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Surfin’ and skatin’ meets entrepreneurship

The passion in Jeff Anning’s voice is infectious. Suddenly, this journo (who has never, ever skated) feels tempted to give it a try.

Jeff had been running a structural landscaping business for many years before a chance encounter in a carpark changed his life.

“I saw a dude riding on a skateboard, but he wasn’t pushing and I just thought ‘What?!’ I didn’t even know electric skateboards existed, and ‘This is the best thing ever, now I can surf on concrete without the hassle of pushing,’” Jeff recounts.

After purchasing an electric skateboard online, and being unsatisfied with the size and quality of the product, Jeff decided to try his own hand at creating a more user-friendly board, conducive to how he personally likes to ride.

Evolve Skateboards was born after some three years of design development and prototyping, and together with his wife Fleur, the husband and wife team threw everything they had into launching the brand.

Initially the boards generated interest from friends, as well as interest from a major Australian skate brand. “We were going to use our mechanical design parts, and their branded skate parts – but the deal ended up falling through, and honestly that’s the best thing that could have happened for us,” Jeff says.

Rather than lose motivation after the corporate partnership didn’t eventuate, the interest gave Jeff the confidence and motivation to complete the design on his own.

“We thought stuff this, we’re going to finish the board off, and with the confidence and belief in ourselves we just thought we’re going to take this to the next level. And that’s when we had to make the big decision about, ‘Ok how are we going to get this to the market? We of course had the design, but going from design to actually a commercial venture is a completely new process which requires capital and we simply didn’t have that,” he says.

The pair’s money was tied up in their first home, and despite having worked so hard to make that purchase, Jeff says they decided their product was strong enough to risk it. “I just said, look life’s short, let’s just do it! We know we’ve got a good product, I’m passionate about it, and there’s no doubt about it – I’ve got resilience, and taken it this far, let’s see what we can do. So we sold the house.”

That decision facilitated the proper launch of the product, and Jeff says despite it being a hard road, the couple haven’t look back.

The name itself, Evolve, is a reflection of the process the brand has gone through, as well as the perseverance behind continual improvement. “We’re not like some of our competitors which have an off the shelf product. We’ve designed every single miniature component, and we change alongside the needs of the products, and evolve it into something better. That’s crucial for us to stay alive as a company,” Jeff says. “But you know I’m still tinkering! I’m still just continually trying to improve our production process, and trying to make our product the best it can be, and always evolving into something better,” he adds.

The husband and wife team share the workload and Fleur handles a lot of the sales enquiries and the online chat app – which remains switched on 24 hours a day. “So when someone comes to our website, we can watch them in real-time, exactly what they’re looking at, how long they’ve look at it for, and we can even tell when they’re about to buy. By having this app-chat on, we encourage the customer if they’ve got questions, instead of just leaving our website, we can say talk with us and ask your questions. So that was a great investment, and we have that chat app on all the time,” Jeff says.

With a young family Jeff adds despite the demands of the business, it can’t be all just about work. “It’s been hard getting [Evolve] to where it is today. To be honest I can’t see it getting easier anytime soon – but I won’t lose focus on what it’s all about, and it’s about fun and enjoyment, and carving and cruising, and still every now and then when times get hard with difficult enquires or any challenges we face, I just pinch myself, grab a board off the rack and go for a ride, then when I come back I just go ‘ahhhhh yep, this is what’s it’s all about.’”

The future is looking bright for Evolve, and Jeff says the brand continues to be driven by self-belief and passion. “It’s never been about money for me. That would be the icing of the cake, if that’s the result we get. But I just love the feedback we get, and when people just email you out of the blue and say ‘I’m so stoked you’ve created this product’, you know, they’re the moments. That’s success to me. And money doesn’t buy those sort of things.”

Stephanie Zillman

Stephanie Zillman

Stephanie is the editor-at-large of Dynamic Business. Stephanie brings with her a passion for journalism, business, and new ideas. On her days off, you might find her reading a book on the beach.

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