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: Korua Shapes
Years in Business: 5
Interviewee: Nicholas Wolken
Job Title: Brand Manager
Directional snowboards re-gained a tremendous amount of popularity over the past several years. With big brands like Nitro releasing their quiver series and showcasing Austin Smith ride them – as well as K2 Snowboarding’s “Seek and Enjoy” campaign, it wasn’t long until directional snowboards were a part of every snowboarder’s quiver and every brand’s product line.
Amongst the craze, there are a few small brands that have worked their way to the forefront of the directional game, and Korua Shapes is one of them. Winning four Vimeo Staff Picks for their video series, “Yearning For Turning,” the growing Germany and Sweden-based company was able to put themselves on the map within the snowboarding community.
TransWorld Business reached out to Korua Shapes Brand Manager and co-founder Nicholas Wolken to gain some insight on the importance of having a ‘minimalist’ business model in today’s snow market, and how their video series ultimately propelled them into the global spotlight.
Korua has gained a tremendous amount of popularity – both amongst the core and broader audience – What do you think is responsible for that?
Hard to say, but I think it was our videos. Our third won a Vimeo Staff Pick and I think that’s what really put us out there. Our videos all have the same minimal aesthetic, which I think is appealing to both audiences. Same with showcasing the surfy style, it's relatable and all ability levels can do it.
We also came into it at the perfect time – in 2014 – which was right when directional boards were beginning to regain popularity.
How is your sales and marketing approach different?
We stick to our guns and keep our videos and boards the same, aesthetically. But every brand does that in their own way. So to be honest, I don’t think we are much different in that regard.
Unlike most other companies, our board graphics don’t change annually. We like what we have – and want them to hold their value.
Not quite as rare, but still uncommon is that we work with our brick and mortar retail accounts directly. In other words, we don’t work with distributors – which I think goes a long way, because it’s more personal.
What is the plan behind each short video project and who is your videographer and/or director?
Stephan Maurer is the mastermind behind the videography and editing. Aaron Schwartz does all graphics, and together they take care of the creative approach. I've known them for ages and we're very fortunate to have them as part of the team because they are very creative and have a lot of experience riding and working in the industry.
Did you start Korua together?
I had the idea to start a brand and coincidentally, Stephan was available after ending his career as a professional rider.
So along with a group of friends, we started putting ideas together and scratching out the plans for a whole year before officially launching in 2014.
What was the inspiration behind starting the brand?
I had previously noticed the Burton Fish, Dupraz Boards and met some of the Gentem guys in Europe and Scandinavia. But it wasn't until a trip that we took to Japan where we hung out with the Car Danchi crew, that we realized that this was a growing movement right up our alley. It really inspired us to do something of our own.
That, and we all knew that we were too old to keep up with the kids that have super-human snowboarding abilities …
What is the inspiration behind the board graphics and brand image?
Minimal and simple. From our graphics to our business model, that’s our ethos. We all agree that this is the best way to do it but ultimately, it’s Stephan who leads the charge.
As far as our boards go, we like the colors we chose. White on the top and red on the bottom. We spent a lot of time thinking about how this would look.
We also have a small line of all-black boards.
Do your largest chunks of sales come from shops or online?
They’re split evenly.
How many shops are you in?
There’s a shop locator on our website. We can be found in shops located in Alle Länder, Austria, Canada, Finland, France, Germany, Great Britain, Hungary, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Sweden, Switzerland and the United States.
Can you note a couple in the US?
Evo (Denver, Seattle and Portland), Milosport Utah, The Drop Boardshop in Colorado, Zombie Boardshop in Minnesota and Worldboards in Montana.
What’s your take on the current state of the snow industry?
I think it’s got a breath of fresh air. There are a ton of small brands that are popular in their own way, as well as a lot creative people trying new things in a market that is shrinking. In order to succeed, you have to be on top of your game and do things differently.
More TransWorld Business Content