Get to know the team behind Savage Panda Custom Snowboards.
There’s a good chance that if you’ve been snowboarding in Australia you have surfed here too. A massive part of surfing is developing a relationship with the people who create your surfboard, ultimately having it completely custom designed to suit your style of riding. So why should snowboarding be any different? Well thanks to some legends out there, willing to take risks and push the boundaries, us snowboarders now have access to these ideals of board creation.
The home grown Savage Panda Custom Snowboards, based in Queenscliff Victoria, are doing exactly what the name suggests, custom snowboards!! We’re stoked here at ANZ Snowboarding that someone has put their hand up to fill the void. It nearly seems too good to be true. We're so used to something straight off the rack that has been designed to a generic standard of riding. Designing everything yourself, with some help from the experts, means that nothing is compromised and you will get the most out of your board day in and day out.
We caught up with Kate from Savage Panda, the woman driving the success of this company, to better understand the process and procedure.
Q. When did you first get the idea for Savage Panda?
A. The idea for Savage Panda Snowboards first came to us on one of our snow trips about three years ago when my equally tragic snow-nut partner in life and business, Simon (who’s a WAY better surfer than me!) was talking about his newest custom surfboard and the way he’d been working personally with his shaper to create a new board that would do what he wanted it to do – with no compromises. We both wondered on the outside of our heads why there wasn’t this FULLY customised experience available for snowboards. . . you know – not so called ‘custom’ that starts with a standard core where only certainly variables can be tinkered with. . .fully custom from the core out – just like Simon’s surf board. This wondering led us to explore what was available in the snowboard industry with such an intensely personalised experience and we couldn't’ find anything that suited. . . so we decided to fill this gap and Savage Panda Snowboards was born.
Q. Why did you choose custom snowboards instead of surfboards?
A. Oh this decision didn’t really even enter our minds. There are so many amazing custom surfboard shapers out there – all around the country and the globe, and they’re doing an awesome job. So there’s nothing missing for the surfing community when you look across their ‘truly custom’ landscape.
Where there WAS a real ‘missing’ was in the snowboard community. Manufacturers seemed to be churning out more and more boards, filling more and more racks in retail space, making their artwork more and more outrageous to claim their ‘share of shout’ on those racks. . . but how does this benefit the snowboarder? The experience on and with the mountain doesn’t improve because of ‘sick’ artwork.
Our experience on the mountain can only be improved when our equipment matches us – that’s what happens with our custom-made surfboards – our surfing. . . even mine which is pretty average to be honest. . . improves with the right board. Suddenly we are at ONE with the elements and it’s almost like the heavens open and you can hear the universe singing ‘laaaaaaahhhhhh’. This is the exact experience we want our customers to have with their fully customised snowboard – one that makes the universe SING with them. It’s poetry.
As you can tell, snow is our passion and whilst we live on the coast so we can hit the beach when we want to, the snow has a very special place for us – no matter which hemisphere. So, when we realised there was a gap in the market, a yearning out there among snowboarders to be put at the centre of the equation in the very sport we love so much, well we jumped in.
Q. So having made the decision to do this ‘fully custom’ thing, where did you start?
A. Well, given my 27 year background in PR and marketing, we started with R&D! We spent a good portion of 2016 in North America building on our snowboard building knowledge and working with some of the world’s best to further enhance this knowledge. We tested some equipment whilst over there to ensure that when it came time to fit out our tailor made snowboard factory, we purchased and imported the best of everything from the get go. Most of it came from the US, and it was an exciting day on the docks when it arrived, I can assure you! Recently we had a current Olympic coach visit our factory and he was blown away by the quality and extent of all the equipment we have on hand to personally craft each and every board. To use his words, “man you guys are really ‘custom’ custom aren’t you? It really is possible.” Yes we are, and yes it is!
Q. In a reasonably male dominated industry, you’re really breaking a mold starting a snowboard company as a woman. . .. how do you find it being one of the few women making a mark?
A. I think the essence of this is that women are, by nature, usually very collaborative and men can tend to be somewhat competitive. . .it’s a bit ‘my board is bigger than your board’ type mentality. . . it’s all a bit out-dated to be honest. There’s more than enough for everyone and it’s about finding your niche, your tribe, your ‘people’. What I’ve experienced so far is that people are so open and helpful, they’ve been willing to support and advise. . .it’s really been fantastic. But I’m also not new to being a bit ‘different’.
I’ve always been a bit of a renegade. For 27 years I’ve been in the PR industry and for almost 16 years ran my own PR business. But we don’t do PR like most people – in fact, senior Fairfax journalists refer to me as the PR Anti-Christ!
I’m ok with that because disrupting the status quo and being a bit of a rule breaker is where growth lives. Following the crowd will get you the same results the crowd gets. . . and in some cases that’s pretty ordinary! Standing apart from the crowd and challenging the status quo. . . now THAT’S sexy, THAT’S exciting, and THAT’S where poetry happens.
The same is true for Savage Panda Snowboards. We ARE unusual, we DO have people ask if it’s really, truly, fully custom, we HAVE raised eyebrows – with everything from our price to our promise. People are wondering if we can really deliver, or if we’re just another Aussie snowboard company that will be gone next season? And here’s the thing. . . business is just a reflection of WHO you are. We love people, we love listening to what they want, we love giving them a different way of looking at the world and their experiences. We’ve changed lives (literally) with the doors we’ve opened with the approach we take to PR, and we’re doing the same now with our Savage Panda tribe and changing people’s snowboarding experience beyond what they ever thought possible – and we do this by giving them their very own fully customised snowboard.
So, whilst I’m not Travis Rice or Jeremy Jones or Jake Burton. . . I am Kate, a person with a commitment to make a powerful, positive difference in people’s lives – whatever that difference may look like. I’m about connection, energy, being real, sucking the marrow out of life and giving to those who matter. For me, snow lovers matter, and I believe they deserve WAY more than what they’re being served up at the moment.
Q. What is your biggest motivation for Savage Panda and what is your goal?
A. I guess there’s two ways of answering that. One is very much our big, helicopter goal and that is to have a Savage Panda Snowboard on every snow field, every day of the year – that would certainly mean our message had been received, adopted and embraced.
The second is simply a goal about our riders. They are our focus, they are the ones who matter. Our goal is to give them an experience like no other, to engage with them, to really hear them, and craft a board that meets what they want so their time on the mountain is pure heaven. The boards we’ve built so far have been for people who want something better than the ‘norm’, others
know that their options are limited with off the rack boards, and some others, who are planning a Japan trip, have gone so far as to say there’s not even the right boards imported in Australia for Japan conditions!
So our goal is to make them happy – deliriously happy with a board that is truly part of them.
Q. What do you think is the biggest barrier you need to overcome?
A. I guess the whole ‘custom’ word has been bandied about for so long that people have lost touch with what it really means...there’s even some ‘off the rack boards’ that have the word ‘custom’ in them which is a bit misleading in my view.
So, I think the challenge is around language and really understanding of what being truly ‘custom’ really is – it’ll take a while for some people to understand this isn’t just a ‘buzzword’ that others have used – it’s the real deal – truly, fully custom and tailor made for each and every individual. Those who ‘get’ it, wonder why it hasn’t been done for before and they’ve come flocking to us for their boards. . .those who don’t get it. . . well, they just don’t get it, and it may take a while for the penny to drop for these riders, and that’s ok – we’re not going anywhere and when they ARE ready for a truly unique board, hand crafted just for them that will change their experience with the mountain, then we’ll be here – ready to design a board for them that puts them at the centre of the equation and gives them everything they’ve ever wanted in a board.
Q. Your passion is infectious, what advice would you give other women out there in the snow industry who want to make the mark like you are?
A. Gosh – this taps into not only my passion for snow, but my 16 years in business! Some people are of the view that if they love what they do, that will be enough. That’s not entirely true. You MUST love what you do of course, but without a hungry crowd wanting what you’ve got. . . passion will only take you so far. So, my advice would involve doing the due diligence and research. Ask the hard questions of those that know (and no, that doesn’t mean your family or Facebook!). Really immerse in the industry and ask people who will be brave enough to be honest with you. Clear, brave, honest feedback and counsel from mentors and those who know more than you are invaluable gifts that can shape the venture as it unfolds. And it can be tough for these industry heavy weights to be honest – it takes courage to have the tough conversations, but they can save you thousands and are well worth having in the early days.
I guess the key thing is that even though I'm only one of two women worldwide I think it is to own a snowboard company, the snow industry offers huge opportunities for men AND women who see an opportunity, do the right research and testing and then go for it, surrounded by brilliant mentors.
None of us can do this alone – they say it takes a village to raise a child. . . well it also takes a ‘boardroom’ (pardon the pun) or brains trust to start and succeed in a new venture. I love to see emerging new ideas and the entrepreneurial spirit soar, so if there are women reading this who have a great idea, then do your research, gather your mentors and go for it!