Your gear should be celebrated and showed off, not stuffed into some dusty crawl space
Grab a GrassRack of your own and turn your passion into wall art!
To find out more behind how Grassracks got its start and what’s in store for the future, Josh interviews Grassracks co-founder, Evan Hajas & Andrew Lees
More about the episode…
Josh sits down with Grassracks co-founder Evan Hajas & Andrew Lees. Grassracks makes sturdy, sustainability made racks with a beautiful aesthetic to give your boards/skis/outdoor gear a spot to be celebrated around your home. Although Grassracks is a young company, Evan and Andy are long time friends who originally sought out to chase their passion and create something that they needed and liked. Now they continue to chase their passion for the outdoors while delivering a serious solution for other like-minded outdoor junkies.
Have an opinion? We want to hear it! Join the conversation and leave a comment, check out show notes, and get all the links mentioned in this episode below
- Check out Grassracks’ website
- Pick up a Grassrack of your own and turn your passion into art
- More about the wonders of bamboo
- Follow Grassracks on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram
- What is Grassracks all about?
- [Andy] “We make premium organizational products for boards. Anything from a skateboard, snowboard to a paddle board. We make bamboo board racks…”
- What made you decide to get into the board rack biz?
- [Andy] “I’m a product design engineer and I also surf, snowboard, paddle boards, skateboard. I have these boards laying around… I started looking around online to find something that works but, everything seemed so junky…something that you might be ok with being in your garage but, definitely not in your living room so, I thought ‘hey, why not make it’…”
- [Evan] “What Andy didn’t mention is that when we were in our early 20s overiously young men have no idea how to decorate an apartment… We just needed stuff to go on our walls and as young guys that was kind of the stuff that we were most proud of…”
- Did you always know you wanted to start your own business?
- [Evan] “We actually went to a prep school together in Malvern, PA… I think we were both kind of outdoor athletes. Andy was always the board guy and I was always the skier biker kind of guy…I knew, at least when I was in highschool, that I would never work for someone…”
- [Andy] “Yeah I got into engineering and I thought I wanted to do Aerospace engineering, so I got a minor in that… Then I realized two things, I didn’t want to work for a big company and the reason I got into engineering in the first place is I was always inventing things as a kid…I kind of lost that going through school…”
- What was the process of fine tuning your product like?
- [Evan] “The longer we spent in our market the more we realized that there was this huge disconnect between how people feel about their gear and how they treat it…From that first model that we made we just kept tweaking. We originally had like 3 or 4 SKUs and we expanded it. I think we ended up with like 55 at the max…”
- [Andy] “We got a lot of feedback from customers too, just ideas to improve the product… Even if one out of 10 customers said ‘hey my bindings jam up against the wall…’ We listen to all that and it makes sense to just make changes so that all our customers in the future benefit from it…”
- Is there anything that is truly unique about you or Grassracks?
- [Evan] “Our first brand was actually not Grassracks. When we got out of college we invented this thing call the Pong Triangle. It was a beer pong rack and it looked like a pool triangle that would rerack balls…cups slide and they get out of whack and people get really crazy about it. This was an easy fun way to have something with your school’s logo…what we ended up realizing is instead of buying a $15 beer rack people would rather just buy $15 of beer…”
- [Andy] “It’s a perfect product for college except that in college everything is compared to a case of beer…The cost ended up being too high and we weren’t able to get the cost of goods low enough so that it would make sense and, that was a really good learning experience for us…”
- Did you guys have any mentors with starting Grassracks?
- [Evan] “Kind of neither… I am a mentor for young startups in Devon Pennsylvania. I work at a startup incubator space called the uncommon individual foundation and it’s a mentor program… Andy and I didn’t really have any, we both collectively know people who are super successful in their respective industries but no one really had that experience that we needed…”
- [Andy] “I think we’ve taken more inspiration from business leaders out there who don’t know who we are… People who are really passionate about customer service, those are the leaders to look up to because those are the ones who will be around the longest…We’re also really excited about business leaders who are also focused on helping the environment…”
- What is your commitment to sustainability?
- [Evan] “That is really our main focus… We obviously really want to make great stuff, and we do but, my personal philosophy has always been if you’re going to make something and it’s not going to be neutral or somehow benefit the environment then why are you doing it?… We have so many issues in our world today and we can point fingers all we want but, we need to be making better decisions everyday… We’re going to be the ones making the responsible products so you have choices that reflect the views that you say that you have…we all have to be a little more cognizant of how our decisions affect the world around us…In terms of our brand, the bamboo is really the big one. IT’s obviously super sustainable, it’s incredible at cleaning the air and sequestering carbon…it grows 20x faster than trees and creates all this usable lumber…”
- Do you do all the manufacturing in house?
- [Evan] “We have a few partners around the country that we work with and we set it up that way so we can start working more remotely and work on more of the stuff we want to. We work with a few shops in the US…even though a lot of American manufacturers make it REALLY hard to work here. It’s tough finding a good manufacturer that has good quality and good pricing so I kind of understand why people go overseas…In the beginning we were cutting, sanding, branding, and finishing by hand but it just got too tough, the two of us, to do all of it…”
- [Andy] “When we were doing everything by hand it was like the wild west…The problem that we saw with that was we were spending all our time taking care of the few orders we had and not trying to put our products in front of more people…”
- What does a normal day look like for you guys?
- [Andy] “It’s not a straight path…Your career should not be a straight path… All the great things happen from diverging over here and there… in a way that’s how our days are. We think we’re going to do xyz in a certain order and we just get pulled off on a bunch of different things and work our way back…
- [Evan] “We wear all hats. For me a normal day is I wake up, hopefully there are a few orders on my phone when I check it, lately there have been many of those…We’ll get up and I’ll check what orders came in, I’ll look at my list… Do a little accounting. It’s funny, we pretty much do everything everyday…”
- What has been one of the hardest parts about starting and building Grassracks?
- [Andy] “The hardest part is, I think getting started and trying to figure out what to do. Now we know what tasks we need to accomplish on a daily basis…for me, when we started the business I didn’t even know what the next thing was. That was one of the hardest things for me…”
- [Evan] “We really didn’t know. Andrew was a great engineer and he had experience with that and I thought I knew a lot about marketing because I had just graduated from college but, we really didn’t know and I think a lot of these entrepreneurs don’t know…We didn’t even know what we didn’t know but, over the passed four or five years you learn…”
- Was there any specific marketing tactic that helped you get your name out there?
- [Evan] “It’s funny because it changes…In the beginning we did a lot of facebook and social media stuff but, algorithms change and now you have to spend a lot of money to get in front of people… It was more like strategic partners so, we would do giveaways, kind of like the AMAZING giveaway that we’re doing with Reddy Team right now (depending on when everybody’s listening to this)… We’ve had some people review our products, some people with big followings that would use our stuff…”
- [Andy] “It’s a slow start. You need to get your product in a few peoples hands so that they can show their friends and leave reviews but, once that starts to happen it happens organically. It takes a while but I think that’s the most important thing…”
- What has growth been like since you got started?
- [Evan] “Very slow in the beginning. People would get our product and they’d love them but, we’ve been bootstrapping since day one and we’ve never had a budget… It’s picked up but, we’ve also had some things that have halted us in our tracks…In the passed year or two we’ve gotten to a really good place where we’ve seen 30% or more growth…”
- [Andy] “One thing that makes growth with a physical product interesting is inventory management. You actually have to pay for your inventory before you sell it…”
- What advice would you give someone who wanted to start a business?
- [Evan] “I would go back to having a solid mentor..”
- [Andy] “Yeah, that’s a quicker way of at least learning some really key things that will help you avoid mistakes in the beginning. Or you can do it the way we did it and just pound your head against the wall until you figure out what works…”
- [Evan] “I think, especially as a mentor, I see it a lot where people have these ideas that they’re really passionate about but they haven’t done their homework…”
- [Andy] “And make it simple…”
[Evan] “That’s the same for me actually. I ran into this person recently from my home town and I didn’t know him before…I was talking about snowboarding with him and he said ‘I just got this cool bamboo rack’…and I said ‘is it grassracks?!’ and he said ‘yeah’ and I said ‘I own that company!’…for me that was the coolest thing because, we are our customer base and our goal is to make awesome stuff for us. We get to create cool stuff for people who love all the same stuff we do…”
- Where do you see Grassracks headed into the future?
- [Evan] “Five years, I think if we could get a little more into home and create these alternatives to some of the lower quality products out there, that would be great. Long term for me, if we could become a household name…”
- [Andy] “If we could bring people fulltime in the next few years, we’d love to do that…”
- What’s the best part about running Grassracks?
- [Andy] “For me the best part is working in a market that I love, that I’m passionate about…The first time we went to Surf Expo in Orlando and we walked into that convention center and every surf brand that I grew up loving and reading about in magazines was there…I thought as we were going in there to set up our booth in this venue ‘man, this is it, this is the coolest things ever’…”