The thing that attracts many to activities like snowboarding, skateboarding, wakeboarding, and bmx is the same thing that makes so many others not understand them and thats the individuality and creativity that these sports foster in its participants. Many times youll find that riders of all genres express themselves creatively in writing, music, painting, or other artistic endeavors. Such is the case with Akinz Boardwear founder Suzanne Akin originally from Texas and now living in Colorado. Akinz Boardwear is a small but growing clothing and accessory company that has everything from Handmade Beanies and Jewelry to original Graphic Tees. I was able to catch up with very busy owner Suzanne for a brief chat about everything from relocating a business across the country to creativity and the business behind the business at Akinz…
So I see that you were first inspired to start Akinz after you started wake boarding. What do you think it is about sports like wakeboarding, snowboarding, skateboarding, skiing etc that tends to inspire its participants to be creative in other outlets?
Well, they’re all sports that essentially the athlete is competing against themselves. There aren’t any set rules of which trick to do or learn next or anyone telling you to stay between the lines. It encourages people to get creative with their tricks and develop their own riding style. I think once the creative juices start flowing in one thing that you’re passionate about, they spread to your daily life outside your sport as well.
How was the transition from Texas to Colorado as far as business went, was it a hard decision to knowing you would in effect be starting over or was there a network already in place for you in Co?
Honestly, when I first moved to Colorado, Akinz didn’t see a second of attention for me for at least a year to a year and a half. I didn’t really think of it as starting over, I kinda thought that I would be moving on, but then I fell in love with snowboarding so much that I etched out a place for myself in the Colorado scene and definitely had to start over, but it was worth it.
So now that youve settled in how receptive have you found it to be for you in Co?
People definitely get a lot more clique-y in the snowboarding industry, so you have to know somebody who knows somebody to get your product seen (especially if you’re a small company with a non-existent marketing budget). But, I’ve found that once people meet you once, they are normally pretty awesome about helping you out however they can.
Is Akinz totally you or do you have others that do some graphic work from time to time?
I would say Akinz is about 99.8% me. I have only had 1 guest artist do anything in the past. This upcoming winter line has 2 t-shirt designs that weren’t done by me, one by my boyfriend who’s a web designer and one done by a Zosia Olenska, an artist out of Poland. She had this sweet drawing I saw online that no one had used for anything yet, and I asked if I could buy it for a shirt. Here’s her site and her post about the shirt… her art is pretty dang sweet!
Theres quite a bit of Akinz product thats hand made, including the custom beanie. That a pretty cool idea, how did that come about? Did you see a desire in consumers or did you just decide to put the option out there, and how has that fared?
Well I love the handmade vibe as much as everybody else, but honestly I just wanted to be able to offer my original pieces and I wasn’t big enough to get them manufactured (flash back to that teeny tiny budget) so I found a way to make them happen by starting to make them myself. What started as a way to add an accessories line has almost morphed into my most popular items in the winter… mainly the custom beanie. I got a little overwhelmed though last winter, so I’m either going to have start my own tiny sweat shop made up of my friends or limit the number of handmade items in the future.
Pick your color and style and get them hand made ... Akinz Beanies
Besides the beanies you have a pretty diverse line including jewelry, and other softgoods. Do you make just go with what inspirations you have or do you sit down with a solid business plan and really try to plan things out?
Haha, I totally have that free spirited artist “go with what I want to make right now” business plan kicking. I definitely sit down and make sure I have a decent variety of different kinds of pieces before I plan out my line sheets for the season though. I have to kind of keep myself in check… if not, I would have about 500 hoodie and beanie options and nothing else.
What lessons have you learned since you began in 05? Anything youd do differently if you could or has it been a pretty smooth ride?
Oh man, nothing about owning your own business is ever completely smooth. I had a background in fashion and some marketing, so I just kinda thought I could figure it all out as I went along, which I’ve done a pretty good job of, but there have definitely been snags. Like, realizing shipping my first order of sunglasses from China was going to cost almost as much as the sunglasses themselves… something I wasn’t prepared for… especially when I had already sent out wholesale pricing to some shops. If I were to start over again, I would definitely try to get a biz loan so I could enlist the help of people who know what they are doing in those types of situations and hire an accountant.
And to balance out that previous question whats been the best thing about Akinz?
Well, for the sake of balance, probably all the things I’ve learned. I think back to the look of my first online store or my first event setup and it makes me laugh and then it kinda makes me proud to see how far I’ve come. My goal was always to make it far enough for Akinz to be my job and now it is, so that kinda rocks.
With the weather starting to change whats on the drawing board for the future as far as product goes?
Well, we’ll be getting all our winter stuff in over the course of the next month and I’m pretty stoked mainly about our acid wash hoodie dresses. Plus I’m making my first wholesale order of yarn — 1000 skeins (for all those handmade beanies), so I’ll be banishing myself to the couch with Hulu Plus to attempt to get a headstart on the crochet season soon.
Team Rider Erika Vikander in the Acid Wash Hoodie Dress new for fall 2011 p. Alice Owen
If you were to look ahead lets say 10 years what would your vision of Akinz be?
I found some private property in Steamboat with rolling hills and a private lake… I just wish Akinz could have its own little DC mountain lab there in the winter, wakeboard camp in the summer. I would have employees to do all the boring business stuff for me so I could just design clothes and ride and travel all the time. Maybe I’m dreaming a little bit… maybe not. Mainly, I’d just like Akinz to be stable enough to do the tradeshow route, be in enough shops so that we had some good revenue and have a team of awesome people working with me that all love to ride too.
Finally all your thank yous and shout outs…
All my team riders for helping me spread the Akinz love, my friends for being my “backup employees” whenever I’m desperate, and my boyfriend Andrew for being my unpaid web and photography guy.
Suzanne Akin founder and designer of Akinz Boardwear in the Invaderz Tee from the summer 2011 collection