I contacted the folks at Blumenfeld and Associates PR firm to arrange a Hoamboards interview prior to the show. I was expecting to speak with Pete or Gus Hamborg; instead I was connected to Don Sandusky, Pete's cousin. He appears in the Shark Tank with Pete and Gus this Friday, October 8. “I'm the good-looking one,” he joked. Don grew up about as far away from Huntington Beach as you can and still be in the USA. Don's from Presque Isle, MAine – a community not usually associated with surfing.
When I first contacted the PR firm to arrange the Hamboards Interview, I was expecting a conversation with Pete or Gus. Don did not disappoint. His knowledge of the background and business end of Hoamboards was vast. Don's not a surfer: “I know how to surf, I just don't get much of an opportunity out east except for some potato surfing.” He's no longer in Maine, but he's in the equally non-surfing community of Landenburg, PA.
Hamboards Interview Background
Don didn't grow up living the California lifestyle. He didn't meet his cousin Pete in person until they were adults, but they struck up a friendship and stayed in touch. He's a smart guy: he has his Ph. D. in Applied Polymer Science from the College of William and Mary and he worked with NASA on components of the International Space Station. After working for the DuPont Corporation for ten years, Don became an entrepreneur in the sporting goods industry.
“10 years ago, I started a sporting goods business that I eventually sold to Warrior Sports. It was a dream transaction because after I sold them the business, they made me head of Brand Development. I was working for them and they wanted me to move to Detroit. I thought about it and realized that I didn't want to do that and I probably wasn't going to be the best employee. At the same time, Pete's business was starting to take off. He was really out over his skis from an administrative standpoint, I don't think he's balanced a checkbook since the 1970's, so I resigned from Warrior and took on Hamboards full time.”
“Pete and I started our businesses around the same time. When I sold, he was just augering in. In 2009, he had a simple web store, doing $6 K a year, but since then, business has doubled each year. It's the classic ‘S curve' for a new business.”
“I run my part of the business from a home office. I go out to California every 6 weeks or so. Pete, Gus and all the California guys have really responded.”
Paving the Wave to Shark Tank
“We were doing all right, but one night I was out at the local 19th hole with my former partner. He's a CFO type. After a few drinks, he said, ‘you need to get Hamboards on Shark Tank.' When I got home, I banged out an email, then kind of let it go. A month later (March 2013), I was at my son's lacrosse game and I got a call from a producer. They asked me to send in a tape.”
“Shark Tank isn't too keen on skateboard start-ups. They had a half-dozen or so apply last year, but they were all the same. Hamboards stood out because it's this big, surf-board sized thing. Plus they have the ‘ABC Family' component: the blond, California surfing family. They're straight out of a Disney movie.”
Hamboards appeared in a movie, but not a Disney movie. They were featured in the sacreligious 2012 movie, The Three Stooges.
Surfing in the Shark Tank
Don filmed the Hamboards segment in July, but he couldn't tell me what happens in the Shark Tank. He did share some of his experiences.
“We had a blast. It was like letting a bunch of little kids loose in a warehouse. Once we finished taping, we went all over the studios. I have to believe we were going places we weren't supposed to, but everyone wanted to try one. We hung around for four or five hours after we taped and ended up selling $3,000 worth of Hamboards in the ABC parking lot!”
We wanted to go out and celebrate after the show, but we got to Huntington Beach, had one beer, the went to bed!”
Don and the rest of the Hamboards team are ready for the Shark Tank Effect. The team built as much inventory as they could and they re-vamped their website to run on Amazon Cloud Services. “We have all the memory allocation we could buy and we've established ‘triage groups' to deal with all the media and consumer interest. We have decision trees set up and everyone has their assigned responsibilities. If things go haywire, it wasn't because we haven't tried.”
Party With Hamboards on the East or West Coast
Whether Hamboards got a deal in the Shark Tank or not, they're going to party like they did! For the first time in history, a Shark Tank business will host TWO simultaneous viewing parties, one on the east coast and one on the west coast. If you're in the area, stop in and wish them well.
Mama's on 39
21022 Beach Blvd
Huntington Beach, CA 92648
Mike and Nick's Italian Sports Bar
300 Lantana Drive,
Hockessin DE 19707
“The thing I know about business is the inspiration, idea, and the product are the easy part. The thing that kills people is the on going administration. And remember, whatever doesn't kill you, makes you stronger, except for maybe bears!”
I had one other question for Don which he answers over at the Hot Dog Truck.