EP 33 Russ Warner Ghost Boards
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Russ Warner: Skateboarding to Success – A No Excuses Entrepreneurial Journey

Russ Warner, a seasoned sales, marketing, and operations expert, shares his inspiring entrepreneurial journey on the Maker Manager Money podcast with Kyle Knowles. From his early days selling candy door-to-door to co-founding Ghost Boards, a venture he propelled to over 10 million in sales, Russ’s story is one of relentless dedication, creativity, and business acumen. His expertise spans traditional and digital platforms, offering invaluable insights into mortgage trends and business best practices. His visionary approach has scaled his company and cultivated a culture of trust, collaboration, and opportunity within his team.

What Listeners Will Learn:

🎯 No Excuses: Russ’s journey from selling candy door-to-door to co-founding a successful business teaches the importance of relentless dedication and a no-excuses mindset in entrepreneurship.

🎯 Balancing Act: Russ’s experience of managing a day job with a mortgage company while running Ghost Boards as a side hustle highlights the challenges and rewards of balancing multiple commitments.

🎯 Building Trust: Russ emphasizes the importance of cultivating a culture of trust, collaboration, and opportunity within a team, sharing insights on success by delivering unmatched value and innovation to customers and partners.

🎸 #entrepreneurship
🎹 #sidehustle
🥁 #businessacumen
💪 #noexcuses
🎧 #digitalmarketing

Tune in to the Maker Manager Money podcast to hear Russ Warner’s inspiring story and gain valuable insights into entrepreneurship, balancing multiple commitments, and building a culture of trust within a team.



Russ Warner on LinkedIn

Ghost Boards Website

Ghost Boards YouTube

Ghost Boards TikTok

Ghost Boards Instagram

Recommended Books: Raving Fans: A Revolutionary Approach to Customer Service by Ken Blanchard & Sheldon Bowles and Jackrabbit Factor: Why You Can by Leslie Householder


Meet Entrepreneur Russ Warner, a Master of Reinvention Driven by Creativity and Grit

Russ Warner embodies the resilient spirit of entrepreneurship. His journey, marked by twists and turns, led him to eventually co-found a company grossing over $10 million in sales.

Russ has always had an entrepreneurial drive, even from the young age of 8 when he started his first business selling candy door-to-door. He had to learn how to earn money to buy his own clothes and food while his mom worked two jobs. This hustle powered him through various ventures in high school and college, from landscaping to making chocolate suckers.

After dropping out of college, his journey took an unexpected turn when his brother challenged him to “grow up and get a real job.” Russ dove into the world of mortgage origination. But he never dropped his entrepreneurial projects on the side, including building mobile apps and games.

Russ got into the skateboard business after becoming dissatisfied with the quality of boards on the market. He tapped his creative partner’s skills to produce a high-quality, transparent skateboard. What started as a hobby soon erupted into a viral sensation on social media, with orders flooding in.

Russ shares the chaos and thrill of scaling a manufacturing and fulfillment operation literally out of his house in the early days. Despite mistakes, he led his team in developing quality control and inventory management processes.

With demand exploding during the pandemic, the company brought in $4.5 million within six months. Russ reflects on the importance of standing behind your product with quality and service. He strives to create “raving fans.”

Russ also opens up about the personal challenges that come with entrepreneurial obsession. He is on a journey to find balance, delegate more, and choose family over his “work addiction.”

Now, with over 30 years in business, this master of reinvention looks ahead to his next ventures, aiming to perfect the life-work balance that eludes many driven entrepreneurs. Russ shows that creativity and grit can transform struggles into streams of inspiration and positive impact.

Kyle Knowles (00:00:00):
Hello there. Welcome to the Maker Manager Money podcast, a podcast about entrepreneurs, solopreneurs, founders, business owners, and business partnerships from startups to stay ups, to inspire entrepreneurs to keep going, and future entrepreneurs. To just start, my name is Kyle Ariel Knowles, and it’s a Wednesday evening at the shops at Traverse Mountain in Lehigh, Utah. Today we’re thrilled to have a very special guest joining us, someone who embodies the spirit of creativity and business acumen in equal measures. Ladies and gentlemen, let me introduce you to Russell. I shouldn’t say Russell. Oh my gosh.

Russ Warner (00:00:40):
That’s my mom. Right?

Kyle Knowles (00:00:41):
After you tell me, ladies and gentlemen, let me introduce you to Russ Warner. He’s not in trouble, so I won’t call him Russell. With over three decades of rich experience in sales, marketing and operations, Russ is a mastermind when it comes to understanding the intricacies of both product development and marketing strategies. His expertise isn’t just limited to traditional platforms. Russ has made a significant impact in the digital world, especially through his solid social media presence where he offers invaluable insights into mortgage trends and business best practices. But what truly sets Russ apart is his visionary approach as the driving force behind Ghost Awards, which he co-founded a venture he has propelled to over 10 million in sales. Maybe it’s different now. Is that an old number?

Russ Warner (00:01:32):
No, that’s pretty close where we’re at. Pretty close? Yep.

Kyle Knowles (00:01:34):
Okay. His leadership in sales and marketing combined with his knack for branding and operations has not only scaled his company, but has also cultivated a culture of trust, collaboration, and opportunity with the team. Russ’s mission goes beyond business success. He’s dedicated to delivering unmatched value and innovation to customers and partners alike. Today he’s here to share his journey, insights and some secrets to his success. Russ, welcome to Maker Manager Money.

Russ Warner (00:02:04):
Hey, thank you. Thanks for having me tonight. And so hopefully we can inspire somebody out there and somebody hears this message and we can do some good.

Kyle Knowles (00:02:14):
I love it. So let’s just start right there. Who inspired you to become an entrepreneur?

Russ Warner (00:02:20):
It goes back to, I think a lot of times the way you’re raised. I was raised from a divorced family, and so the early ages of I became my first entrepreneur about eight years old. My mom was working two jobs from 6:00 AM to 11 o’clock at night. So we had to learn how to survive on our own, and at that point, if we wanted to have food or a pair of jeans, we had to figure out how to get that money for that. So the age of eight, I started my first company and that company I was selling candy door to door. So I would go buy candy from a wholesaler and put it in a nice box and strap around my neck and I would knock doors door to door. And that went on through my elementary school into my middle school days, and I started getting into more custom candy.

I started making suckers and chocolates, and I started selling ’em to the hospitals and stores. So I’d stay up until about midnight every day making chocolates and suckers for every holiday. That’s how I survived as a young kid that kept you off the streets, I guess, or more on the streets. So I was selling, and from there, the entrepreneur spirit continued. During that time of suckers and candy, I had a lawn care business. I was collecting newspapers, collecting cans, and doing anything I could earn some money to buy my clothes, buy my food, and be able to participate in activities that my friends were doing. So from there, when I went into high school, I didn’t keep so much the entrepreneur spirit. I did go work for a company. I would get out of school about 11 o’clock and I’d go work at a chemical company. It was a neighbor owned this chemical company, and I would go there from 11 to six mixing chemicals, and then after that I would go bus tables at a restaurant. And so I’d be there until about midnight. So I kind of followed my parents, I followed my mom, she worked two jobs. I thought, well, then I can work two jobs. And I did that all through high school.

In the end of high school, when I went into college, I went back into being the entrepreneur spirit again, and I opened up another lawn care business and I was doing about 77 lawn a week, and I stayed really busy with this. At this point, I started hiring my cousin and my sister to go manage all these accounts while I sold and continue to get more business. At that time also, I opened up a chemical company and started running it and then kept looking for other opportunities to do more sales and grow the entrepreneurship. In my late twenties or early twenties, my brother came to me and said, Hey, why don’t you grow up, get a T-shirt, get doors on your Jeep and get a real job and get a tie and come enter the world of business. So in college, I always struggled. I was taking these business classes and all the professors, I’d ask ’em, well, what business did you own?

Tell me about your business. Because teaching and preaching about all things you’re supposed to do in business, and none of ’em have ever owned a business before. And it really bothered me at this point. And the other thing that always bothered me with school is in school, everything you have to memorize and you take these tests and you’re always graded off what you can memorize. And in work and business, you don’t have to memorize anything. And so I had this conflict always going on in my brain. If you ask your neighbor during a test what the answer is, it’s called cheating in business. It’s called teamwork. I really struggled, even to this day, I never graduated from college. I quit. I just said, that’s not the way businesses ran. You go find the answer from all your surrounding people, all the people you work with, anybody you can talk to, that’s how you get the answers.

You don’t have to memorize answers for business. So I dropped out and continued my entrepreneurship. At that point, I sold my landscaping business and I got into mortgage and I just jumped into it. I just barely bought a house. I was living all on my own. And my brother handed me a phone book and said, here you go. Call these people in this book and ask if they want to get a lower interest rate. So I said, okay, that sounds easy. So I opened up to letter A’s, and I started with A’s and I had a highlighter and just started calling everybody and saying, Hey, rates are seven, three quarters, we’d like to refinance. And they say, yeah, I’d love to. So I’d take the application and my first 50 loans all started with the last name of a. So I thought, this is pretty easy.

I got this phone book and there’s a lot of people in here, and if they said they didn’t own a home, I said, it is a great time to buy a home. Let’s get you into a house. And so that became this entrepreneur spirit of opening up a mortgage company, and I started my own and just started growing it. And so again, just being the entrepreneur with that, I started growing that for quite a while. And at this point I got into, there’s a bigger company that purchased me and I still, the entrepreneur, I have to originate and go build and hire and recruit. And I started traveling all over the United States and I had a couple hundred branches working for me. And I was like, okay, life is pretty crazy. I was on an airplane Tuesday to Fridays and I started having a family and kids, and I was just this weekend, dad, that’s all.

I was gone. And you tell yourself as a dad, well, I’m doing this for you family. That’s why I’m working so hard. That is a mistake that we all get caught in. I think we always say, we always working for them. And I always think of that song, Katz in the Cradle, and he always says, I don’t have time for you son. And eventually the son says, I don’t have time for you dad. And my life was following that song to a T. So I was introduced to an iPhone in the early two thousands, and I started looking at it, and these apps and these games were on it, and I said, Hey, wonder how you make apps and games? And so I found this course online, it’s a thousand dollars. And I said, okay, I’m going to buy it. I’m going to learn how to build games.

So I went back into the entrepreneur spirit again and thought, Hey, I’m going to do this with my kids. I’m going to make them games. They’re young and they’re fun. So I made my first game called Billy Booger. So the game is you flick boogers at your mom, your dad, your brother, your sister, the cat. And there’s 10 different boogers from the green booger to the pizza booger to the bullet booger to the snail booger. Every booger you kind of think of. I made these cute little characters, and when they hit one of the characters, it did a different thing. So the pizza booger had a different reaction than the green booger. And I go, man, this is kind of fun. Is this game? My kids will play it. I’m in the app store. People are starting to play all over the world. I thought, this is cool.

And you were programming and drawing these. So that’s the beauty of networking. Again, I go back to in school, they teach you don’t cheat, don’t ask your neighbor. And I’ve always believed, I always hire people smarter than me because if I hire someone dumber than me, that just makes me dumber. So I hired a really good graphic artist. I hired a really good programmer, and I said, this is what I want. This is what I want to do. But I still had to outline kind of everything, and I outsourced to a really good programmer to help me, and I’m still good friends with him still today. And we built a couple dozen apps since then. I did Booger Crush and it was kind of like Candy Crush. I did Booger Wars, and then I did Mad Simon and Monsters, and it started just making all these games.

Well, I was still in the mortgage business, and so the company I was working with was like, Hey, can you make us an app? So I said, yeah, I’ll make you a boring mortgage calculator app. And then other banks and lenders started asking me the same thing, okay, I’ll make you a boring calculator app. There’s no boogers in it, but sure, why not? So I started really getting into the app and web development, and I’ve always loved marketing. I always say I’m more of a marketing guy and a networking guy than I am anything else. So even when people ask me about mortgage, I’m like, no, I’m more of a networker, a gatherer of people. A solution person tries to find solutions, what’s to help somebody out? And that’s what I’ve always enjoyed is one of my favorite books is called Raving Fans by Ken Blanchard.

And in this book, it teaches you to create your customers. Everybody around you is raving fans. So I try to live that to a T is everybody, if you create someone a raving fan, that means they want to go tell everybody about you. And they want to go, oh my gosh, I had this great experience with this person. You ought to come look at this or do this with me because I’m having such a great experience. This could go from how you’re treated at a restaurant. When you love a restaurant enough, you’re going to take a picture of the food, you’re going to post about it, you’re going to start telling all your friends about it. Say, oh my gosh, if you’re in Texas, you got to go to Perry Steakhouse and go try the seven finger pork chop. There’s nothing else you need to ever do if you’re in Texas.

And that’s because I’m a raving fan of the seven Finger pork Chop. And I’ll tell everybody about it. And that’s what you want to create your business off of. So fast forward to today, I started another business because I got back in that track of becoming this weekend dad. And I needed something to do with my kids again. And so I changed mortgage companies. I had changed my career, and here I am. I’m sitting at home, I’m thinking, okay, I’m getting old and fat. I’m not exercising. I don’t want to run. I don’t ride a bike because it hurts my butt. I go, man, I used to be the skateboarder when I was 12, I could skateboard again. So I went and pulled out an old crappy skateboard, tried it and thought, man, this thing is terrible, or I’m terrible. It’s one of the two.

And so I went on Amazon and I bought another longboard, and I go, okay, longboards are easier, bigger wheels, bigger trucks, bigger board. And I go, okay, I want to do this. And I jumped on this long board and I’m like, oh, this is terrible. I go, after 40 years from my original skateboard, this is the best they could come up with. And so the whole ghost boards came about. Really, the genius behind this is my partner Brent. And again, I like to surround myself with people again smarter than me. And Brent, he was working at this company where he built sceneries for these big companies that were doing events, so he knows how to use his hands, knows how to use a machinery, and he cut a piece of plexiglass into the shape of the skateboard and gave it to his son, and his son rode it over to my house, and it was this clear plexiglass skateboard.

And I go, that is what I want. That is different. I go, can I see that? I jumped on it, wrote it, and it rode perfect. It was smooth, it was soft fill. I go, Brent, I go, will you make me one of those? And he goes, no. And I go, come on Brent. And so for four years actually is a true story, four years. I asked Brent, every month, will you make me one of those boards? And after the fourth year, he finally made me one. So he cut one out for me, he gave it to me. He goes, fine, here you go. So then my mind started going crazy with this. I go, oh my gosh, I can design anything I want on it. It could be any shape, any size. I can do any color trucks, any color wheels. So I jumped on eBay, I was buying all these different types of trucks and bearings and wheels trying to find what did I like, and I found all the parts I, I built it, and I’m like, this is the best longboard in the world. And I go, I went back to Brent. I go, okay, Brent, I got a proposition for you. I go, I want to sell these. And he told me, no.

Why didn’t he want to sell? Well, Brent, he’s in his fifties. He is always worked an eight to five, and he’s never been an entrepreneur. So he’s just like, no, I don’t want, he goes, Russ, I don’t want a second job. And I’m like, why? Everybody wants a second job. I’ve always had a second job. Who doesn’t want a second job? I mean, that’s the coolest thing in the world to ever have. I’ve had one my whole life, and I don’t know why you wouldn’t want one. So I didn’t understand. Most people don’t want a second job, and that was hard for me to comprehend. So even when I was in the mortgage business, I would always work till midnight, even when I got married, going back a little bit time, me and my wife bought this house. We worked at the office till at least one in the morning, maybe two, and we used the oven three times that we lived there.

In two years. I had a blowup couch in the living room. There’s 3,500 square foot home. There’s a blowup couch, a blowup chair, and an oven that got used three times. I can’t even tell you the rest of the house. I think it had four bedrooms, but I don’t even know what they looked like because all we did is worked. We had one car, we’d drive into work, work till midnight, and then go home, go to sleep, and that was my life. He goes, why not? What else did you do until midnight? I’ve always done that. So fast forward with Brent, he’s like, no, I don’t want a second job. I go, okay, Brent, I got a deal for you. I go, do you want a new car? He goes, yeah, I’d be really nice to have a new car. I said, okay, I will only sell enough of these.

You make $400 and I make $400. And that was the deal. He goes, okay, that sounds good. I was like, I got my foot in the door. Is that for car payment then? Yeah. Yep, yep. So that was where a car payment. So we both have a $400 car payment, so we could both go get a new car. So we came up with these 10 designs for a board, and one’s called the Tortuga, one’s called the Maui, one’s called the epicenter, one’s called the Fishbone. So we came up with these kind of cool four designs. And so I went home, I jumped on my couch, opened up my laptop, went to shopify.com, and went to GoDaddy and I registered a domain on GoDaddy, went to Shopify, paid the $35 to open up a website. In two and a half hours, I had this website up and going, and I still had this other company name called Marketing Fruit.

That’s what I built all the mobile apps and games on. So I was like, I don’t want to go rent your whole other name with the state. So I used Marketing Fruit, but registered at DBA as Ghost Longboard Under Marketing Fruit. I launched this website and started building a Facebook page, an Instagram page, and started doing some videos and me out writing in the street and posting that we’ve got these 10 designs. And all of a sudden we started having some people order some, and I was like, oh, wow. I think we started selling five to 10 boards a month. And I was like, this is really, really cool. So after work, I’d get home five, six o’clock at night for the mortgage, and I would start working on these boards. Brent would cut ’em during his lunch break or after work. He’d drop ’em off at my house on his way home from work, and I would collect them from the doorstep, go into our piano room, and I’d start building boards then.

So I was buy some trucks and wheels and nuts and bolts and start building these, and then I would box ’em up, and then on my way to work the next morning, I’d drop ’em off at the post office. That was kind of my day. Then I’d get home, and then I still working till midnight again. I picked up my second job. You were doing customer service answering emails? Yeah, I was answering emails, doing posts, working on social media, but also I started doing it with my kids and saying, Hey, I’ll pay you. Why don’t you come help me make some boards? And that’s kind of where it started, and we just kind of were plugging along doing just enough to make that $400 car payment. And then I had a neighbor that worked for Vivin, and I go, Hey, Paul. I go, how about I make some boards for Vivin with their logo on it?

And he goes, yeah, that would be really cool. And he said, yes. And I was like, and he goes, I want 150 of ’em. I’m like, Brent, how are we going to make 150 of these? And he looked at me, I don’t know, how are we going to make 150 of ’em? And so I had a hurry and scramble saying, okay, where am I going to get 150 orange wheels and 150 bearings, 150 boxes? It is just more than we’ve ever done. And so I invited all the family over to my house and we put on some movies and we had just all started making boards of, someone would put the bearings and someone would put the wheels on the trucks and someone would put the trucks on the boards, and we pulled it off and we’re like, oh my gosh. And we get this big check and we’re like, what are we going to do with all this money?

I mean, we’re like, this is crazy. We just got a whole bunch of money. We pulled this off, and I’m like, I’m going to put some of this money back in marketing. I was maybe spending $50 on Google, $50 on Instagram. And so I’m like, I think I can raise our budget to 250 bucks or 500 bucks. And so I started pumping up a lot of the Instagram and started hitting a lot more boosted posts and Facebook, and it happened again. There was another boom in our business, and all of a sudden we got another order for 300 boards. And Brent this time was really upset. He came to me and he’s like, Russ, I told you I did not want a second job. This is taking too much time. It’s taking away my lunch break. You’re making me go, go into work early. You’re making me stay late.

So what we were doing at this time, we went to this company and they had all the machinery and they had this big, huge warehouse. So we started paying them $5 aboard to use all their equipment, but Brent would do it all on his off hours from his lunch breaks, and he is getting home at seven, eight o’clock at night, and he is like, this is too much. I don’t want to do this. I go, Brent, but look what we got. Look what we’re doing. Look what we’re building. And I go, then let’s do this. He was starting to want to shut it down. I go, is there anyone at your work that needs the extra money? And at this time, there was a young guy that just got married, and he’s like, yeah, yeah, I’ll work nights and weekends making your boards for you and we’ll pay you. We’re like, we’ll pay you 20 bucks an hour. And I go, then look, Brent, we’ll outsource to somebody else. You show him how to do it and he does all the work and you still drop ’em off at my house.

That solved our hurdle number too. So I kept going. I’m like, all right, then we got this other guy and we’re paying him and he’s staying weekends and Sundays and Saturdays cutting these boards for us. And I started getting really busy out of the house. And again, my family started getting really annoyed. I had boards down the hallways, I had ’em stuffed under the couches. I had ’em behind the piano, I had ’em in the den, I had ’em in the garage. I started to have parts of skateboards, longboards everywhere. So I’m trying to organize it. I’m like, oh my gosh, I don’t know what to do. So I started taking over to the basement, started taking over every room. So I started promising, alright, the hallway will be cleared of all the boards. You won’t trip over ’em when you get the middle of the night to go to the bathroom.

I’ll have ’em out of the hallway. And I wasn’t really good at keeping that promise though. I was struggling at trying to control the inventory sitting in my house. And so I actually had to hire a couple of my kids and their friends to come over at night, start helping me do all the assembly and the boxing. And again, I was up till midnight or one, sometimes 2:00 AM trying to assemble all these boards and get them built. So in the very beginning when we thought of this company, there was actually a couple things that we’ve always wanted to do. Number one was I wanted to create a product that people would get off their phones and go outside. So I have this little runny joke that the graphics outside are better than on your phone. So that was number one is get people exercising outside, take a break from the phone.

Number two was create something I could do with my family, my kids, and make it a family friendly business and give something for them. Number three came a little bit later on. That’s when we started having more employees in that is make a safe place for all of our employees because whatever was going on in their life at home or world or friends or school when they came to work that they felt safe, it was a happy place. They could leave all their worries behind and we could take really good care of ’em and work around their schedule. Even today, we’ve always worked around the employee’s schedule versus them working around our schedule. So I always put out a text of saying, tell me when you can’t work. And they tell me when they can’t work instead of me the other way around. So then I put the schedule based around all the employee schedules.

So that was from the college kids, the high school kids tell me when your school is, when do you get out? When do you want to work? And if they say, I want to work from two to seven or six to midnight, we left it up to them to work around their life to make their life easier with the work life balance. So that was number three. So going back in time, so we started the company in 2017 as the hobby, and 2018 was a pretty good year. We ended up with some good money and it was a busy hobby. We’ll still say 2019 came and we started having these influxes of orders and influencers hit me up and we started getting the tension of the world. And that’s when it became a little bit more real is when somebody orders a board from Japan or Australia or India or Brazil.

And at this point, I’m struggling how to figure out how to ship. And so I became really good friends with the FedEx rep and the UPS rep, and they come over to my house, sit on my couch and help me. So these guys would come over almost all the time. I mean, they know my garage code even today, how to get in my garage. And they started helping me figure out how to ship a board anywhere. And we started getting these orders and there was something called that came up, so I’m really old, I didn’t know it existed. Something called TikTok. And there’s one day we got a whole bunch of orders and I’m like, where did all that come from? And my daughter came from her school and she goes, dad, do you not see the TikTok? I go The tick. Who? The TikTok?

What is that? So I download this app and there’s this girl in California that did a TikTok on us and it brought in a ton of orders and we’re like, wow. And when you have this Shopify, it’s really cool that you can turn on the sound on your phone. Every time an order comes in, it’s like ching, ching ching. And you’re like such a cool feeling like, Hey, it’s money, it’s money. And you hear this ching noise. And we started getting a point where I wanted to silence the Ching, which you’re like, wow, that’s a different sign when you’re tired of you’re in the Ching and you’re trying to figure out how to manage the orders. And that’s where we got, and 2020 comes, 2020 is Covid hits. No one knows what Covid is. We don’t know what covid is. And we get bombarded from social media.

This is where things changed. There was a girl named Maddie in Ohio. She ordered a board with a butterfly on it, and she’s this high school girl and she does a TikTok. TikTok grabs it and has 50 million people see this TikTok, 50 million. And my phone one day, there was 600 orders in one day. So Brent calls me up, Russ, we’ve only maybe made 600 boards in our entire career so far. How are we going to make 600 boards? I go, I don’t know, Brent, but isn’t that really cool? It’s a good problem to have. Yeah. I go, this is a good problem to have. And he goes, no. He goes, is something broken? What’s going on? And the next day, another 600 orders, and he calls me screaming at me. He goes, Russ, I’m sorry. I know you think that this is funny. I know you think this is exciting, but turn the website off.

I don’t know how we’re going to do over a thousand boards. So I do. I actually shut the website off. I say everything’s sold out. My email’s blowing up, my phone’s blowing up. I’ve got 600 emails in my email box feels saying please that we want one, we want one. And Brent comes over to my house with his wife and we sit down on the couch and say, all right, what do we do? One is how are we going to make a thousand boards B, what are we going to do from here? And I said, Brent, I’m kind of all in. I kind of want to do this. I like a second job and I think we have a product that the world wants. We ought to give it to him. He goes, I don’t know how we’re going to do it. So I make some phone calls.

I call a good friend down in California that owns this skateboard distribution company. I go, Hey Alan, I’m in a bind. He goes, yeah, you are. I go, I need a thousand wheels and trucks. I need a thousand bearings. He goes, Russ, I got you covered, but you ought to let people give you their money. I was like, Hmm, that’s a good way of putting it. Let people give their money to me for this cool product. So lemme take another little detour pause on that. When I build this board, I’ve always wanted to only sell something I personally loved and rode. One of the things that’s always bugged me in business is like, let’s take a home builder, for example. They build these homes that the builder won’t even live in. So let me give you an example on that. They drive a truck, but they build a house with a garage that won’t even fit the truck, but they drive a truck.

So obviously they’re not going to live in that home themselves. So why would they sell that to everybody else when they won’t even personally like the garage? And that always kind of bugged me, and I’m like, okay, home builders, you only got to build something you would live in. So if you won’t live in that, don’t build it. If you make cookies and you don’t eat cookies, then don’t make a cookie that you would eat or a pizza. These pizza places that every time I order a pizza, I always have to order extra sauce, extra cheese, extra pepperoni just to make it a pizza. And I’m thinking, why don’t you pay extra? Why isn’t it just come that way as the owner? I mean, is that the way you would eat it? And I think, yes. So going back to the boards, I only put the bearings.

So when I started this, I bought 150 different sets of bearings. I bought a hundred different types of wheels, a hundred different types of trucks. And I found out what do I want? Because the whole number of purpose was for me to ride this board and me enjoy it and it not be a piece of garbage. And so going back to what I really wanted is give a product to the world that I personally stood behind, that I’ve tested, I’ve rode. That’s the only thing I’ll ride. I won’t write anything else. And that’s what I love. So I sit down with Brent and Alan’s like, okay, turn on your website. And I go, Brent, what do you think? And I go, what do you think about quitting your job? And he looks at me and I said, well, how much do you make? He tells me, and I go, quit your job.

I go, I think we have a product here that the world wants. It’s fun, it’s cool, it gets people outside. It’s safe, it’s amazing, and it’s made right here and I think we ought to do it. So him and his wife decided, okay, we’ll do it. So he does. He quits his job. At this time, my wife’s like, the business cannot be in the house, so she has a real estate license. So I said, okay, go find me somewhere where we can do this. And I go, Brent, you need to find us machines and forklifts and Sarah will find the space and I’ll source all the wheels and trucks that I’ll personally pick and let’s build this business. So this time I flipped the website back on and in 30 days of that month, we sold $965,000 of boards just under a million dollars in 30 days.

So at this time, we’re trying to get it moved out of the house. We’re still in the house. I hire about 30 people in the neighborhood. We had moms, dads, teenagers all coming over to my house. I had 20 people in the garage. I had three pop-up tents in the driveway. I had 10 people around the kitchen table, 10 people in the living room, five people in the, the whole entire house every single day. There was Domino’s Pizza and Mountain Dew every single day at our house. So I was keeping everybody wired and fed, everybody happy, lots of fans going on. And at the end of the day, about midnight, I would pull all the stuff into the garage, shut the garage, go take inventory, what else do we need? What else do we need to do? And also my wife was going around finding other companies that were hurt during Covid that had machines.

So we found four other machine shops that were dead. Covid killed him. And I said, guys, we got a proposition for you. Turn on your machine, we’ll pay you, we’ll pay you to do this. Can we commit you to make a hundred boards a day? So my wife went around and committed four machine shops to make a hundred boards a day for us. So each of ’em, we could pump out about 400 boards a day with their help. Well, we’re trying to buy our own machines and everything else. So Brent’s job was to run around, teach these guys how to cut ’em, how to make the files, check inspection on ’em, and bring ’em to my house every day. So we’re going kind of crazy at this moment. Life is insane. So we move it. So we finally get out of the house and go move in this warehouse, and we found this 8,000 square foot warehouse and we’re still a mess.

We were making every mistake you could in business. Customers would call me and say, Hey, I just got 10 boards and not one of ’em is the one I ordered. We are like, you got 10 because we didn’t have any quality control, no systems at 10 people printing labels and they’re all printing the same label, just taking out and saying, Hey, make this board. And there was no quality control and there was no systems. And so we were like, oh my gosh, we got to get our arms around quality control. We need to make sure we know what we’re shipping and to who and how we fulfill an order. And so we brought in this expert, an old friend neighbor of mine in Alpine that had this manufacturing plant. And he goes, all right, Russ, I’m going to teach you the Ford way. And so he sat me down, he goes, you got to lay out your factory.

You’re making automobiles. It’s coming down the line, and everything’s got to be systematic quality control. Everything is checked. And so he helped us lay out our warehouse, and today we proved it even a little bit better and try to make it, we had to start looking at how long does it take to make a board? How long does it take to cut? How long does it take for this design? How long does it take for a custom? Eventually we’re like, we call ourselves the build a bear, but build aboard. So we allow people to custom anything on a board any shape. We’ve done shapes of a guitar to a banana, to an ice cream cone, to a UFO. We start allowing people, even a snap-on tool tool like a wrench. And we started allowing people to custom anything, but we had to put a price on our time.

And so we had to time everything. So I was going around timing. It takes seven and a half minutes to cut that design, okay, 12 and a half minutes for that design, seven and a half minutes for that. So seven and a half minutes was our go-to timeframe of cutting a board. And then assembly time, you should be able to assemble a board in and a half minutes. And then boxing should be about three and a half minutes. And so we had to say, what is our capacity before you can’t do anymore? And we started having three shifts of employees. We’d have a morning shift, an afternoon shift, and a shift that went till midnight. And so we had these three shifts of 50 employees coming in, and we had to have quality control on every one of those. Someone had to be on an iPad full-time, always checking, putting their initials that every board that went out was signed off by somebody, that it was perfect.

It was wiped off. Every will was checked, everything was balanced perfect before it got shipped out. And that saved us just putting quality control into place With all this, I did build an inventory app because I went back to my app days and because that’s another thing, they’re like, oh, how did we just run out of black trucks? Was anyone going to tell me? And then you’re calling a thousand people saying, sorry, we just ran out of this color. And so I had to start figuring out inventory and timeframes and everything, and this became pretty chaotic. And who’s going to answer all the emails and who’s going to answer all the texts and who’s going to answer the questions on the website? And so a lot of these things, when you go through business, there’s no handbook when someone says, well, where’s your insurance policy?

Like insurance for what? Well, we actually end up now having like $5,000 a month of different insurance policies. There’s one for your products, one for your warehouse, one for Amazon, one for your college logos, one for, I mean, there’s an insurance policy for every little thing you could possibly think of. And then we had have an attorney, right? Our warning labels, they’ll protect you. And then you’re hiring accountants, then you’re hiring bill pay people to keep track of all your accounting and all your bills that are piling up and your accounts receivables and accounts payables and all of this. You’re like, oh my gosh. A lot of it just came from friends saying, Hey, how are you doing your payroll? I have no idea. I’ve got a friend that can help you out. Let me bring that in. How are you doing your credit card payment processing?

I don’t know. Here I have a friend. Let me bring someone in. And that became a lot of it was my relationships with others to say, and the help from FedEx to UPS to neighbors, to everybody saying, Hey, I know somebody that can help you out, solve that problem for you. So fast forward from there, 2020 was a mess. I mean, we grossed about four and a half million dollars in sales in six months. And at that point, you’re spending money, you’re a rockstar on every little thing. You’re buying forklifts and vans and machines and shelving. I mean all that stuff to start a business, I would’ve no idea how you’d do it if you didn’t have the beauty of online sales is who funded us was the customers. We got the money before we even made their boards. And that’s what built our entire company was a customer.

So I love the customers we’ve met. I’ve always been the face for the customers. I talked to ’em. I still today answer every Instagram dm, answer every email. I talk to people, I meet with people, I shake their hands and I love it. It is this really cool thing to see people send you cards saying, best Christmas present ever. Best birthday present. Ever, ever coolest longboard I’ve ever seen. And they’re hugging the board and send you a picture of that. You’re like, oh my gosh. We created something that not only that I liked, I built for myself and my kids, but the world loves it. And so I’ve always stood behind a hundred percent warranty. If anyone ever breaks their board, I’m going to replace it for free. If their wheel doesn’t work, I’m going to send ’em one for free. If anything happens, I’m going to say, no.

I want you out writing it. I don’t want you to throw it in the closet. I don’t want you to say it’s junk and it’s no good. I’m going to stand 100% behind it that we’re going to build the best longboard that you’re going to enjoy forever. And that’s what I’ve had a lot of fun with. So we got into stores, started calling us out of the blue. We had Sax fifth Avenue call us up out of New York and like, hi, we’re Saks Fifth Avenue. I’m like, okay, we want to sell your boards. So I looked up their website, I’m like, don’t you guys sell shoes and handbags for girls? Like, yes, we do, but can we have your boards too? I go, absolutely. And then we’d get stores. Ron Johns surf shop is still one of our biggest clients in Hotel Coronado. And we started getting stores just call us like crazy saying, alright, lots of people are walking in our stores asking about your boards and what a cool feeling that is to say, oh my gosh, we’ve got people asking for our boards and we created this global brand and we’ve got boards in from Singapore to Australia to Canada throughout the us.

And it is just been this amazing feeling of, it’s kind of almost doesn’t feel real. It is kind of like this dream come true from a kid that skated as a 12-year-old with a mohawk to now living a dream of making boards. And a lot of people say, well, what did you do about the mortgage business? Well, as I sit here today, I’m actually still in the mortgage business and also I still build mobile apps and games and I still help other companies with their social media. I do love to stay busy. That’s probably my a DD or just the way I was raised is you just don’t sit around. You always continue doing things. So I am always thinking of what else I can do. I want to make a snowboard. I want to make a wake surfboard. I want to make, there’s other products and things I want to bring to life, but this has been a dream come true.

And again, we’ve stuck with our values being a family friendly business. We’ve paid for scholarships. Let’s go back to the girl, Maddie. So Maddie, we paid her $33,000 for college and said, you did amazing things for us. We’ve paid a lot of other people money that’s been a part of our lives. And to help them and say thank you. And I think that’s probably important aspect is one, is I always want to believe it. Creating that raving fan. Everybody wants to post about our board, share it with the world, and then two, create that safe place for employees and then three, give back. So we’ve had the opportunity to do Make-A-Wish foundation, raise money for a young girl that had cancer to Underground Railroad, to give ’em money to other charities and give back to some schools and different institutions that if we can make a difference with our boards and put a smile on somebody’s face.

And I think that’s still my values with that. So I love it. I’m passionate. I use the product daily. I love being an entrepreneur. And I think what happens with entrepreneurs, I still, it’s funny, I did graduate from college, but I’ve actually taught a marketing business class at the solid community twice now. And even though I didn’t do college and I’ve actually taught at one of the high schools twice, they called me in and I’m actually mentoring a few of the students at the high schools. There’s a young entrepreneurs and so they come in, they show me their products, I help ’em. I actually even have some of the products here in my store for sale and help them out. So I love to coach young entrepreneurs. The issue is with most people, everybody can come up with an idea for a business, but 85% of people are complacent and lazy is what I’ve learned.

They’re like, oh, I wish I could do that. Or I wish I had time. I say, you always have time. What are you doing from 10 to midnight? What are you doing at one in the morning? You always have time. How much time did you spend watching TV when you’re at the stoplight? What were you doing? When I’m at the stoplight, I usually connect with 25 people on LinkedIn every stoplight. I mean, I’ve got now 22, 20 3000 connections on LinkedIn. But what else are you going to do at a stoplight? You might as well connect with people and say hi to ’em and say Anything I can do to help you. So I always say, you have the time if you want it to. And so I think it’s important to say, man, I want to do something, then just stop saying that and do it.

There’s another one of my favorite books called Jackrabbit Factor, and this book talks about a man, kind of that same theory where he walks down the path of life and right when he is getting hungry, all of a sudden this sack lunch is there and he picks it up like, oh man, I’m glad I got that. And it says, that’s kind of like life. Everybody lives paycheck to paycheck. They wait and all of a sudden just barely make it, then barely make it to the next Zach lunch. And while this guy is going down the path of life, he sees these people walking back, not on the path, out in the weeds, carrying these jack rabbits back home. Like, yeah, I won. And the Jack Rabbits represented success, wealth and doing what they really wanted to do and not taking the easy path. So he goes off the path and he asks these people, how did you do that?

He goes, get off the path. You just got to go do it. You got to go get the rep, do whatever it takes to go get that rabbit. And he finally does, and he catches his first rabbit and he’s like, oh my gosh, greatest day of my life. And then he sees a guy carrying like 10 of ’em. He’s like, oh, how did you do that? He goes, well, if you give me your jack rabbit, I’ll teach you the secrets. And here he is at this moment of do I give something to somebody to teach me? And I think this is where another roadblock for people are is they’re not willing to connect or sacrifice and go ask for advice. Go pay the thousand dollars to learn how to build mobile apps or go sit and study something or go read the books on it or go try it and fell and go ask the expert how to line up your warehouse.

And I think that’s what it takes. Again, I always believe I surround myself with people smarter than me, not dumber me. They’ll make me dumber. So you always want to find people smarter than you. And I think that’s the key to life, to continue doing better. And it goes back a little bit how I was raised. So if we go way back, my mom raised us in Sandy, Utah, which was a little bit more of a wealthier area, and she should have never been there. We were on food stamps and we were on welfare, and she’s working two jobs and she said, Russ, we really should have been living way out west in my means. But she goes, I did this so you could surround yourself with people that are rich, intelligent and show you the possibilities of life, what you could become. And my mom passed away a few years ago, and that was the best thing.

I think the sacrifice my mom gave to me is to show me to open up my eyes. And she sacrificed for her kids to see who should I be surrounded with and to hang out with people smarter than me. And that’s what she taught me. And then she taught me the hard work to be the workaholic and do it. So on a side note, on a personal note, it’s also my weakness and it’s my strength and weakness in one. I’ve been talking to a therapist about this is everybody’s addicted to something. If it be whatever, some people are addicted to jogging or golf. They’ll go golf five days a week. And I used to make fun of ’em, like, you’re going to go golfing for four and a half hours when you could go spend time with your family. You’re picking golf. And I didn’t realize I had to look in the mirror.

And one of my issues are I’ve always picked work over my family and it has hurt my relationship with my kids. It has hurt my relationship with my wife. And I’ve had, it’s a long road to recover, just like being an alcoholic or anything. I’m in recovery right now and I’m trying to find that life balance of the cats. And the cradle again is how do I spend quality time with my family and not put ghost in front of them, mortgage in front of them, work in front of them, apps in front of them. And I am going through that struggle today. But I think the first steps is awareness. I am aware of it today. I know what it is. And I did. I went on one of my first vacations last year without bringing a single bit of work with me. I didn’t bring a ghost board for the first time.

They asked me, will you please not bring one? And I go, well, the Dominican Republic would be really cool for photos and Mexico would be really cool for photos. And it is like weaning me off the cocaine of my addiction. And it is something I work on every single. And so I even changed mortgage companies so I wouldn’t have to be traveling and went to a small company. And so I could spend more time going home end of the day and life balance of teaching and delegating with some of the things with ghosts so I could go home and spend time. And so it is one of the things, and I think this is all entrepreneurs, I think there’s a lot of entrepreneurs, they get caught up in the heroin addiction of being a workaholic. And I do think that’s real. So for those that want to be entrepreneurs out there have self-awareness, I think that’s super important. Stick to your values of what you’re doing. Don’t cut corners on your quality. Don’t cut corners on your connections. Don’t stab people in the back on business. That stuff is just not good to do. But I think the most important thing is put a balance on your life. And it is something I’ll continue working on. I’m not clean yet, and I’m hoping to get to that point where I’ve got the habits out of me from being an 8-year-old kid. This is just what you do for survival.

To let myself be able to be in the moment and be able to put work down and say, that phone can stay in my pocket and it doesn’t have to come out. I can answer that. I used to have a problem. I couldn’t go to sleep until every email was answered, every DM was answered. It was just this thing in me. I can’t, until I’ve taken care of every customer’s needs, everybody’s questions, and I’m trying to now figure that out, how I can look at my phone and see a number there next to the mail thing and be okay with that. And that is one of my struggles that I’m dealing with is can I do it today? Can I be clean today and let that say 38 and not know what those 38 emails are and be able to let it go. So my future of me is being 52 is I do want to continue being an entrepreneur, but also I want to figure out the balance of being an entrepreneur.

And I’ve got three other projects in my head that I like to bring to life and I want to let them be born and share ’em with the world. But also I am taking the steps of the recovery process so I don’t pick up another job. But I balance it well enough that I delegate enough with all my jobs I’ve ever done in mortgage. I’ve always had a good right hand guy, a good left hand guy, and can delegate out the work. And same thing with Ghost. I’ve tried to delegate out. No, somebody else can actually do that part of the job. I don’t have to be the control freak and the micromanager. I don’t like to do that. I want to trust people. They’re going to do the right thing. They’re going to follow the rules and let ’em do what I need them to do and also let them have their own voice.

And that’s sometimes I think hard for entrepreneurs to say, I’m going to let you make the decision without me telling you what my solution is. And their solution is usually different than yours and it still may work. And a lot of times it does. And as a CEO or entrepreneur, you have to say, your path isn’t the only way. And I call that CEOs that only think they’re the only ones, right? I call it CEO O Ida, that everybody has to shake yes. And tell them yes and tell ’em what they want to hear. And I believe that’s wrong. I think those CEOs are missing their growth because they’re not allowing other people to have a voice. So I think it’s really important to listen to the customer, listen to the employees, listen to your friends, and listen to the people that hate you. And don’t take it critical.

Say if I have haters in my business, I am like, okay, let’s think about that. Why is it, what don’t they like that I’m doing? What is disrupting their thinking? Angry customers. I got one of these companies that called me up like, Hey, we could remove all your bad Google Links. I’m like, no, I don’t want to. If I got a one star, I deserve that one star and I want it there because it now reminds me I could have done better. And I’ve got 700 something Google reviews and we’re a 4.9, but there is some one stars. And I’ll never delete those because I deserved them, I guess. And I think they need to have a voice to tell me. I did not make them happy in whatever it was. I didn’t do it. And so I deserve it. And I think you need that feedback. So is there anything else you want to know?

Kyle Knowles (00:58:57):
This was an amazing entrepreneurial journey and you’ve shared so many lessons. I mean, I don’t think I can ask any more questions because you’ve outlined your whole entrepreneurial journey. You’ve been vulnerable. I don’t think that most entrepreneurs can be that vulnerable about being workaholics and choosing work over maybe things that could be more important, like family and friends. And so thank you so much for sharing your entrepreneurial journey. What I want to do is just because I’ve asked every guest and you’re my 30th entrepreneur, wow, that I’ve interviewed, you’re number 30 today. I’ve asked every guest these questions, so I just have a lightning round. They’re very quick. Let’s do it and let’s do this. Let’s do it.

Russ Warner (00:59:46):
Alright. Lightning round.

Kyle Knowles (00:59:47):
Lightning round. Favorite candy bar? You can’t look, you

Russ Warner (00:59:49):
Can’t cheat. Reese’s Peanut butter cup.

Kyle Knowles (00:59:52):
Favorite music artist?

Russ Warner (00:59:54):
Boyo Boingo. Danny Elman.

Kyle Knowles (00:59:55):
Awesome. Favorite cereal

Russ Warner (01:00:00):
Right now? I’m older. It used to be Lucky Charms. Now is Life Cinnamon

Kyle Knowles (01:00:05):
Mac or pc?

Russ Warner (01:00:07):
I’m a pc, but an iPhone, which is weird.

Kyle Knowles (01:00:12):
Google or Microsoft?

Russ Warner (01:00:14):

Kyle Knowles (01:00:15):
Dogs or cats?

Russ Warner (01:00:17):
Dogs. 100%

Kyle Knowles (01:00:19):
Phantom or Les Mis.

Russ Warner (01:00:24):
Les Mis. Is that the lightning round?

Kyle Knowles (01:00:25):
That’s the lightning round. What’s something that most people don’t know about you? I know you’ve talked to a lot of people, you’ve been on a lot of podcasts. What’s something that most people don’t know about you?

Russ Warner (01:00:35):
I’ve hated my voice my whole life. And there was a time where I heard it on somewhere and I was like, oh my gosh. It was probably like my voicemail. And I was at this place where all of a sudden I went to this convention in San Diego and I was talking and someone walked up to me and says, I knew that was you, Russ, just by your voice. And at that moment I decided to say, I can’t change it. I’m going to use it for my advantage. So even today, I never tell people who I am, but they all know me by my voice. And so I decided to just embrace it because I can’t do anything. Guess I could start smoking and change somewhat, but I’m not going to do that. But I decided it is very unique and I know it, but I’ve hated it. But it’s something that’s very distinctive of me, and so I had to embrace that. That’s who I am. That’s something that I not a lot of people know, but yeah, I’ve never liked it.

Kyle Knowles (01:01:39):
Well, you have an awesome voice. I’ve been listening to it through these headphones very much turned up. But thank you so much. I’m so glad, Russ, that Sierra Cleve make a Dent podcast, a fellow podcaster. She introduced us and made this whole thing happen. So shout out to Sierra.

Russ Warner (01:01:58):
Yeah, thanks Sierra.

Kyle Knowles (01:02:00):
And thank you so much for being on Maker Manager Money. I loved your story. I loved the lessons that you’ve, your teaching through sharing your story. And thank you for being vulnerable

Russ Warner (01:02:10):
Today. Well, thank you. Thanks. It was fun.