Local man gets into the snowboard biz
Brenton Woo is declaring war on the snowboard industry through his new business, Automaton Snowboards Company.
But it remains to be seen if his personal war gets stomped out by the corporate giants, who Woo claims are selfishly running the snowboard industry nowadays. Describing its current state as a sole proprietorship, Woo hopes to incorporate Automaton Snowboard Co. as a limited liability corporation in May.
Presently, Woo’s company, based in his Truckee home and only five months young, is very him – 100 percent him, in fact. Woo does the inventory, advertising, artwork and Web design for his company, and he plans to sell snowboards in a non-traditional way. He calls it a one-man show, at least for now.
“It’s D.I.Y. (do it yourself),” said Woo, sitting at his kitchen table, but acting as if he is standing on a podium, speaking in a microphone in front of many. “The style of my company is punk, and punk is war. When there is a breakdown in society, and people just aren’t happy with society anymore, punk happens.”
Woo, nicknamed “Wootang” by his college cronies, is attempting to transcend this punk ideology through snowboarding. He uses the same ethos that applies in the punk movement toward society to compare to his attitude toward the snowboard industry.
“That’s one of the main reasons I started my company, is discontent with the snowboard industry,” he said. “I’m just not happy with it.”
One of Woo’s entrepreneurial goals is for his company to grow, but in the respect that he wants it to become more of a community. For next season’s deck designs, he is having five different local artists draw artwork for his boards. Through his company, Woo is also hoping to help out friends that have interests in music and clothing.
On Woo’s official Web site, the Internet-goer will not read the typical business statement with corny one-liners and obtrusive selling ploys. Instead, it delivers all his anti-views toward the current snowboard industry.
“A major method of my marketing is sarcastic, cynical and self-deprecating humor,” Woo said with a grin. “Something that pokes fun at a problem in society.”
Apparently, Woo thinks the snowboard industry is a big enough problem to warrant abuse. The Web site is a good way to scratch the surface of Woo’s business – if you can digest it without taking it too seriously.
On the home page, Woo gives the visitor two options. One link allows entrance into the site, in which Woo claims he will “save snowboarding from sucking.” The other option is a “happy site” link that takes visitors to a teddy bear Web site.
“The whole point of my index site is a lot of people are scared to stand up for what they believe, and that’s bull—-,” he said. “If you’re about something, be about it. If you’re scared, you have your teddy bears and your safe spot. It’s kind of a joke.”
On the official home page, a hand rips a heart into two pieces. Woo said it is symbolic for turning something good into something bad – like the snowboard industry has done, in his opinion.
Very sarcastically, Woo tells visitors to send hate mail and bombs to his company address. In response to this, Woo said he simply wants people to take action.
“I want to make people feel,” he said. “There are a lot of people that are like mindless zombie drones out there that are always like bro this and bro that. They go through their lives and never feel emotion. I want to make them feel.”
Actually, Woo has his own term for these people, coined by one of his friends. Woo calls the meandering people “yarns.” And this same concept explains the company name. Automaton is defined as “one that behaves in an automatic or mechanical fashion.”
Since he is an avid snowboarder, Woo considers himself “about snowboarding.” He sees the snowboard industry as money grubbing capitalists who are not in it to represent the riders, but rather to make money off the sport.
“There is not a single company that is altruistic,” he said. “I want to give back to snowboarding. All the companies in the industry suck, except for maybe two, and they’re still making money.”
To think of the purpose of a business as a profit-seeker, Woo sounds contradictive to a certain extent. Why would someone start a business if they didn’t want to make money? Plus, those same “zombies ” are going to be the ones buying his boards, right? But Woo defends this by contending that he and Automaton represent the grassroots values behind snowboarding.
“(The industry) is just selling snowboarding,” he said. “That’s all they’re doing, and that’s lame. That’s stupid. For me, I take it personally because they’re selling my life. Thousands of kids like me sacrifice to live here. I want to give something back to them. We are snowboarders.”
Woo is not exactly a kid at 25, but for someone who rides over 100 days per season, he is living a boyish dream as far as snowboarding goes. He said most people choose to be snowboarders while sacrificing the 9-5 American Dream attitude toward living. Professional snowboarders come from this lot of people, Woo said, and the major industries are forgetting that.
“Of course I need to turn a profit to stay in business, or else I won’t be in business,” he said. “But I don’t need to be driving a Mercedes, I don’t need to own three houses, I don’t need to have a boat, I don’t need that. I just want to make snowboarding better for snowboarders.”
In case you are curious what Woo’s mission statement is, since he refuses to comply on his Web site, he makes a complicated basis simple.
“To uplift snowboarders,” he said. “I’m not here to suck the money and life out of everything.”
If Woo can succeed in his challenging business plan, he will be a positive role model to other businesses that desire to stay to true to their foundation. Assuming his company prospers, if Woo does get the mansion with a boat and a nice car in the driveway, he’ll be trying to defend a lot of I-told-you-sos.
“There’s a fine line between selling out and staying true,” he said.
To join the war on snowboarding, visit Automaton’s Web site at http://www.automatonsnowboard.com.
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