How Did We Get Here?
How did we get here? That’s not supposed to be a big philosophical question… I mean, how did TNR get to where we are today? Yesterday, our team spent the day at the Berrics in Los Angeles and we had an amazing time skating and connecting with one another. Although I had been to the Berrics several times in the last two years, I really took a moment yesterday to just reflect on where I was and how I got there. If you were to tell me only a few short years ago that I would have my own skateboard brand and all the amazing things we’ve accomplished, I’m not sure I’d believe it.
When I started TNR, as “Thrash N Raid,” I never imagined I’d be where I am today in such a short time. So how did that happen?
We grew exceptionally quick because we focused on the why and on people, not products. My personal why is, “to illuminate the hearts of others, so they may rise above barriers.” I remember what it was like to be a kid and wishing I had a positive role model to look up to. I remember being addicted to drugs and drinking under bridges with homeless people and other degenerates like myself. I remember being told that I would never amount to anything in life. Unfortunately, they were right if I were to continue the path I was on. Thankfully, I was able to rise above those barriers, because of a few positive influences that came into my life when I was 18. That’s when I decided to start a new path and join the military.
When my career was cut short after serving nearly 16 years on active duty, I felt lost and unsure what would provide that same meaning and purpose I had while serving as a special operator. After discovering my personal why at the Honor Foundation, that’s when I knew I wanted to dedicate my life to serving others and being that positive influence that I wish I had in my youth. So, I applied my why to my brand, so that every decision we made as a company was a direct reflection of that why.
We focused on building relationships with people and getting involved in the local community. We gave out skateboards to kids in need, sponsored youth, and veterans events, and volunteered our time to making a difference in the lives of others. Likewise, we built a team of people that had the same passion to help others. I didn’t want a team of just rad skaters. I wanted a team of good people, and that is exactly what we got.
Although we’ve had a lot of success, that hasn’t come without barriers. As our supporters grew, so did our haters. When we started, we’d periodically get hateful messages telling us that there was no room in skating for veterans. We got called boot lickers, kooks, and even told “I hope your friends get blown up in combat.” We’d receive comments about how stupid our graphics were and how cringe our content was. Likewise, we even got accused of copying other companies and even had to change our name due to a dispute with another veteran company. But despite the hate, we were able to rise above it all because we focused on the mission and not on the haters. History remembers those that made a difference, not their critics. We are making a difference and we will never let the haters distract us from focusing on why we started.
In addition to critics, we also hit financial hardships. As an entrepreneur, you must take a lot of risks. There were many financial decisions that were made that were good and many that were not. There were some nights I’d be alone in the garage, and I’d cry, unsure how I was going to pay my employees, how I was going to sell product that wasn’t moving, how I was going to pay my mortgage and feed my family. These were tough times, and many didn’t know things like that were happening. From the outside perspective, people thought we were just straight killing it and living on easy street. When in fact, I was scraping what I could and not paying myself just so I can pay my guys. I was losing money at each event and spending more time and resources doing things for others with no monetary gain to show for it.
Nevertheless, I knew these barriers would come but they wouldn’t last forever if we focused on the why. One of my team members, Logan Joyce, would always say, “this is the best job I ever had… I get to help people, I get to skate all day and make funny videos with my friends. We’re living the life that are younger selves would have killed to live.” He’s right. This is the best “job” I’ve ever had to and I’m so grateful to lead this team and continue to make a positive impact in the lives of others. It was through my team's encouragement and through the messages we'd get from our supporters regularly that kept me going. We'd get messages that would say, "you have no idea how much you've helped me, don't stop." Or we'd get messages from parents and spouses, talking about how their kid or their husband has changed in a positive way since connecting with us. It was messages like those that kept us going.
So, how did we get here? We got here by focusing on the why, helping people rise above barriers, and not giving up while we worked on rising above our own barriers. Most importantly, we got here because people believed in what we do and who we are and supported us. We’re extremely grateful for all the love and support from everyone that writes us daily, purchases our products, shares our mission with others and comes to our events. We love you all. It’s been just over two years, and we are not stopping. This is just the beginning.