Friday, May 8, 2015

Inside the Industry: Tommy Daddono Interview

As the freestyle scooter industry grows, more and more scooter riders are getting the opportunity to be employed by companies.  It's really awesome to see companies giving riders a chance to work for them, because it keeps more money in scootering as well as gives riders a chance to gain experience in a professional career field.  We all dream of being a pro sponsored rider, but not everyone can or will be able to accomplish that.  Getting a job in the industry is the next best thing.  Whether it's running a shop, operating machines, filming and editing, graphic design, and beyond, there is a wealth of positions that scooter riders fill, and with Inside the Industry, I'd like to find out more about them.

This time I hit up my long-time friend, riding buddy, and now business partner (more on that later) Tommy Daddono to discuss his involvement in the industry.  He’s been in it off and on since nearly the beginning of the modern industry, and has been involved in a ton of different projects, so it was a no-brainer to interview him.

Words and photos by Jordan Jasa.

Jordan Jasa:  Let’s start from the beginning.  What was your first position in the scooter industry?

Tommy Daddono:  My first technical position was Sky High back in 2009, which I launched shortly after I started riding scooters.  I quickly became obsessed with riding my scooter and found through Scooter Resource that there wasn’t really a developed industry yet.

How old were you when you started it and why did you start it?

I was 16.  I found I had a business sense early in high school, and after discovering that the scooter industry wasn’t developed yet I thought I’d have a shot sourcing and selling parts on the Scooter Resource forums.  One of my early influences was a user named Ian who was known as the “Blade Brake King.”  When early parts were hitting the market, everyone was pretty much riding a bolted foldy Razor Pro Model and one of the few mods you could do to the scooter was a different brake.  It was an upgraded, thicker, shorter, better looking brake that you could retrofit to a pro model, b model, old a, most everything.  He would receive small amounts of the brakes and sell them through the forums. I decided to contact him to ask if he could source a bulk amount of brakes for me.  Near the same time, the company YAK, which already was proven as a better alternative to the stock razor wheel, had just developed and released a metalcore version called the Yak Skat wheel.  They were an in demand and highly discussed product at the time and I decided to contact Yak directly to see if they offer any wholesale pricing, because it wasn’t really available in North America.  So I started selling on the forums, and shortly realized that the demand for the products I was offering outgrew a thread within a forum.  That’s when I decided to I needed to start an online shop.

You’ve brought Sky High to life from nothing like three times now.  How does one go about building a brand like that despite having to go off basically nothing?

Back in the day I didn't know that much about branding, or building an image.  What I did know was that I needed a logo, consistent colors, and promotional products like stickers and shirts.  The name of the company helped me figure out what the brand developed into, with the blues/greys/whites, and I started to brand on that.  Another one of my ideals was by building trust within my customer base and the rest of the community. On the forums, I always tried to be helpful and contribute as much as I could.  I translated that into my business as well, going above and beyond to help customers, even if it wasn’t the most profitable thing to do. I lucked out with finding a niche in an industry that I was passionate about. Timing was a major part of it.

You’re one of the few riders who has completed school but came back into the industry.  Did you want to pursue a career in that field (filmmaking) or did you know you wanted to be in the scooter world still?  

I was really stressed by running Sky High at the time, and wasn’t enjoying it anymore.  It took away from my riding, it just wasn’t good.  At the same time while that fire was being extinguished, I was very interested in filmmaking, filming videos and editing, that process.  But ultimately decided that I had to either continue to run Sky High for like the rest of my life, or stop it, potentially sell it, and go pursue an education.  I decided that for my future an education would be the best investment as well as a change of pace for my life.  But through school I realized that it was never something that I was as passionate about compared to scooters, and after graduating I realized that the people who were going to be successful in the film industry who were around me in college were the people who were truly passionate about working a camera or editing a movie and I never had that drive to do that as I had with working in the scooter industry.

Another project you undertook was Transit 2.  Where did the idea for that come from?  Did you expect it to turn out how it did?

I watched Transit 1, which at the time was a couple years old.  I started talking to you, and a few other names within the forums and decided that it would be possible to make the 2nd Transit.  We wanted to make it our own thing if we couldn’t get Matt (Andrus)’s approval (we didn’t want to step on anyone’s toes,) But after talking to Matt and getting his blessing, we knew it had to be Transit 2.  So we started planning some of it out, and it seemed really possible that we could do it- we had the cameras, the equipment, the people, figured out the editing, my mom decided it was cool to let 10 random dudes stay at her house for a week, and so we set a date and it worked.  I didn’t think it would be nearly as good as it turned out to be, mainly because of Sam Short (the editor), easily.

You recently came out with a video out of nowhere for Satori.  How did that whole thing happen?

I actually just had a bunch of footage banked from 2014 and I felt the need to put it towards something. In the past, I'd release my footage as a Sky High video, but this video ended up dropping right around the time I left the company. I've always been tight with all of the homies on Satori and I really wanted to be involved to help Kirk develop and progress his vision. Having been a fan of the Satori-style edits, I spent a day trying to mimic that same vibe. It ended up turning out pretty well I guess because I sent it off to Kirk and he dug it and put me on the team.

You, Spencer, and I recently started a company called Forefront Supply. What exactly is this company and what can the scooter world expect from it?

Working at Sky High through all of 2014 gave me a pretty clear vision on how the industry works and who the people involved are. Handling all of the purchasing at Sky High, I noticed a huge disconnect in the distribution of our industry. Some of the distributors put no effort towards promoting the progression of our sport, and simply handle the logistics and sales of scooter components to make money off of our industry. Meanwhile others simply have no idea what they're even selling and don't answer their phones.  In my opinion, our industry will develop in the most pure way if we have actual scooter riders running the businesses that we so heavily support. That's where Forefront Supply was born. It started off as a conversation between you, Spencer and I and quickly turned into the reality in which we're all living now. We all got a house in Northern Chicago and we're two months into the project. It's a little overwhelming sometimes but I have faith that we'll be able to do something great with our similar mindset and combined efforts. We currently have five brands under our belt but the goal is to distribute and support many more as we move forward.

So what is your official job title there, and what are you responsible for?

We don't really have job titles since we all help with whatever needs to be done. I spend most of my time during the day working on marketing though. I handle a heavy portion of the social media content which consists mostly of photography, video editing, and graphic design.

Forefront is a distro, Sky High a retailer…will we see you involved with a manufacturer someday?

Haha that's tough to say. Forefront takes up pretty much all of my time right now and I'm really working hard for it to become a success with the dudes. I've definitely thought about it in the past but I never wanted to bite off more than I could chew. I guess we'll see what the future holds.

Finally, what would you tell someone who wants to make it in the industry?

My best words of advice would be to stay passionate, positive, and most importantly to be doing it for the right reasons. There's plenty of other industries that are way more profitable, way easier to succeed in, but there’s no other industry that I'm as passionate about and that's all that matters in my opinion. When you love what you do, you never actually feel like you're working.

1 comment:

  1. i remember watching his old sky high videos. maan, those were some nice mongo pushes.


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