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Upstarts: Hendrick Boards On Giving Back

San Diego natives and brothers David and Donny Hendrickson have been helping save animals since they were kids. Growing up in Escondido, California, the Hendrickson family made rescuing animals from local shelters a major part of their lives and soon had five rescue animals living with them at their home. Taking his passion further, David began volunteering at local shelters and realized how much of a difference local businesses and programs can make.

In 2011, after some serious thought, the brothers joined forces to combine their love for skateboards, graphic design, and saving animals into Hendrick Boards, a skateboard and apparel brand that donates between 20-40% of their proceeds to helping animals. For every $10 Hendrick raises from sales of its boards and apparel,—which are constructed with eco-friendly, plant-based and bamboo materials— one sheltered animal is able to be fed for a whole month. For every $50, the brand is able to take a stray animal off the streets and find them a loving home. The program works with more then 200 shelters and animal rescue programs nationwide.

As an animal lover and a skateboard fan, it’s hard not to get excited about what the Hendrickson’s are doing to give back to the skate community and the furry little critters we all love. The company was also the recent winner of American Express’ Big Break For Small Business campaign, and was featured in the above video, giving it even more momentum over the last few months.

We checked in with David to find out why he’s fired up to partner with retailers and the skate community, and his plan to build a national community dedicated to saving animals.

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Donny Hendrickson and his rescue pup.

How did you think up the concept behind Hendricks boards?

I started Hendrick Boards for one simple 6-pound reason and his name is William. I had been volunteering at the local shelter in Orange County when staff brought in a couple of Chihuahua-mix puppies only 6 months old. I soon learned that the puppies were poisoned at birth via their mother who had ingested household chemicals. Staff said that the two puppies would probably not live for long. I adopted William that very day if only to give him the best last few weeks of his life filled with love. Three years later, after numerous surgeries, procedures and chronic problems, William now is healthy and filled with love and kisses. It was when we were longboarding along Huntington Beach one day that it all clicked. What if I combined my passion for skateboards and graphic design to save animals just like William by supporting the very same shelters and rescues that brought William to me. William is the sole reason why I started Hendrick Boards and he remains the driving force behind the success of the company.

What’s your previous background in the action sports industry?

Aside from internships and freelance work with some of the top skate and surf brands, my real passion is saving animals. I don’t view Hendrick Boards as solely a skateboard nor an apparel company. First and foremost, Hendrick Boards is an animal-saving company. We save animals through skateboards, longboards, and apparel. This is what sets Hendrick Boards a part from other brands in the action sports industry. We started Hendrick Boards simply as a new tool to help support more than 200 local shelters, rescues and sanctuaries across the nation. And, we do this through every purchase of a skateboard, longboard, tee, hoodie and accessory.

 What retailers are carrying the boards?

Hendrick Boards is only in a handful of online and brick and mortar retailers across the nation. One of our goals for 2013 is to implement our strategies to get retailers to carry the Hendrick Boards line of animal-saving products.

How does buying a Hendricks board help dogs and other rescue animals?

Let me first start with the two issues Hendrick Boards is trying to solve. First, more than 10,000 animals are euthanized in our shelter system every day in the U.S. And, more than 10 billion undomesticated animals are killed every year. Second, every day, hundreds of animals are abused, neglected and exploited in dog fighting in communities across the nation. Take for instance Trooper, a 6-month-old pit bull puppy who was intentionally tied to the back of a truck and dragged for nearly 2 miles, or, Pier who was set on fire and burned.

Our products not only support the animals we like to call our best friends, but we also support organizations like Mostly Monkeys, a monkey and exotic animal sanctuary, Pacific Marine Mammal Center, which cares for sick sea lions and seals, and Animals Asia, which helps to protect moon bears.

Customers who come to hendrickboards.com and make a purchase of a skateboard, long board, tee, hoodie or accessory will spark a donation to their local animal shelter, rescue or sanctuary. This purchase helps support the shelters and rescues that are working every day to save animals. A simple tee that retails for $24.99, for instance, can spark a $10 donation to save animals.

We have also developed the Critical Needs program aimed at saving animals who have endured unimaginable abuse and neglect. Our Critical Needs program directly supports the animal in need and the shelter or rescue caring for the animal. Through this program, we have been able to raise $500 to more than $10,000 to fund life-saving surgeries and procedures.

To date, we have been able to raise more than $150,000 to save animals across the nation through our network of more than 200 local shelters, rescues and sanctuaries.

David with his amazing rescue pup and inspiration for the business, William the Chi-mix.

Do you have any stories that have hit home with you that have been shared by your customers, or people you’ve been working with along the way?

There is not a day that goes by that we don’t receive an email or a phone call from our nonprofit partners or customers. Just recently, for instance, we had helped save a senior dog, Dori, in Michigan who had been used as bait and breeding for a dog fighting ring. She had been chained for so many years outside that the chain had cut through her neck. Dori had been rescued by a very small animal rescue group. We were able to only raise the funds needed to care for Dori, but to that nonprofit, it meant the world. Because of our posts on Facebook and Twitter and our fans’ comments and shares, the nonprofit received additional funds through direct donations and supplies. But, it was a letter we received from the nonprofit that hit home with me the most. In there, they mentioned that they were most appreciative of the outpouring of support from people around the nation and their thoughts and prayers for Dori.

How do you measure your success as a business?

We measure results simply by how many animals we can save. We know for every $10 raised, we can feed a shelter animal for another month. For animals that are abused and neglected, our goal is to fully-fund their life-saving surgeries or procedures. We are excited just to make an impact one board and one tee at a time.

What are your thoughts on the skateboard market overall?

The skateboard market is competitive with a handful of brands making up 95 percent of the sales. There will always be a place for the major brands. But, for those who want to save animals with their purchase, then we have Hendrick Boards.

What specific ideas or strategies do you have to grow the business in the coming months and year?

Currently, around 90% of our sales are directly secured via Facebook. Facebook has been an effective tool to create a national community dedicated to saving animals. While we will continue to grow our Facebook presence, we also are focused on growth strategies aimed at expanding our audiences through retail, strategic partnerships and community events. Expansion into skateboard, surf and even pet boutiques and retailers will allow us to extend the power of our animal-saving products directly where people shop. Developing strategic corporate and nonprofit partnerships will strengthen our brand awareness. And, with community events such as fairs and consumer expos, we will be able to directly communicate with the customer. In the end, it is about saving more animals.

What type of growth have you seen since the brand has taken off?

When we launched Hendrick Boards in May 2011, most people were skeptical given the economic crisis the nation faced. But, for Hendrick Boards, it was perfect timing. More people than ever would rather purchase a brand that gives back, even in times of economic turmoil. In the beginning, sales were slow as we faced no name recognition and little legitimacy in the marketplace. But, since January 2012, we have been growing 30 percent every single month. And, with this growth, Hendrick Boards is able to save even more animals.

What advice would you give to those who are looking to start a business?

Find your passion. For me, my passion, even as a little kid, was about animals. Because Hendrick Boards was first and foremost about saving animals, creating a business around the cause was simple for me. We encourage everyone, who is thinking about creating their own business, to consider how they can make a difference in the community by encorporating a cause as an essential tenet in their business model. My generation has a new outlook. We are about making a difference and a real impact in the community. And, people around the nation are responding and joining our cause. My parent’s generation may have been about creating a company that makes you wealthy. I say, why not create a successful, profitable company that can also make a positive impact in communities across the nation and world?

William, the six-pound Chihuahua mix who David saved nearly four years ago from a local shelter.

In hindsight, is there anything you’d do differently?

I would not change a thing. In hindsight, I could say I should have started a Facebook strategy earlier or focused more attention in the early months to growing our nonprofit network across the nation. But, it is an evolution. Since we launched, I have learned and grown so much not because of the successes we have had, but by the challenges we faced. Only by recognizing and facing the challenges head on was I able to create the success we have earned.

 What opportunities exist for small businesses right now? What are the biggest challenges?

I can tell you firsthand that the biggest challenge in starting a business is you yourself. The old cliche seems to be valid: You are your own worst enemy. In the beginning, I only had 5 or 6 orders a month. In those early months, I did question whether or not Hendrick Boards would ever be a success. In many ways, running a small business is isolating and lonely. I was lucky enough to surround myself with others who shared in my passion for saving animals through skateboards and tees. That is why I never gave up and turned the early failures into merely challenges to overcome.

Do you have a pro skate team? Who’s on it? If not, are you thinking about putting one together? Have any athletes approached you because your brand resonates with them on a personal level?

We do not have a pro skate team. What we have discussed at length is supporting up-and-coming skate talent under 18, who also share in our commitment to save animals. In fact, there have been so many young amateur athletes that have wanted to join our cause.

What is your main goal for the brand?

Our main goal is to be known as the skateboard and apparel brand that saves animals around the world. And, we can do this not merely through product sales that spark a donation. I am extremely proud of the donations we have made so far. What I am most proud of, however, is the overall impact we have made in raising awareness of animal welfare issues altogether. We are raising awareness that animal abuse goes on right in our backyard in communities across the nation. We are increasing awareness that, despite the headlines of the atrocities of dog fighting, bait dogs, and dog fighting persists everywhere. We are encouraging people to adopt from their local animal shelter to make a dent in the 10,000 animals that are needlessly euthanized every day. And, we are inspiring a new generation to take up animal welfare.

Where do you see Hendricks boards in the next 12 months? How do you hope to grow and evolve as a brand?

We want Hendrick Boards to be a household name synonymous with saving animals.