion and creativity is all we got, and independent brands are putting their hearts into what they love, so I say, support ‘em all! Don’t forget about us, though.

Who are you and why do you think you’re qualified to run a business?

We are John Goetz and Kyle MacDonald, and one day, we decided to learn to sew. We love sewing, so you can count on being your hoodies second lover, because we probably loved ‘er for 3 hours before you even set your eyes on it. If it fits a little weird or smells like us when you get it, it’s because we wore it already, because we love it. Is that enough? And John is a business major in college, for what it’s worth.

Rumor is snowboarding is shrinking and skiing is the next big thing. Do you plan on sponsoring skiers to make more money?

We would love to be able to live off of what we do, but it’s not about the money for us. We have been supporting people of all kinds for a long time, because we don’t want to just recognize people killing it in the snowboarding industry, but we want to show our appreciation for anyone who is making it happen for anyone or doing anything rad.

What will you do after you get rich off snowboarding?

Keep sewing.

Gnarly Clothing

Established: November 2009
Location: Laguna Beach, Ca

gnarlyclothes.com

YoBeat: Why would you start a snowboard company in this economy?

Jon Francis: TO BE CLEAR WE ARE ONLY MAKING CLOTHES, NO SNOWBOARDS.   BUT IT DIDN’T NECESSARILY  MATTER TO US WHAT WAS GOING ON WITH THE ECONOMY OR SNOWBOARD INDUSTRY AT THE TIME.  BOTH THE ECONOMY AND SNOWBOARDING WILL ALWAYS BE CHANGING.  THE BIGGEST THING WAS THAT WE WEREN’T REALLY BACKING THE DIRECTION OF A LOT OF THE OTHER CLOTHING COMPANIES OUT THERE AND WANTED TO SHOW THE WAY WE SEE SNOWBOARDING, AT THE SAME TIME MAKING CLOTHES THAT WE ALL WANT TO WEAR.   SO A LITTLE OVER A YEAR AGO, KEEGAN, DYLAN, AND I GOT TOGETHER, PUT OUR FRIENDS ON THE TEAM,  AND STARTED ‘GNARLY’

What’s different about your brand?

WE ARE SNOWBOARDERS AND SKATEBOARDERS MAKING CLOTHING FOR SNOWBOARDERS AND SKATEBOARDERS.  NO CORPORATE BOSSES TRYING TO TELL US WHAT IS COOL OR HOW WE SHOULD MARKET OUR COMPANY.
WE GET TO PUT OUR FRIENDS ON OUR TEAM REGARDLESS OF THEIR STATUS ON THE TW EXPOSURE METER, AND FOCUS ON SUPPORTING THESE KIDS THAT WE BELIEVE IN.  THERE ARE A LOT OF UNIQUE INDIVIDUALS INVOLVED WITH ‘GNARLY’ AND WE GET TO TAKE EVERYONE’S IDEAS AND IMPLEMENT THEM INTO EVERYTHING WE DO AS A COMPANY.

No really, why should people support you and not some other independent brand?

I DON’T EXPECT EVERYONE TO SUPPORT US.  THERE ARE LOTS OF HATERS, COOL CLIQUES, AND IN AND OUT TRENDS IN SNOWBOARDING.  WE ARE JUST GOING TO STICK WITH WHAT WE LIKE, AND THE KIDS WHO SUPPORT US CAN COME ALONG WITH, THE REST CAN DO THEIR OWN THING AND THAT DOESN’T BOTHER US EITHER.

Who are you and why do you think you’re qualified to run a business?

MY NAME IS JON FRANCIS.  I WAS THE MARKETING DIRECTOR AND TEAM MANAGER FOR A CLOTHING COMPANY CALLED AMBIGUOUS FOR THE BETTER PART OF 7 YEARS. I WAS A NATIONAL SALES MANAGER FOR ONE OF THE LARGER CORPORATE COMPANIES IN THIS INDUSTRY (WHICH WAS A JOKE), I’M THE SNOW EDITOR FOR BL!SSS MAGAZINE, I’VE BEEN SNOWBOARDING SINCE  THE YEAR KEEGAN WAS BORN, AND I HAVE THE SUPPORT AND HELP FROM MY PARTNERS KEEGAN VALAIKA AND DYLAN FAIT.

Rumor is snowboarding is shrinking and skiing is the next big thing. Do you plan on sponsoring skiers to make more money?

NOT SURE IF THAT IS TRUE OR NOT, BUT I DO KNOW SOME KIDS WHO RIP ON SKIS AND I COMPLETELY BACK IT.  FOR US, WE WILL NOT BE MARKETING TOWARDS SKIING THOUGH, MONEY OR NOT.

What will you do after you get rich off snowboarding?

I WILL STILL BE SNOWBOARDING.  TRAVELING AROUND THIS AMAZING WORLD!!!

Owner Operator

Established: 2007-2011
Location: Providence, RI and New York, NY.

www.operatorusa.com

Yobeat: Why would you start a snowboard company in this economy?

Steven Kimura: We didn’t start Owner Operator in this economy.  We began working on what eventually became our company in 2007, maybe year before the bankers managed to destroy the global economy.  Pete was freelancing for fancy fashion brands in NYC.  His unease about how reliant the industry was on exploiting cheap overseas labor ended up becoming a driving force behind how we conduct our business. When the economy crashed and he was put out of work, he finally had the time we needed to get started sewing.

We’re also fortunate that all the giant companies are dropping their pros for double-corking, energy-drink guzzling kids.  We figure that there’s an entire untapped market of former pros that still need gear to ride in, but don’t want to buy anything from the mega-corporations that put them out to pasture.

What’s different about your brand?

We design all of our products for ourselves, our friends, and our families. We’re not chasing the same naive teenage market that the rest of the business world is ever scrambling after.  Our business is not to attempt to package “coolness” for re-sale to insecure kids.  Owner Operator is about providing a classic product at a fair price.

No really, why should people support you and not some other independent brand?

People absolutely should support other independent brands.  If every dollar is a vote for how you want to the world to be, consider what you’re voting for.  There was a time when practically every brand was independent, and we were all the better for it.

Who are you and why do you think you’re qualified to run a business?

We’re just two people, with some help from our friends.  I’m a frustrated artist living in Providence RI, with my wife and baby girl.  I work in Boston all week, and spend the train commute trying to figure out how to keep Owner Operator running. Pete is an out of work menswear designer living in Hell’s Kitchen, NYC living on food stamps.

Our business plan is simple. We scrape together whatever cash we can, design and manufacture our products locally, and mark them up enough to hopefully keep our company running.  We’re just trying to do the right thing, the only way we know how. Hopefully that’s enough.

Rumor is snowboarding is shrinking and skiing is the next big thing. Do you plan on sponsoring skiers to make more money?

I plugged my TV back in last winter to watch Downhill in the Olympics.  The women’s Downhill ended up being the only part of the Games that I saw, and it was amazing.  If we could sponsor them, we’d do it in a second.

What will you do after you get rich off snowboarding?

If I was suddenly rich, I’d use the cash to build Owner Operator into the best snowboarding company in the world.  I’d quit my full-time job.  If we ended up really flush, we could get Pete off of food stamps.

Upstate Clothing Co.

Established: 2007
Location: Brooklyn, NY

www.upstateclothingco.com

Yobeat: Why would you start a snowboard company in this economy?

Mike Callaghan: I don’t think I ever actually “started” a company. It just kind of happened. People kept asking me to make more shit, so I did. And here I am.

What’s different about your brand?

We actually put a lot of focus on how our stuff fits and feels. We don’t just print on short and boxy tee’s like 95% of people out there. Plus we make beer koozies. Who doesn’t like beer?

No really, why should people support you and not some other independent brand?

Because you’re supporting a good group of dudes by doing so. We’re not out to be rich, we honestly just want to make some good shit, that’s not all crazy prints or crazy colors, that you’ll be psyched on wearing. Everything that we make right now, you’ll love wearing in 3 years just as much as you do today. Not like those tall tee’s that are already sitting in bottom drawer hiding your porn mags. By supporting us, you’re supporting all that is good in snowboarding. By not supporting us, you’re saying you want snowboarding’s future to be nothing but superpipe and Sal Masakela’s. Do the right thing.

Who are you and why do you think you’re qualified to run a business?

I’m just some 27-year-old dude from New York that just fucking loves snowboarding. In my 15 years of riding I’ve seen it all. Seen dumb styles come and go, and I just want to make sure that style still remains a huge part of snowboarding. More so than how many times you can huck yourself upside down and “sick” you are at chugging energy drinks. I’m not sure if I am qualified to run my own business at all. I’ve run stores for years for big ass companies, but when it comes to my own company, I’m learning.

Rumor is snowboarding is shrinking and skiing is the next big thing. Do you plan on sponsoring skiers to make more money?

Absolutely not.

What will you do after you get rich off snowboarding?

Buy 30 packs of PBR instead of 12 packs.

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33 thoughts on “Five Companies You’ve (Probably) Never Heard Of

  1. Gerg!

    I see this was tagged “made in the USA”. Are any of these clothing lines actually made in the USA, or just by Hu’s minions? Other than the obligatory screened American Apparel shirts anyways…

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  2. jerm

    so you all want to make quality goods that are unique and designed for snowboarders and skateboarders. sounds pretty standard to me. but best of luck to you, some of the stuff looks alright

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  3. mn

    im backin upstate, if my money is going towards 30 racks instead of twelvers, im down to help that guy get drunk. gnarly seems more well known though

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

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  4. upstatemike.

    WHY IS GNARLY SO ANGRY AND YELLING AT US??

    good article. bunch of good people keeping it real. it’s refreshing to see a site focusing on the small companies that may or may not be the next hot shit. either way, they’re all still killing it right now. thanks yobeat!

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  5. bleh

    everyone basically doing the same thing, yeah gnarly thats fucking annoying learn how to use a keyboard and maybe ill buy your shit

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  6. lame

    gnarly is already being distributed (and loved) in Germany. And with advocates like Keegan and Jonas, they seem to have a good head start to all the others in terms of publicity and credibility

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  7. el Beno

    Did the Gnarly interview actually help the cause, or hurt?

    Listen, the name “Gnarly” is gay and the logo is fucking wack. Fuck peace.

    On top of that, you wanna type the whole thing in CAPS like a fucking amateur??

    This would have been a good chance for a jump-off. Kinda blew that one…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 2

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  8. JohnSton

    Gnarly is sick, but you can’t buy/find anything but tees.. When are those hoods, pants, and other items going to be available?? Where can I find them?? Found one shop that had their crew sweater but only had small and shmedium.. Hard to support a company if you can’t find their shit..

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  9. JohnSton

    ps. selling direct wouldn’t hurt sales.. If it’s an issue with the shops you’re selling wholesale to, sell at a little higher of price on the site and offer stickers or some shit to make up for the mark up.. Gnarly definitely has il shit and one of the best teams in the game. Gotta respect what their doing and who they rep. Also whoever handles your emails sucks. Customer service is always key in the success of running a legitimate company. Keeping it G and respectful too, but don’t neglect the people that are trying to contact you and find out more information about your new company..

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  10. jibber69

    bad color block sweats ere the new screened t. at least somebodys making a jacket even if it looks old.

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  11. Bags O'Ass

    I like the Epoch stuff, but seriously, gettin’ tough with a Boxer on a leash is like frontin’ with a sloppy pink rubber dildo.

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  12. Carsion

    YA EPOCH!!!!

    these guys are sick and rad people. all of their gear is had sewed and sweet.

    LOVE EPOCH!

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  13. Scottie

    upstate puts it down hard and has a line that stands up without super pro endorsement. and i like that.

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  14. Andrew

    I’d like to see this with snowboard companies.

    maybe

    Caked
    Launch
    Automaton
    NW!
    Blak sheep

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

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  15. Peter

    Owner Operator USA stuff is really well cut and weatherproof, was riding up at Mt Baker, Mt Hood and all over Utah for the last couple months. At Baker, the weather was intense, wet rainy snow at the bottom, that would freeze on your body during the lift ride up to the top where the powder was, it was the wettest climate ive ridden in all year, and all the outerwear stayed 100% dry.

    Its good to note, that the pants and the jackets are cut and sewn in the NYC, and it actually functions. Take notice when wearing it at the mountain, you will be the only snowboarder in domestic outerwear that was made in the last 20 years.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

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