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The Board Room: Famous Surf Accessories New Executive VP Jeran Fraser

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Famous Surf Accessories made the announcement a few weeks ago that it has brought Jeran Fraser on board as its new Executive VP. Fraser, who has an extensive surf industry background having worked as East/West Coast Surf Team Manager for Dakine and a private investor in start-up brand Frends, is looking to help Famous redefine where they stand in the marketplace and broaden its reach over time by expanding into the skate and snow categories.

“As a leader in the surf accessory market, we believe the market is primed for entrance into other verticals,” says Fraser. “Going into 2013 we will be finalizing several new lines that emphasize our quality and design.”

Famous CEO & President Sam Sciortino and Executive VP Jeran Fraser

Famous CEO & President Sam Sciortino and Executive VP Jeran Fraser

Famous was founded back in 2003 by San Diego State University graduate Sam Sciortino, who currently serves as the brand’s president and CEO. Today, ┬áthe brand is still based in San Diego, California, where it channels strong surf roots and a heritage that embodies the beach culture. Drawing on a strong product mix of board bags, leashes, traction pads, and surf wax, the brand is poised to advance with a small team of up-and-coming athletes including 14-year-old surfer and skater Kalani David, according to Fraser.

“We believe that it’s important to bring the athletes on our program that best represent the brand,” he says. “Measuring ROI on an athlete is a challenge, which is why we believe a small, yet powerful team, allows us the greatest opportunity for each athlete to be uniquely marketed.”

We caught up with Fraser to find out more about the surf industry vet’s background, what Famous has up it’s sleeve for 2013.

Talk a little about the focus on Famous’ website and e-commerce platform. What changes and additions will be made, and what are your goals for this over the next six-to-twelve months?

As we move into the production of new lines, we redesigned the site around our product, while emphasizing our athletes and several aspects of social media. It’s our belief that both our product and athletes ultimately drive the brand, so we felt the site and e-commerce aspect were an important part of the branding process for us.

It sounds like you will be trying to cross over verticals with Famous and integrate skate and maybe even snow. What’s the timeline on this, and what strategy do you have in place to make this happen?

There are several challenges when looking to cross over into new verticals, so like any brand it’s important we understand the challenges by solving a problem. We do expect to have a line for skate in 2013 and our goal is to begin potentially working on ideas on snow in mid 2013. In terms of strategy, we have several ideas that we believe will allow us a more streamlined approached to entering these verticals. We will certainly rely on our athletes, but believe content marketing will play a huge role in our approach.

You are also expanding your product offering. Can you give us more detail on that? What will the backpack collection be like, how have you been working to develop it and when will we see the new product hit retail?

We are in the middle of the design process on several new packs, but we know that market is saturated and the barrier to entry presents both risk and challenge. We want to make sure that we offer design and quality, but also integrate ideas that the industry has not yet seen. We expect our first line to hit the retail market in fall 2013.

Famous is planning to hit up the Agenda show this winter – what do you hope to accomplish with this move, and can we expect to see that brand at any other future tradeshows?

Trade shows are certainly an important aspect of the branding process. We look forward to the Agenda show which will allow us an opportunity to acquaint buyers with our product line. We intend on making an appearance at the Surf Expo as well, in Orlando.

Tell us a little more about your background, both in action sports and outside of it. What’s been your involvement with brands like Dakine and Frends, and organizations like SDSI, and how do you hope to bring together all your prior experience to help support and strengthen the Famous brand?

My story is a bit different than most as I come from a real estate background. I left college to start a real estate company in Nevada in 2001. The company is still active and working on development projects in both mining and alternative energy. During the initial start-up process of my real estate company I had the opportunity to work with Dakine running both the east and west coast surf team. I also worked on several aspects of marketing and product placement with the company. One week I was in the mountains of Northern Nevada working on projects and the next I’d be on plane headed to the Surf Expo. I guess you can say I had the best of both worlds.

SDSI is an amazing non-profit program for start-ups in and outside the action sports realm. I’ve been working as a mentor/EIR for the last six months. The program offers a way for companies to refine their business plans, investor decks, etc. and gives them an opportunity to network and pitch to investors throughout the process of the SDSI Springboard program. It’s certainly a fulfilling experience to help these fledgling brands, as well as a great learning experience for all those involved in the process.

SDSI has also opened up doors from an investment aspect, which gave me the opportunity to invest in Frends. I believe Keir Dillon and his team at Frends are extremely talented and the brand has created some excellent opportunities within its space. I also have a little technology background, which has given me the opportunity to invest in some web and tech related start-ups as well.

Having the opportunity to work on so many facets of business has given me the tools to creatively manage several aspects of the brand. I look forward to integrating ideas, as well as helping Famous effectively implement a successful growth plan.

Will Famous be making any other changes to staff as far as growing the team over the next year? What’s the strategy behind that?

We are looking to expand our sales force into new territories as our product line grows, as well as continue to expand our global distribution. We will be increasing the size of our marketing team and will continue to expand that team as we broaden our online marketing strategies.

What do you foresee as the biggest opportunity for a small brand in the action sports market today?

It’s apparent in the industry that companies like Billabong and Quiksilver are facing several financial challenges. This unfortunate economic climate for these larger brands presents some intriguing opportunities for some of these smaller brands looking to make a push. I am a firm believer that time is of the essence and that there may not be a better opportunity than now.

What do you think is the biggest challenge for Famous moving into 2013?

Our biggest challenge we face is the economy. There is obviously a fair bit of uncertainty in the markets, so it’s going to be tough to predict where things will go. As cost of goods continues to rise this could this could detriment on the manufacturing side.