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World Industries History...
When I was about 11 my brother Pat got a skateboard for his birthday. My dad got me one also. There was a curb about 18 inches high near our house. We would spend hours just trying to ride off of it.
The First Sponsor
There was this guy Jim Drake who lived near me. His brother owned Tunnel and he just started giving me free stuff. At first I was the worst guy on the team sort of like a mascot. I wound up on Powell but I only rode for them for about a month then Sims offered me a Pro Model in 1979. This was the first freestyle pro model.
The Problems and the Solution
In the early 1980Æs Vision took over Sims and it was all downhill. Brad [Dorfman] treated us like bastard stepchildren while Vision got all the glory. I was very rebellious and in 1987 Brad kicked me off the team. I was living on Natas KaupasÆ kitchen floor at the time. I vividly remember having dinner with Natas and Skip Engblom [of Santa Monica Airlines] at a Mexican restaurant. I was 27 with no sponsor. I thought my life in skateboarding was over. I would have to go back to work for my dad in the dry cleaning store. Skip told me not to worry. The next morning he took me to the woodshop and told me if I bought 500 boards he could get them sold for me. I cash advanced my credit card for $6 000 and Santa Monica Airlines: Rocco Division was born.
WeÆve Got a Company Now What?
From there things just got crazier. I teamed up with John Lucero [from Black Label] and we got a warehouse together. After three weeks Lucero backed out because I spent $800 on shelves. Once again I thought it was over. This time rescue came from an unlikely source-Rodney Mullen. Rodney bought out Lucero for $6 000 and we were partners. This might lead you to believe that Rodney had a keen sense for business and prophetic vision of the future. In reality I tricked Rodney out of the money and he pretty much figured it was as good an investment as flushing it down the toilet and hoping more would come back up. Which is pretty much true because at the time we were broke. I borrowed $20 000 in a paper bag from a bookie. The payback conditions were simple: borrow $20 000 pay back $30 000 in one year or else. Nothing motivates like fear. And with Rodney around we had plenty of that. I took my bag of cash down to Vision and waved it around the parking lot. Jesse Martinez was the only one who would listen to me. I offered him $2 a board [royalty] twice the industry standard and he fell for it.
1988-Things Start Moving
With Jesse at my side the company started to take shape. He brought in Jeff Hartsel which now gave us a team of three. For the first time I actually felt like things were starting to go well. The problem was they were going too well. We started selling more than anyone had ever anticipated and before long the eyes of the big [skateboard companies] were on us. The first to act was Santa Cruz. At the time Santa Cruz was licensing the Santa Monica Airlines name from Skip. They got a little annoyed because I had an ad saying that all wheels come from the same place and were made of the same stuff; hence there was no such thing as "special formulas." The penalty for telling the truth was to have Skip call and tell me I could no longer use the Santa Monica Airlines name. I was devastated. Next Rodney was told that if he didnÆt pull out his investment (now up to $18 000) he would be kicked off the Powell team. Rodney came to me and told me he was out. Then another competitor kicked in and tried to stop our mold maker from delivering to us the first double kick molds. At this point most people with any common sense would have just given up. [These three companies] had combined sales of over 100 million dollars. I was living off the dollar bills kids sent in for stickers. Fortunately the only thing I had less of than money was common sense.
Job one was to convince (trick) Rodney into staying. Rodney was trying to figure out whether to stay by confronting me and George Powell with worst-case scenarios. He told us both that he was leaving and figured he would stay with the one who handled it better. He asked me if I would pay him back all the money. I told him sure no problem (even though I would have killed him). He then told George that he might be leaving and George told him he was an idiot for considering World over Powell. Rodney came back and said he was quitting Powell and he and Mike Vallely were going to ride for World. I tried to act surprised but I knew what Rodney was doing all along. Mike and Rodney each put in $15 000 which gave us the money we needed for the double kick molds. We changed our name to SMA World Industries as a joke but they said we couldnÆt use the SMA part so we dropped the SMA and World Industries was born.
The Notorious Nineties
To the skateboard industry World Industries was now an actual real company with real riders. But to us the company was more like a giant toy. Our company motto was pretty much "Why not?" We would do ads without products skateboard graphics with cartoons instead of skulls and skateboard shapes that didnÆt look like skateboards. Now in the wacky world of skateboarding today this sounds like no big deal but in 1990 people thought we were out of our minds and at the time we were. In fact only in retrospect can we now look back and see the thin line we walked was closer to insanity than the premeditated genius that people often give us credit for. But success quickly transforms pea-brains into prophets and our success started with the Mike Vallely animal farm board. This board and the people behind it would change the face of skateboarding forever. This was Marc McKeeÆs first skateboard graphic.
The cartoon characters not only represented a clear departure from the usual skulls and gore which dominated the market at the time but it introduced the element of wit and humor into graphics as well. In the years to follow McKee would set the standard in graphics for the whole industry. This was also Rodney MullenÆs debut as a shape maker. At the time almost all large boards were pointy nosed. This looked more like a giant freestyle board than anything else. Though by todayÆs standards it may look funny this board was the predecessor of modern shapes to come and like McKee Rodney would lead the way in shapes for the next decade.
Blind 101 Plan B Etc.
In 1990 Mark Gonzales approached me after he saw what we were doing. He was pretty amazed that we did whatever we wanted and he wanted to be a part of it. At the time he was riding for vision and the whole idea of Blind was his idea-"Blind" being the opposite of "Vision." We started up the company together and took our best pro from World who was at the time Jason Lee and moved him to Blind. Things just took off from there. In 1991 we started 101. Natas Kaupas was friends with Mark Gonzales and myself and he saw what was going on and he wanted to do the same thing. It was a real simple handshake deal. Nothing was ever really planned out. Plan B was different. In 1992 H StreetÆs Mike Ternasky came to me and said he wasnÆt happy with the way the owner was treating him. There was some disagreement over money. Mike came to me to help him get started. We were the distributor and manufacturer and Mike worked in marketing out of his San Diego office.
One key thing Mike was able to accomplish was that he got Rodney Mullen the worldÆs best freestyler pointed in the streetskating direction. He recognized RodneyÆs talents and as a result most of the ollie variations done by todayÆs skaters have their roots with Rodney. Plan B was one of the first companies that was formulated for instant success. Mike was going to call the company Type A (after the personality classification) but eventually decided to call it Plan B.
In 1993 things were going real good until about September. Plan B rider Rick Howard got into a fight with Mike Ternasky over a wheel invoice. It was a completely retarded thing and got other skaters all riled up. Rick took seven of our top pros and started Girl.
Mike was devastated after they left. We sat down and tried to regroup-it was like getting sucker punched. In January 1994 we got hit again when Girl started up Chocolate and took another whack of our riders. Although I wanted to kill these guys Mike made me promise that we would beat them fair and square. Tragically he was killed in a car accident in 1994. Eventually Plan B broke away from the World Industries family.
In 1995 I realized that both World and Blind needed more cohesiveness-we were doing things and they were okay but there was no general direction. ThatÆs when I picked Marc McKeeÆs "devil man" logo to be the base of World. We saw how well that worked and added the grim reaper to be the focus of Blind.
In 1997 the A Team was developed and it was the first company that was completely thought out. It was aimed at the skaters who were extremely serious about skating. The hardest thing when you go on a demo with the A Team guys is to have them stop before the demo is finished. You canÆt get them to stop even after all the kids have left.
Our whole company has skateboarding in its roots. Skateboarding is part of the lives of the people who work here. The challenge is to grow the company to make it a different type of organization. But at the core of World Industries I am happy to continue to do the fun stuff.
The Story of World Industries (excerpted from The Concrete Wave by Michael Brooke) By Steve Rocco