View Full Version : Jake Burton

12-04-2007, 04:57 PM
Here is a little insight into the founder of Burton Snowboards.

Jake Burton. Check out his website here. http://www.burton.com

How did you become a leader in the snowboard business?
During the late 60s, I modified Snurfers until 1977 when I started Burton and built my first production prototype. I was a complete loser in shop class in school, yet there I was, working out of a barn in Vermont, figuring out how to manufacture a snowboard. There was no road map. I combined some skateboarding and a little bit of surfing experience with the Snurfer, then added some common sense**which is probably why it took so long to make a product that was rideable. The rest is history I guess.

When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
When I was a kid I worked at the New York Racetrack (Aqueduct) right near my house. For a long time my aspiration was to become a race-horse trainer. I later found out that it probably wasn't the best industry to get into if you love animals as much I do.

What is your favorite thing about coming to work?
When you walk into your house you're pretty much living and breathing your family. When I walk into Burton I have the opportunity to live and breathe snowboarding. I've been doing this for over half my life, and it presents a vibe that makes me very comfortable, happy and productive. And I also like saying hi to all the dogs on the walk to my office.

Why do you think your peers consider you one of the most influential people in the snowboard industry?
I think my success came down to being there at the beginning, working ridiculously hard, and using creative solutions to problems or challenges. If you do all of that, surround yourself with good people and treat them well, it'll be alright.

What sport (other than snowboarding) do you enjoy playing or watching the most and why?
As far as 'playing' outside of snowboarding it's pretty much all about surfing for me. I'm taking more time in the snowboarding off-season to go on surf trips, and it seems that on every trip I get more addicted to the sport. I'll never be as good of a surfer as I am a snowboarder, but I have a lot of fun trying.

If you could change one thing about the snowboard industry, what would that be?
As far as the sport goes, it would be pretty cool if avalanches didn't exist. They've ruined many a good day and taken a lot of people out in the process. On the industry side, I would make it a rule that you can't have a trade show unless it's at a powder resort destination.

What international place have you traveled to where you think you could live?
New Zealand or Australia would probably be right up there, but I could see myself living in Japan or Europe (which I've already done) as well. While I certainly travel a lot, I regret the fact that I haven't taken more time to actually live in some foreign locations. It has such a positive impact in terms of broadening your perspectives, but at the same time making you appreciate what you have at home.

What is the scariest moment you have ever had in snowboarding?
About 20 years ago, our bank who was lending us all the money that we needed to run our business told us they didn't want to lend us money anymore. They were convinced snowboarding was a fad that had run its course. That was a scary time.

When people look back on your life, how do you want to be remembered?
I'd like to be remembered as a good husband, father, friend, relative and someone who always did the right thing for the sport of snowboarding and the Burton brand.

What is the greatest thing about being you?

* Being able to travel around the world getting 100+ days of snowboarding in a season.
* Having access to prototype product before the market has even seen it.
* Working with a super fun team here at Burton.

What is more important to you than snowboarding?
My family and friends.

What suggestions would you give to someone who aspires to be like you?
Choose an industry with a lifestyle that you can become passionate about and don't ever consider giving up.

If you had to pick one person who has inspired you, who would that be and why?
Whether he was alive or dead, Craig Kelly has always shown me the way.

What is next for you? What does your future hold?
Hopefully a lot more powder days and a few barrels along the way.

12-04-2007, 10:21 PM
Here is more information from wikipedia on Jake Burton Carpenter.

An avid skier, Jake hoped to join the university's successful ski team, but his competitive skiing career was ended when his collarbone was broken in a car accident (and then twice more in the same week, including one skateboarding accident). After several years away from college he resumed his studies at New York University, graduating with a degree in economics. After college, Carpenter's interests returned to the slopes. Working from a barn in Londonderry, Vermont, he adapted a Snurfer, a basic toy snowboard (which featured a rope to allow the rider some basic control over the board). He began selling his more advanced snowboards, made from bentwood laminate and featuring a rigid binding that holds the board firmly to the wearer's boot, in 1979, more than a dozen years after Tom Sims' first snowboards were made.

A little background on the Snurfer In 1964 Sherman Poppen invented the "snurfer" when he bolted two skies for his daughter. The snurfer became huge and there was even snurfing contests. All of Poppens daughters friends wanted a snurfer and he started manufacturing his idea. Jake Burton even snurfed at one time.

Here is a picture of what the Snurfer looked like.

12-05-2007, 06:03 PM
Jake teamed up with HP for this ad campaign which I really do like. Let me give you the link here to the site on HP. It has a lot of great videos where Jake talks about his business and how he got started.

What advice does he have for people who want to start their own business? Patients and perseverance. Two very important traits to have.

In the video Jake talks about how he made these boards at first by himself and he wasn't very accomplished with working on wood. Then he loaded his truck up to try and get them sold in stores. One day he went out with 25 boards and came back with 27 because one store owner handed him back his previous stock and said these things weren't going to sell.

So many business owners deal with these exact same issues when they get started and those who push forwards are those who rise up and overcome such difficult times!

Here is the HP link. Please check out the videos. I think you will find them inspiring.


12-05-2007, 06:09 PM
On the walls of his company's office, when you walk in, you can review all the different boards the company created since it's inception.

It's things like this that keep the business grounded and true to it's roots.

12-05-2007, 06:10 PM
"You need to know where you've been to know where you are going."

12-05-2007, 06:17 PM
Check out the way they print out the board graphics. With a large scale HP printer.

Pretty neat isn't it?

12-05-2007, 06:31 PM
Part of doing what you love and loving what you do is that you'd do it even if you didn't get paid. This, sometimes is what it takes to get a business off the ground. If you love what you do, you just might be able to weather the storm until you get your business up and running. Then once that happens, getting paid is an added bonus.

Here is a picture from Jake's interview.

12-05-2007, 06:38 PM
Jake Burton is able to promote his business while giving back to his community with his program to help kids. What a great idea! It is helpful to the community. It helps position Burton snow boards as a business who cares about the community. It also helps promote Burton Boards!

Does this give you ideas on how you can help your community and promote your business as well?

Snowboarding Being Used as Therapy for Kids (http://www.ksl.com/?nid=148&sid=913083) - People who snowboard will tell you it is fun to get out on the mountain and slide. But for some Utah kids, snowboarding is therapy, and perhaps even life changing.

I decided to go riding with kids in the CHILL program.

Pulling on a pair of snowboard boots and grabbing a board may not sound like therapy, but to troubled kids snowboarding is a healthy way to let out some of that energy, frustration and anger. They have a lot of fun and learn they can succeed without drugs or violence.

To learn to snowboard, you gotta have the right gear. It's all provided free from the CHILL program sponsor, Burton Boards. Founder Jake Burton started the program 12 years ago to help at risk kids.


12-05-2007, 07:11 PM
Jake has also been increasing brand awareness by creating flagship stores. He opened one in Chicago in Sept. 07.

Burton sticks a flag in the Second City with the opening of 8,000-square feet of retail space in downtown Chicago today. The store marks the fifth addition to a worldwide armada of flagship stores operating in Burlington, New York City, Innsbruck, and Tokyo.

12-08-2007, 11:05 PM
Here is a fascinating look into Jake's thoughts on business in this article (http://www.inc.com/magazine/20060301/burton_pagen_5.html) Jake says "Burton says he owes it to his company to keep growing, that if you're not trying to get bigger then you're almost certainly going to get smaller."

Here is another great quote

"You want to succeed," he says. "In this economy, you do need to grow. I have a hard time with those companies that say, 'Well, why do you have to grow?' That's how you keep good people. People are happier in companies that are growing. It took a long time for me to accept that and to realize that: They're happier and they're motivated, and it's a place where they want to be. So we've just got to accept it, you know what? That's how it is, man. I've accepted that. I don't necessarily have it all dialed in philosophically, but I do understand that."

What is your view on business growth? Is it important to you or not?

12-08-2007, 11:10 PM
The History of Burton Snowboards

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12-09-2007, 04:28 AM
Promotion Burton is having.

According to their website, there are 4 snow resorts that do not allow snowboarding. To help promote snowboarding further and open access to more mountain slopes, Burton is offerint $5,000 to the snowboarder or crew who can get video of them snowboarding on one of those slopes!

How about that for a contest! It's very creative and it makes you wonder how you can be creative with your business marketing.

12-09-2007, 05:02 AM
Here is a great promo that was made by the Wall Street Journal and it captures Jake reflecting on his life as an entrepreneur.

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12-10-2007, 02:00 AM
A lot of times we talk about logos here and how many times we look for the perfect one because we think we have to stick with it for all time. Well here is an image that shows the different logos Burton has used on his boards since the 1970's. You can see they have changed quite a few times and yours can too! Experiment and grow!

12-11-2007, 04:21 AM
I thought this was an educational video on the history of snowboarding in 2 minutes http://www.gophergraphics.com/forum/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/smile.gif

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12-11-2007, 04:33 AM
Here is a promo video from Burton. It's a longer one. You might enjoy it.

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12-11-2007, 05:34 AM
Steve, all these videos have me thinking about my trip to upstate NY later this month.

What is the snow situation up there? I still hope to get some snowmobile time in.


12-11-2007, 06:31 AM
Do you know which mountains you might hit?

12-12-2007, 06:14 AM
A little before Jake Burton came onto the scene there was Tom Sims. Here is some background from wikipedia "Tom Sims is a pioneer and world champion of snowboarding, originally from Haddonfield, New Jersey. In 1963, he made what he called a the "skiboard," an early version of the snowboard, in the Haddonfield Middle School's shop room after failing to complete his intended project, a custom skateboard.[1] Sims was the snowboarding stunt double for "007" (Roger Moore) in the 1984 James Bond release, A View to a Kill.[2] He did not patent his invention and there is dispute as to whether or not he is the inventor of the snowboard."

Now a question you might be asking yourself is why did Jake Burton end up dominating the snowboard industry while Tom Sims who was there first did not?

The answer might lie in the way Tom got funding for his fledgling business.

Let's take a look at an interview from Future Snow Boarding Magazine (http://www.futuresnowboarding.com/2007/12/the-tom-sims-interview)

What is your least proud moment?
My least proud moment was probably when I got turned down by a half a dozen banks every time I went in to borrow money for my snowboard business and they would turn me down every time, and those are definitely the worst moments.

What is your role in the day to day of the brand now? Or have paid your dues and are you more of a “spiritual leader?”
That’s probably pretty accurate. After my experience working with a multi-national company hoping they could do some good and then they ended up being a nightmare. And so since that experience I decided to go and partner with Collective Licensing in Denver to sort of manage the brand. So they are my agents, and they are managing the brand. And they are doing a great job. A lot of snowboarders work there so they understand the culture and they understand the sport and they were the ones who hooked up with Steve Fisher and he’s turned out to be spectacular. We’ve kept on Gaetan Chanut and he’s a great rider. We’re putting together a great team and launched a new website recently and so that’s all exciting. It’s all looking good for the future for Sims.

Collective International does Brand Licensing, Correct?

To someone who doesn’t really understand what Brand Licensing is, how would you describe it?
Well let’s see, they manage several brands like Vision, Airwalk, and several other action sports brands. They find the right people to license to. And then they keep an eye on the licensee to make sure they’re doing a good job. This way we’re going to be able to re-launch the World Snowboard Championship down the road here in a few years and we’re going to launch Sugarboards, a specialty women’s line.

I think it’s important that Sims and especially Sugarboards gets a women’s specific line together because when I first thought of building a women’s specific board no one had ever done it. I approached Shannon Dunn and asked her what she thought of the idea and she said “that’s a great idea,” so when Sims launched the Shannon Dunn board that was the first women’s specific board ever made. Up until that point women had to go buy a junior men’s board and just hope that it was the right width and the right flex. After the Shannon Dunn board the women’s market took off, and all the other manufactures started making women’s specific boards, so that innovation is really part of the heritage of Sims and I’d sure like to see the Sugarboards do well.

How many times has Sims changed hands, officially?
Oh boy. Well one of the problems was, going back to times when the banks wouldn’t lend me money, a lot of the brands from the early days are gone because they faced the same dilemma I did… they couldn’t get bank financing or any kind of financing, not even private equity money. So that forced me in 1986 to license to Vision and one of the problems back then was that I didn’t have approval rights if they were to transfer. So it ended up going from different hands to different hands to different hands as people had their various problems.

Was that pretty heartbreaking to watch?
Yeah, because Vision would have been a good partner for me and the trouble was when they brought in millions and millions of dollars in defective sneakers, some Chinese factory screwed them over, and the LC’s went through and they were stuck with shoes they couldn’t ship to the stores. And my trademark got stuck in that mess. It’s things like this that are just out of your control that happen in the business world sometimes.

Do you think it’s going to be difficult for even an established and legendary brand like Sims to shake off any negative connotations of so many changes of ownership in the past?
Yeah, it’s going to be a building process. We’re just going to go forward from here.

12-12-2007, 06:19 AM
Jake Burton still owns Burton Boards and it is a private company. As a private company he can better embody the brand and do what he wants with it. He is the only chef in the kitchen and does not need to answer to anyone. This has the potential to keep the Burton brand clean and clear of all things 'non-Burton.'

Tom Sim's business however had changed hands many many times and it seems this never allowed the brand to catch like Burton's. Tom doesn't seem to have the infrastructure that Jake has and ultimately the Sims brand seems to have not been handled in a way it needed to in order to be the embodiment of the sport.

Tom Sims
It is a fascinating case study. So think twice when you are considering giving up control of your brand in order to raise funding.


12-16-2007, 03:40 AM
Check out the inside of Jack Burton's Flagship Chicago store.

12-16-2007, 03:40 AM
Here is a picture that shows off how the clothing is displayed.

12-16-2007, 03:41 AM
Here you can see the display of the Burton SnowBoards.

12-16-2007, 03:42 AM
Here is a promotional mailer Burton sent out to advertise the party celebrating the opening of the new store.