Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Dissidence Joins Inside-Scooters: The Kevin Demay Interview

I'm sure to most people the only thing that comes to mind when it comes to Dissidence is the Street Jam every year. But there is so much more to the story of this amazing shop and company, and especially the people behind it. I had time to sit down with my good friend Kevin Demay, and ask him some questions regarding Dissidence, and the result is probably my favorite interview on ISB so far. Check it out below.

What’s up Kevin, how’ve you been dude?

 Kevin:  I'm fine (as always), things are going a bit better now for us, so there is more space in my mind to answer peacefully ; )

 Haha good, good. It’s been a long time coming, but it’s good to see Dissidence partnered up with Inside-Scooters. It seems like Dissidence has been around forever, when exactly did the company get started?

 Kevin:  Yes!  Dissidence seems really old, but we started this project only 5 years ago.  For sure, if you compare that to the freestyle scooter history ... it's like prehistoric.

 At this time, I was running FrenchID with Johann Moreau, and I was tired of seeing every FrenchID part sold by CDK in France (that shop was only caring about the profits, and they never tried to take a look at what was really happening on the core side).  At this time scootering was nothing, so they were the only shop selling the JD-Bug in France (the MS-130B, same as the Razor in USA).

 That's why, with Cyrille, we chose to create a simple online shop, just to have a place where a rider can find everything he needs (actually, it looks stupid ... but, at this time, it was like something totally new in Europe).

 Through this, Maxime Legrand, Jean Yves Randriambelson, Lucas Wisdorf, and Shinpei Nakata followed us on this new adventure.  Then, Jeremy Lenfranchis and Balthazar Neveu were added to the team a while after. 

 Team ... for me, it's not really a team, but more like a group of friends (we have been riding almost every day together since 4 years before the beginning of dissidence).   It's like an OG crew from the old age of scootering.  We don't care about level or results ... it's just the good time we share.

 As I was working at K-124 (FrenchID) on the designer office, the boss forced me to sell only FrenchID parts on Dissidence, otherwise he would fire me.  That's why there was only FrenchID stuff in the shop.  (In fact, that was not a really big problem because FrenchID was almost the only brand on the market at this time).

 Then, when we quit FrenchID one year after, to start new future projects (District / Addict) we become free with Dissidence for the first time.

 With the growing of Eagle, and the beginning of District, we chose to become a distributor, to try to find new shops which would be able to sell scooters.  (At the beginning, there was only Dissidence and CDK.  Now, there are around 90 shops in France selling freestyle scooters ... but we are still the only scooter shop selling only freestyle scooters).

 That’s awesome man. Being a true rider-owned company, what are some of the hardest things you deal with to keep the company running?

 Kevin:  Honestly, the most difficult thing is to stay true ... When you run a business, you are on an ocean swimming in the middle of a lot of sharks (mostly when scootering get its first big boom in France 3 years ago).

 We started with only 3000 euros each (Cyrille and I) from a loan I did to finish my school ... I've quit my engineer school to use that money to start Dissidence.  That may look like a lot to kids, but it's just ridiculous if you compare with what you really need.  At the beginning, all of our stock fit in Cyrille’s bedroom.  We had to grow, without any financial help.

 Anyway, it's easy to grow a shop when you don't care about ethic problems.  In fact, the market in France during the boom was really different than what you can see in America ... there were like 3 or 4 times more scooter riders in every skate park than skaters or bmxers.  And most of them were

kids buying shitty complete scooters.

 But, with Dissidence we always choose to sell only "real" brands.... no Madd, no Grit, no Crisp, no Chilly, or every fucking cheap scooter that doesn't bring anything to the sport (and we have a lot of brands like that in France).  Unfortunately, those brands were like 80% of the sales ... and when you have a really big shop here for 20 or 30 years that starts to sell scooters, it's sometimes difficult to make people understand we are really different.

 I really think we are different ... scootering is our life, and the final goal, nothing else.  That's why the Dissidence family is really big, we try to help every rider we share time with.  The official team is like 7 guys, but, for me, there are maybe 20 or 30 riders we really support and travel with.  And most of the time we give them much more help and parts than what they receive with their own sponsors.

 We take care of the Flavor team.  In France, we help Julien Perret to grow RAW Scootering because he really deserves it.

 At the end, the most important thing is to have a good time and enjoy your life.

Love it man, that’s what it’s all about. Talk to me about Dissidence USA.  I know that Matt McKeen, Hep Greg, and Logan Fuller are running that.  What are your plans with Dissidence USA?

Kevin:  Hmm ... one year ago we drove all around the USA: New York, Philly, Toronto, Chicago, Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and San Diego in a car (Cyrille and me).   I'm sure you remember it, it was the first time I met you.

That trip was first to have a good trip (hey, hey ^^), but also to meet everybody running the scooter industry in USA.

 We were also looking for a good distributor for the launch of Ethic DTC there.  We got a lot of propositions from big companies on the West Coast, but at the end we chose Mothership, north of the West Coast.  Not because they were big with a really good potential (because it's maybe the opposite ^^), but mostly because we recognized in Jimmy and Kingsley was a similar situation to what we had with Dissidence in France, chill and good spirit.

 But, for us, USA is really big and didn’t get its first scooter boom (as we had 3 years ago in France, and also in Australia).  That's why we wanted to split the distribution (east/west).

 And, at this time, there was like nobody on the East Coast.  And as we really like the East Coast (the way of life, the cities ... the population), we were like: why not try to do it ourselves?

 That's why we've asked Matt (I’ve known him for a while with FrenchID and Addict trips) if he was down to take care of it =).  He told us that it could be great to do it with Hep Greg and Logan, and we started like that.

 Actually it's still really new, which is why it takes time to make it work well and be sure this project can stay alive in the future.  But there is nothing secure.  That's why we try.  And I hope one day we will be strong enough there to make great things, not just as a distributor, but also a company that can bring something to the sport.

 Looking forward to that for sure. The Dissidence Street Jam is one of the most iconic events in our sport today.  What made you guys want to start the event so many years ago?  And how has it changed since then?

 Kevin:  4 years ago there was absolutely no street scooter event.  And we really like street and the concept of a street jam (everybody can try, no need to be a super rider, no pressure, no real competition ... freedom).

 That's why we chose to try one, and it worked well.  Everybody enjoyed it.

 For example, with the sponsors we don't ask them to pay anything, or to give us prices... (We pay everything ourselves ... around 10000 euros), the only thing we ask them is: you have to pay any flight tickets for your riders to come here.

And, for sure, we select the sponsors we want to have ^^.

 Sometimes people ask us: Can you advise me how to make a really good event?  What do we have to plan?  What do we have to ask to the city?   The answer is absolutely nothing.

 Every year we start to really think about it maybe 3 or 4 days before (the spots we will use, if we will bring something to the spot ...), and I think that it's mainly the reason why the Dissidence Street Jam is so particular.

 50 riders sleeping on the floor and shredding all night at the warehouse, that is the real street jam (On the video we can only see the "event", but most of the best part is outside the event, during the night or the session with everybody before and after the Jam).

 Haha with such little planning it’s amazing how it always comes together. The Dissidence Street Jam was so big this year, that it attracted the attention of local authorities.  Do you think this will continue to be a problem in coming years?

 Kevin:  It's not the first time we’ve gotten in trouble with cops ... 2 years ago Cyrille got arrested by them, so he didn’t see the end of the Jam ^^.

 But, this year was particularly intense =).  As the famous Bercy spot will be destroyed next year, I was thinking about creating a rail for the 18 stairs.  We made it one day before the jam with Julien (raw) and Alexis Cuvillier.

 The rail was so perfect that we knew we had to drill the floor of Bercy to fix it very well.  (We really wanted to leave it there, for other skaters or bmxers to ride it after, and to think ... yea the most crazy shit ever done on that spot was made by scooter riders).

 So, I drill the spot with a really big driller I had rented.  I was dressed in workmen clothes with a yellow jacket and a helmet to look like a building worker.  The morning of the Jam, we drove 40 miles with the rail on the back of the truck (the truck was 4m long and the rail 7.  It was sketchy driving it in the middle of Paris with 2 guys hidden in the back to handle it).

 We finally arrived on the spot and the security guy arrived just 2 minutes after we'd finished fixing it ... I was like so sad ... it was like the killing of a little baby.

 I hid the driller on the truck before the cops arrived ... I was really lucky to get this reflex decision because when they were there, they were only looking for that to have a real proof of destruction of private property.

 But now I don't care ... I know that next year we will do something crazier and crazier ... that's sure ! ^^

 The only bad thing we think sometimes is that if a rider dies on a spot, we can have a really big problem ... (and when you show riders a spot with like 20 stairs, and you see kids trying it, it's a bit tense ^^) but anyway, if we don't do it, who will ?  ; )

 That was one of the best stories I’ve heard in a long time!  Now, last year, we all saw the “Ethic: The Untold Story” video, you mentioned that Dissidence almost died.  How did you guys bounce back from that, and survive?

 Kevin:  It's just a mix between a lot of work and a lot of luck, and honestly, even though I now know that we have really good products with Ethic, and we choose to keep low margins to make them 50% cheaper than what they have to be, it's difficult ^^.

 We have a lot of work with Dissidence: Ethic, Dissidence Distribution, Dissidence Distribution USA, French Toast, Allis Possible, and others, but we are still really small.

 So, yea, we survived the "Marcel's bullshit" and we successfully brought Ethic DTC on the market, but we had another really stressful time like 2 months ago (just during the Jam).  We have never been so close to dying ... Cyrille didn’t pay his flat for 2 month ^^ we still had to pay $150,000 to factories and other people, and, at the same time, Cyrille and I were only paying ourselves 40% of the minimal salary in France ($600 / month).  During the first 4 years, we didn't get paid at all.  So, if we needed cash, we really had nothing to save us ^^.  No rich family, no security, but time is still alive, so we don't think about it.

 And I think that may be the reason why we try things so easily.  We don't think about the risk ... we’re like kids, and it's good like that, we don't want to be adults.

 In the same time, we've just finished, after 4 years of work, the new Dissidence website (it was really long because we really do everything ourselves with friends).  We don't have $50,000 to pay for a website like that, and we really didn't want to use a "ready-to-use website".  Everything is custom, and created from nothing (It looks really simple, but on the back office page we've made a lot of tools for us to work easier).  I've spent maybe 50 hours just for the "tips" page to design all the images.  And we take all the pictures ourselves on our own Foto Studio.

 We have also finished the new 2B2 Distribution website for France: 

Riders don't see it, it's only made for shops, but when the shop is connected, everything is totally automatic, and easy.  We can now save a lot of time, and it avoids mistakes on the stock ... before we had to run everything by hand with shops. 

 We are actually working on a similar version for Dissidence USA to make everything there also really easier than now.

 So, yea, now we are in a little bit better situation, but as I told you, we still have a lot of money to pay ... and as we don't want any investors, and want to stay totally free, it's really hard to grow and survive ^^.  But, we can try to realize every stupid idea that’s born from our little brain ; ).

 I think that’s the best way to go dude. Where do you see Dissidence in the future?  You now have locations in France and USA. Planning to go anywhere else?  Australia, perhaps?

 Kevin:  Honestly, I really have no idea about where we will be in the future, still here, I hope ^^.  We don't have a global goal, we don't want to become the masters of the scootering world, and we don’t want to have as many shops as we can everywhere in the world.  If we become too big, it will be the same as every other big company: you need a lot of employees, and people don't know each other when they have to build something together ... no spirit.

 We want Dissidence to stay humane ... a family.  And, in Australia, there are already people and companies there to do the right things, like Unfair, Flavor, et al.

 There is enough space for many more real brands here in the scootering world.  That's why we also try to push the riders to set up their own project.  And we will always be here to help projects like this coming from riders, even if we have to do it for free.  The more good brands in this sport, the more our culture will be strong and deep.

About the way we work, it's simple: every time we start something, it's just like a surprise.  We think “that could be cool to try this”, and, the day after, we try it.

Actually, we have a lot of other projects already ready to be started ... the only thing we don't have is enough money to realize them ^^.  But, I think that a few of those projects will probably be born when it is the right time.

Kevin, it is always a pleasure to hear from you, dude.  I hope the partnership between ISB and Dissidence is a long one.  If you have any shout outs, or last words, let them go now man.

Kevin:  First, thanks for this small interview (it's a long one, but I would need 50 pages to explain everything ^^).  We are not focused on massive advertising; that's why there are not a lot of people who know us. And I hope this thread will help a few of them to understand who we really are and what we try to realize.

I would also like to thank every friend and rider that supports us.  Dissidence is not just Cyrille and me, but so many other people, stories, memories, adventures ... and without them, Dissidence’s heart would have been really less colorful.

See ya "really" soon ; )


  1. in FRENCH, PLEASE !

  2. Dissidence is the only real shop in france , i'm french and i can tell you that this shop is the most authentic ever made ! Real shredders are behind this shop , and that's the only reason why every pieces of my scooter are from dissidence

  3. Yeah, fuck madd!


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