How To Build A $8000/Month Surfboards Business: An Interview with Ventana Surfboards Co-Founder, David Dennis

Hi, I.m David Dennis, Co-Founder, Ventana Surfboards & Supplies.

Key Statistics

a. Monthly Revenue: $8000
b. Date Started / Years in Business: December 2014
c. Location / Homebase: Santa Cruz, California
d. # of Employees: 2 co-founders, 0 employees

In the beginning (or even now) do you maintain a full-time job while launching?

My business partner, Martijn Stiphout, is our master craftsman. He’s dedicated to Ventana full time. I work for Microsoft in our online ads business and have been there in various roles for more than 17 years.

Most of my Ventana marketing and sales activity is done after hours or in the early morning and on weekends, but I work from home, so I have some flexibility with my time. Of course, I need time to surf, too!

How did you acquire customers/subscribers/users?

We use social media to document the process of building each of our unique, wooden surfboards and to promote our collaborations with other environmentally conscious businesses.

We also put on our own or participate in pop-up events where we meet customers and sell our apparel, surf supplies, bodysurfing handplanes, and wooden surfboards. We also use some very storied reclaimed woods in our surfboards and the craftsmanship is some of the best in the world, and that draws a lot of press interest.

We have wood offcuts from the Santa Cruz Guitar Company and Potato Boards skateboards, hull wood from John Steinbeck’s Western Flyer boat, wood from Venus Spirits whiskey barrels, wine barrels from Soquel Vineyards, benches from the Monterey Bay Aquarium, redwood floorboards from the late 1800s, historic wood from Mission Bell Reclaimed, and even wood from artist and marine mammal scientist, Jessie Kendall-Bar, that was used in a deep sea research experiment.

The Ventana Upcycled Partner Program list is pretty incredible. The publicity we garner from our wood stories helps us acquire new customers, and promotes our partners’ businesses, as well.

What software / platforms / tools have you utilized since launch?

I actually did a presentation recently on how we’re marrying old world craftsmanship with new technology. Our website, e-commerce solution, and point of sale are built on Shopify, which we love. We also use MailChimp, Etsy, Survey Monkey, Shipstation, QuickBooks, PayPal, Office 365, Google Suite, Google Analytics, and a host of other smaller, point solutions. We’re also on every social media platform, even some that are nascent and not yet well known.

How did you fund your startup and how do you make money/revenue?

We started with a small investment from each of us. We bootstrapped the company with only $15,000 and launched with a limited number of products at a holiday pop-up event here in Santa Cruz. It was a big success, and we’re profitable and growing ever since. We made an explicit decision not to take on investors nor debt … even if that meant slower growth. We want to continue to control our own destiny and make our own decisions.

To date, what have been your biggest challenges as a company? What have you done to overcome them?

Our biggest challenge has been my time. I love my work at Microsoft, and I need to focus most of my time there. Our ability to grow our wholesale business and manage scale opportunities has been limited by that. At some point, we’ll look to bring on a third partner who can help.

If you had to do it all over again, would you? What would you do differently?

I’m not sure we’d change much. We operate as a lean start-up and always try to fail-fast and iterate on ideas and new products before we invest too much money in something that might not succeed. There are certainly a few products that we know now weren’t promising ideas, but hindsight is 20/20, and mistakes are great learning opportunities.

Lastly, if anyone reading this wants to know more about your company… where do we send them?

Our website is ventanasurfboards.com.
You can find Ventana on:

  • Instagram: @ventanasurfboards
  • Twitter: @ventanasurf
  • Facebook: @ventanasurfco
  • And on YouTube, Houzz, Pinterest, Flickr, LinkedIn and Reddit

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How To Build A $8000/Month Surfboards Business: An Interview with Ventana Surfboards Co-Founder, David Dennis
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