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Bear Walker: “My Life as a TwentySomething Founder”

Just be prepared to make it your life. If you want to be good at it, or at least do something that no one’s ever done before, you’re going to have to commit like 12 hours every day for years to make any kind of headway. You’re going to have to prove yourself. So be prepared.

As a part of our series called “My Life as a TwentySomething Founder”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Bear Walker Boards’ founder and custom skateboard creator Bear Walker.

Bear Walker began crafting skateboards for a graphic design project as a senior at Clemson University. After riding his first creation, he was hooked and from there Bear Walker Boards was born. From the very beginning, Bear has dedicated himself to making high-quality, hand-crafted products and has since created boards for pop culture giants including Pokémon, Netflix’s Lost in Space, CW’s The Flash’s Grant Gustin, and NBA. Through his company, Bear has had the opportunity to give back by planting two trees for every board sold and teaming up with Shazam’s Zachary Levi to raise money for Covenant House.

Thank you for joining us Bear! What is your backstory?

I grew up surfing. Then I went to Clemson University for a graphic design degree and designed my first few skateboards while I was there for a project. When I got out of college it was probably a few years before I designed anything with skateboards again. I was a sign maker, custom prop designer for a while. When I was working at the sign making company, I was doing a lot of carving wood for signs and realized it was a pretty good texture for grip. So, that is when I made my first skateboard with the grip that is somewhat what we do now. People started asking where I got it from and started taking orders. That was in 2012/2013 and we’ve just been improving and innovating the product ever since.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that has happened to you since starting the company and what lessons did you take away from that story?

A funny story is actually the story of naming my company. My company used to be called Kodiak Boards and I got a new partner probably about a year into the business so I could fund some other stuff. Anyways, he recommended a name change and I was against it. I said “I’m not changing the name. I love the name.”

Then he took me up to Ohio for this big branding meeting from the people who did all his design work for his other companies. Then they just put this big projector on the wall and this new logo that said “Bear Walker” popped up and I’m like “Ok this is awesome. Let’s go with that.” Growing up all my friends called me Bear, it’s a nickname, so I had never used “Bear Walker” together and it just clicked and made so much sense.

What did you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

One thing that makes us stand out is the carved-out grip on the boards. No one else is doing that. It makes for a unique look and it actually works better than traditional grip tape. Aside from the actual functionality of the boards, one of the things that makes us unique is how interactive are with our followers and how much we let our following impact what we make. I try to constantly let people name the boards or have a say in the design for the next boards will be.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards that helped you get to where you are?

Yeah, I’d definitely say my dad. He instilled a really solid work ethic in me. But yeah, my dad, he busted his butt his whole life and did woodworking and tried to influence me to get a job where I wouldn’t have to do manual labor my whole life, but I think it was kind of in the blood. Going to school helped me to integrate technology and art with my woodwork.

Are you working on any exciting projects now?

I’m working on an NBA collaboration. We also have an ongoing partnership with Pokémon which is the most exciting one for me. We are making a really extensive product line just under our own branding house with a bunch of new apparel, trick decks, carved out straight-up art pieces, and stuff like that too. I’m not sure I can talk about any of the other projects yet.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

That’s actually a really big, high priority thing for me. Every time I have an opportunity to do work with a celebrity or with a bigger company I try and give back to the community in some way. We got to do a really good collaboration with Zachary Levi where we donated all of the proceeds to Covenant House which benefits homeless youth around the world. We plant two trees for every board that we sell. We’re working on something right now to make our own masks and donating a mask for every one sold. We raised money for the Australian wildfire relief by raffling off a series of boards.

Do you have a book that made a deep impact on your life?

I definitely have a couple of favorite books. One of my favorite books of all-time is The Hatchet. Which has a ton to do with overcoming odds and surviving the wilderness. Which, I guess can relate to the entrepreneurial lifestyle. Then one of my other favorites is A Separate Piece; that one is set in wartime, it’s a book based on World War II about a bunch of kids trained to be soldiers, it’s about overcoming obstacles.

Can you share 5 of the most difficult and most rewarding parts about being a 20-something-year-old founder?

  1. Yeah, I’d say one of the best parts is turning 30 and having people start to take me seriously. When you’re a young entrepreneur it’s one of the most difficult obstacles — trying to get people to invest in you and see your vision. Most people that have money aren’t young. So, to convey a new thing that nobody has ever done before and get something to back you for it was pretty tough.
  2. You’re not established yet so getting any loan or backing even from a private corporation is hard.
  3. One of the good things about it is I feel like you have a fresh take on whatever it is you’re doing.
  4. One thing that is not super common is I didn’t have a mentor or somebody in the industry to teach me anything. So, I think I had the ability to make some mistakes that someone that had a mentor would not have made and that helped me innovate my product.
  5. I was young. I feel like contrary to a lot of peoples’ beliefs, when you’re young you should be taking those risks and it was definitely more of a risk because if it didn’t work out, I didn’t really have a good resume to get an adult job. But I think that was a benefit and a detriment because it was kind of all in from the get-go. Either I made it work or I failed at life.

What are the main takeaways that you would advise any 20-year old who is looking to start a business?

Just be prepared to make it your life. If you want to be good at it, or at least do something that no one’s ever done before, you’re going to have to commit like 12 hours every day for years to make any kind of headway. You’re going to have to prove yourself. So be prepared.

What is the best way our readers can follow you on social media?

You can find me @BearWalkerOfficial on Instagram, Facebook, and TikTok.

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!



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