During this year’s Knowshow, we caught up with Endeavor Co-Founder Max Jenke at their factory in East Vancouver, BC to see what kind of innovative board designs are being cooked up in their private prototype lab. Click through the images above to get an inside look at the facility and read through the Q&A below to find out how Endeavor uses its lab to constantly raise the bar.
Tell us a bit about what’s in the facility and how quickly you can turn an idea into a board?
The Archetype Lab is a fully operational prototype facility. We produce everything in-house which gives us the power to take an idea and turn it into a reality within 24 hours. We wanted to solidify a future for ourselves and drive our product forward through innovation and ideas. It is incredibly hard to try crazy ideas in a production setting. In the lab we can test crazy ideas and have them fail without consequence with the hope that some of these ideas will be commercialized.
About how many prototypes are you creating in a season?
We’ll take an idea and create several prototypes, each a variant of each other, so we can test the differences between them. We work on 10 main ideas with five or more prototypes of each idea per season. Right now we’re in “no boundaries” month, where the idea is to create some insane shit.
What are some of the developments and tweaks that having this real estate has allowed your crew?
We’ve tweaked our Live Series board into a new multi-camber profile, the Clout Series from design to proto, to production using a special pre-tensioned glass which is unique in the industry, and of course the Archetype Series, which we will produce in the lab. Most exciting though is the Seamless Sidewall Technology that we will be implementing immediately in the Archetype Series, with implementation into the 2015 line. This is huge for us and a trade secret, as it provides a better riding and stronger snowboard than using other sidewall manufacturing techniques. We’re also excited to utilize the riders on all of our projects – we’ve been incorporating feedback from Rusty Ockenden, Cam Pierce, Kareem El Rafie, and ambassadors like Shin Campos, so we’re excited to bring those improvements into the product lines.
Is this a first step in building your own factory, or does it make more sense to produce in China still?
Production is a totally different beast. We are producing the Archetype Series for the coming season in the lab so I suppose we’ll see how that goes. It’s definitely possible – there are some major brands doing it – but right now we’re not entertaining that idea. It will take us away from what we set out to do and that is to focus on creative ideas and innovation. We have an amazing partner in China and the quality is amazing. Everything is going smoothly, so we’re trying to improve the current product line with innovation, rather than where it’s made.
Jason Broz is the man there now – when did he come on full time?
Jason came on full time in March 2011. We still had our small office but quickly moved into our new spot by July. The lab has been running since October 2011. Jason has been working with me on Endeavor pretty much from the start in 2002 though, so it was the perfect fit to bring him on full time!
You guys are really expanding lately on the distribution front. We checked out Colour Wear over in Europe and are super impressed. What are your plans for distributing CLWR in North America? Are you planning on making them available in the States?
CLWR is only available in Canada for this coming season and we plan to launch in the USA for fall 2014. We’re super excited about it – good styling, good quality, and at a reasonable price. We have a lot of common distributors in Europe and it’s been on our radar to bring it over to North America for the last two years but the timing wasn’t right. When the Program closed down, we figured the timing was perfect!
When one door closes… Why do you think they’ll translate well over here?
The entire collection is wearable and stylish, the technical story is super simple and easy to understand—all jackets are 10k waterproof / 10k breathability except for one 3L jacket and pants at 20k)—and it’s reasonably priced—jackets range from $199 to $299. I feel like there’s nothing new or exciting in outerwear and Colour Wear is fresh. What can I say – the Swedes know what’s up!
How has the winter been to date for your brands? What have been your strongest wins on the sales front?
The sales season has gone well. Hardgoods are hard! Haha. We’re seeing our usual strong territories doing well and adding new territories in Europe, which is exciting. There are a lot of brands competing for limited shelf space so we need to focus on offering a better product line and better stories for the shop staff to tell the customer, as well as making sure the shop staff actually understand the stories. For softgoods like Airhole and CLWR, things are very positive and we’re growing steadily year over year and again expanding throughout Europe but also deepening our penetration in the USA with Airhole specifically.
Predictions for the Canadian market for next season?
The Canadian market seems to be more consistent and stable than other territories. I think this is why big US retailers are entering it – Zumiez, Backcountry.com, and major chains outside of Action Sports. The west continues to have decent seasons while the east has been unfortunate in mild weather. Hopefully everyone gets through their inventory by season end and we can look forward to a solid fall of full-priced sales!