Consolidated Skateboards ‘Don’t Do It’ 56mm 99a wheels
- 99a hardness
About Consolidated Skateboards
Consolidated Skateboards was started by Steve “Birdo” Guisinger and photographer Steve Keenan after both quit their jobs at Santa Cruz in 1992. Consolidated marches to their own drum and utilizes a twisted sense of humor in their graphics. Consolidated also went on to launch their much publicized “Don’t Do It” campaign against Nike in 1996, and again in 2001, and even sponsored a blanket team around 2004.
Interview with Birdo (Taken from Transworld Business)
Deriving his nickname from the lead character in the 1960s film Birdman Of Alcatraz, Steve “Birdo” Guisinger was just finishing a five-year stint working at Santa Cruz Skateboards when he decided that it was time to start his own brand. Shortly thereafter, in 1992, Consolidated Skateboards was born with the help of Santa Cruz co-worker Steve Keenan.
“It was people like Steve Rocco, Paul Schmitt, Steve Douglas, and other skaters that had recently gone off and started their own thing that made me realize skaters could run their own companies and gave me the confidence to do it on my own,” says Guisinger
Armed with his new brand, Guisinger—based out of a small garage used as a makeshift office—began devising The Plan, a grassroots movement encouraging youth to petition their local city government about making skateboarding legal and creating public skateparks. His work on a local level continued to evolve as the brand grew, and he teamed up with then girlfriend Leticia Ruano, who came on as a business partner. In 1997, when Nike first made a push into the skateboarding market, Guisinger came back with the “Don’t Do It” campaign, depicted in ads in Thrasher and Transworld Skateboarding magazines, questioning the company’s absence in supporting skateboarding in the past. Guisinger also made the executive decision to stop selling Consolidated to larger retailers, such as mall chains like Zumiez.
Today, Consolidated is sold worldwide in more than 30 countries, and continues to support core local retailers with a new program, Thank Local, which sells the brand’s boards at cost to Santa Cruz and surrounding area skate shops, allowing the shops to sell the boards at a discounted price. Guisinger took some time to explain his efforts over the past 18 years, and Consolidated’s latest project, the Don’t Do It Foundation, which is making a new push to educate and encourage youth to buy from local skate shops.
What experiences did you take away from working at Santa Cruz? How do you think it helped you shape your ideas for your own skate brand?
I learned so much about the inner workings of business while working for Santa Cruz. I started there printing wheels for the night crew. Then moved to shipping where I learned all I needed to know about packing product and freighting it around the world. After that, I sustained a back injury and did customer service and accounts receivable. Then I eventually took over the brand management and marketing of Speed Wheels, which was Santa Cruz’s wheel division. It was like going to school for how to run a skateboard company. I also started noticing there was a lot of red tape and conflicting ideas of how things should be done when I worked there and it just felt like the most ideal situation was to start my own thing and be able to run things however I felt best. There were a couple times where I felt I was having to train someone to be my boss and it just didn’t seem right!
How did you devise The Plan and what kind of reaction did you receive from shops and skate kids?
The Plan was a big deal for us. Our artist Moish Brenman was the main architect behind The Plan. Back then, there were no public skateparks, and skateboarding was illegal in almost every city in the country. We, as skateboarders, were furious about this reality. We were viewed as vandals and outcasts, and all we wanted to do was ride our skateboard. Consolidated decided to address the problem. First, we realized cities weren’t going to change if they were making revenue off of skateboarding tickets. So we ran an ad that basically told skaters to fight every skateboard ticket they got. Not to waive their right to a speedy trial and then to ask for community hours rather than pay a fine. In this way, we felt it would cost cities more to ban skateboarding rather than build something for them to skate. Then we followed it up with The Plan. This was a step by step guide for skaters to work toward getting a skatepark built in their town. It told them to get organized! How to approach the city and local business owners in such a way that they understood that skaters weren’t vandals, but just needed a place to go. It had petitions and plans for parks. Basically, it had all the tools skaters needed to get motivated and organized and to approach the city and public officials in the right way. We were Xeroxing them off and sending out as much as we could afford. It was so rewarding to get phone calls from skaters across the U.S. letting us know that with The Plan they had gotten a park built in their town!
When did larger retailers first approach Consolidated to carry your boards? How do you feel today about your decision to not sell to those retailers?
We actually used to sell to them before they got so big. Once we realized that they were putting skater owned shops out of business we had to make a decision. It wasn’t so much that we were selling to them, but that they were getting a discount and were able to leverage this discount against smaller shops. So at a trade show one year, they came to order and Leticia told them she could no longer give them a discount because it wasn’t fair to the other shops that we sold to. And they said “well, we won’t be able to buy your products then.” So we walked away from it. It’s hard enough watching these shops who are your friends get driven out of business, but it just wasn’t ethical to us to have a hand in it. So we lose sales, but we sleep good at night!
You recently revived the “Don’t Do It” Campaign and gave it new life through your website. When did you decide to do this and what has been the reaction from retailers, other brands, and skaters?
We revived it when we saw skaters starting to accept the large sporting goods companies in the industry. I wanna explain why I think this is so dangerous. The vast surf, skate and snowboard culture exists because the sporting goods companies and their extensive distribution wanted nothing to do with us in the beginning. All our shops, companies and magazines were born out of a passion. And this culture, which had almost no association with the sporting goods industry, ended up thriving and growing, with so many shops, companies and magazines all owned and run by Surfers, Skaters, and Snowboarders—all in control of their dream, making a living surrounded by something they loved. A lot of the industry is now being diluted by outsiders. And the biggest threat I see is that these large sporting goods companies have a distribution that can serve everyone in the world, that doesn’t include our surf, skate, and snowboard subculture. They are entering our community, attending our trade shows and romancing our core retailers, magazines, and companies, but all they really need from us is to gain legitimacy. Once they have that, they can sell to their big box stores and mass distribution outside of our passionate community. At that point it’s too late. Our industry will have been hijacked by outsiders who have no passionate story in the Surf, Skate, and Snowboard community. We grew it, they harvested it. Some people argue that it’s good because they pay a handful of top riders huge salaries, but it’s not like the existing companies are ripping off the riders, they do what they can to support as many riders as they can. If a sporting goods company gives one rider a million dollars for example, that just makes the other companies have to cut the teams and salaries way back so that they can pay less people more. This doesn’t support the riders. It just creates a marketing illusion. Lots and lots of small shops and companies is O.K.! Rather than one $20 billion company, it’s O.K. to have eighty $250 million companies. Just like in nature, the healthiest and most sustainable ecosystems are the ones that support the most diversity. Why would it be any different in our business ecosystem?
Why do you think the industry needs to hear this message again and what you are hoping to accomplish on both a local and industry-wide level?
It’s hard to see past the marketing and see it for what it is, but with a whole new generation of Surfers, Skaters, and Snowboarders, it’s important! I am not trying to tell people what to do. We live in a free country and I am deeply thankful for that. I just want people to be informed when they make decisions. I also want people to know that their decisions matter more than they think they do. We all know money is power. But all the money comes from the consumer. Everything you buy and where you choose to buy it from empowers those companies and stores. People can seriously change the world by educating themselves about what and where they buy things.
How and when did you come up with the Thank Local program and what impact have you seen it have on shops so far?
We have been around for 18 years and being in a fairly small town, somebody knows somebody who is a friend or family of Consolidated. So we decided to extend our friends and family pricing to the town. It feels good to be able to give back to the skaters who have had our back for so many years, and I think they appreciate it. We let the shops know that its just here in Santa Cruz and they understand and respect that. They can’t sell it mail order or take it to their other shops out of town. Kinda along the theory of ” I bet if you lived in the same town as Ben and Jerry’s, the ice cream would be everywhere and cheap!”