EDITOR’S NOTE: Noisemakers is a new series spotlighting young companies who have built a name for themselves in their communities through organic, minimal branding, and with support from core influencers in their space.

Brand: Arcade Belt Co.
Years in Business: 8
Interviewee: Tristan Queen
Job Title: Co-Founder

Eight years ago, a group of friends from Lake Tahoe, California, got tired of wearing belts that weren’t comfortable or versatile enough for what they like to do. So they started a brand and stuck to its mantra: let the product speak for itself.

Through a grassroots, minimal marketing approach Arcade Belt Co. pushed though the barriers of a saturated market – including getting in front of key retailers that often had more established relationships with heritage brands – and have been embraced by the core community and influencers alike.

TransWorld Business had the opportunity to chat with Co-founder Tristan Queen where he filled us in on what drives the brand, and how staying true to the original mission is all that matters. When asked about Arcade’s marketing approach he told us, “The most important thing we do is take care of everyone that we do business with.” Here’s what else he shared.

What markets does Arcade touch?

We branch off into different markets because we always want to be known as the good times belt. Whether it be snowboarding, skiing, skateboarding, surfing, climbing, or traveling to go do one of those things, we want something that does it all – so we hit them all.

Michelle Parker arcade

Professional climber and skier Michelle Parker supports and is supported by Arcade.

How would you consider your marketing approach to be different?

As far as our actual marketing approach goes, I’d call it extremely minimal. We never have meetings where we ask how to capture certain audiences. Instead, we just take care of everyone that we do business with, from shop kids to athletes. We let the product do the talking. That way, they can genuinely recommend it to customers and friends.

We also have a team of athletes and ambassadors that stand for what we represent. In the beginning, it was huge for us to acquire Bode Merrill, Gray Thompson and Austin Smith because even though they’re on the smaller scale, they’re influential, creative and most importantly, identify with our story telling.

Austin Smith

Backcountry charger Austin Smith.

What is you biggest driver of sales?

Our marketing. Most, if not all of our marketing budget goes towards taking care of people that we do business with because if you put a good product out there, people will try it out and want more of it. So if we give free belts to employees at the shops we work with, they’ll tell their customers, “I have this belt and love it.”

Then of course, the customer buys the product and shows their friends. But that only works if the product is good.

bode merrill arcade

Bode Merrill: 2017 Snowboarder Magazine Rider of the Year and TransWorld Snowboarding’s 2016 Men’s Rider of the Year.

How do you compete with other companies and who are your biggest competitors?

Our biggest competitors are big brands because even though a lot of them still view accessories as an afterthought, they have deep relationships with retailers … Which can make the accessory market feel bland, because from the shop’s perspective, it’s like, “We already have belts.”

There’s also a lot of small brands that are saturating the market but luckily, we’ve had the secret sauce for a little while now.

The way we see it is, everyone is trying to innovate. So as long as we take good care of everyone we do business with, they won’t have a reason to do business with anyone else.

What would you say is your biggest mode of sales?

Wholesale and direct to consumer – although, we’re significantly deeper in wholesale. Even though we’re in a couple national accounts, the shops are our biggest focus. We try to keep both categories fresh by offering special products that are only sold direct to consumer and vise versa.

Cody Townsend

Arcade skier Cody Townsend poppin’ up.

In what ways has the brand evolved since it first launched?

When we started selling to national accounts and working with national distributors, we saw how easy it could be to let the messy side of business get in the way of our sole purpose.

But we keep the main thing the main thing, which is making lightweight, versatile belts that we believe work well for everybody. When we started expanding, we made it a point to stay true to that. We hired wonderful financial partners that are able to keep us moving forward while the front line stays consistent.

What’s your current view on the action sports industry? Primarily snow, because you guys are from Lake Tahoe and located in Squaw Valley.

You have to be living it to put out products that are relevant. Skate and snow are similar in that if you try to come at it from the outside, you’re not going to be accepted or add anything of value.

As a whole, the industry isn’t thriving as it once was, but things will continue to change and the brands that are true will continue to adapt.

There are plenty of core brands that are doing cool things, and they aren’t going anywhere because they’re sticking with it and refuse to be forced out. And that’s what’s cool about the current landscape of our industry.

gray thompson

United Shapes founder and Arcade snowboarder Gray Thompson

All photos by Aaron Blatt.

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