With summer winding down, the industry is truly starting to anticipate the demands and adventures of the upcoming season. The snow sports community has great leaders taking us into 2014/15 as well as a ton of up-and-coming talent helping to secure the industry’s future success.
We checked in with some in the rising generation of sales reps who have a lot to say about what it takes to succeed in the current era and how they got started. Almost three years ago Jessica Zamzow (JZ) left mortgage banking at HSBC and started as a Northwest account rep with her husband Barry who was already a Northwest account rep for Atomic, Flylow and Hestra. Since then they have added the Jupa and Sidas accounts. Silver Chesak (SC) has represented Helly Hansen, Nordica USA and Gordini USA, Inc. in Southern California, Southern Nevada and Arizona for almost six years, working with his business partner Dave Bluestein who covers the same brands in other Western regions. Tom Johnson (TJ) has for the past three years worked for a sales agency in the Northeast called Ubiquity Sales where he has helped owner and operator Paul Danchak represent Volcom, Stance Socks and NEFF. On his own, Johnson also represents Crab Grab. Tim Lawler (TL) works with the snow sports brands Mervin Manufacturing and POW Gloves alongside the brands’ Northwest Rep Ryan Davis and has been at repping for almost eight years.
How did you get involved with repping?
JZ: It’s no surprise that mortgage banking wasn’t a fun place to be for the past couple of years. We’ve got three young kids and Barry was gone all winter (repping), making me a single mom, and all summer he was at home with the kids. So I decided to join him. You only live life once and if you’re not happy in what you’re doing you have to figure out a way to make a change.
SC: I’ve been working in ski shops since I was 15 and have always been familiar with sales reps and interested in how they made a living. After doing just about everything else in the industry it was a natural progression to give it a go. The Footloose Sports Oakley rep at the time Josh Hoyer mentioned Dave was looking for someone to help out in Southern California. I called him up and told him I wanted the job. It’s funny because Dave and I are the same age and we were both very involved with the early freeski scene, but had somehow never met. As soon as we hooked up we knew that we were going to make a great team.
TJ: I worked at an established skate and snowboard shop in New Hampshire called Eastern Boarder for just over six years, and met Paul through the shop. I was finishing college and Paul was looking to add an employee to his agency, the timing was great.
TL: One day when I was working as a liftie at Eldora and I met a guy who was working for a snowboard rep and he was riding all next year’s gear and was telling me how he got it all for free. Right then I thought “That is what I want to do.” Nichole Nemmers, the Colorado Mervin rep, gave me a shot. It was awesome. I eventually moved up to Oregon to be closer to family and the surf, and started working with Kyle Phillips, who at the time was the NW Mervin rep.
What is the most challenging aspect of your job?
JZ: There is a lot of geography in our territory. A lot of our fall is definitely tag team because we can’t physically leave our kids for a long time. And it’s hard to not have an IT person, coming from corporate America. I need to do a better job technologically speaking and embrace it, but I don’t have time because I’m busy juggling my household and my business.
SC: Every part of running an independent business is challenging. I think that’s why it keeps me interested and in turn motivated to put as much into it as I do. I have to say it really helps to have a business partner to bounce ideas off of and to talk things through.
TJ: Trying to combat an ever-changing snow sports landscape. The end consumer is much more savvy than ever before. Online retail is very important and we embrace it. However, we also want to make it abundantly clear that our core retailers are not showrooms.
TL: It is tough to see shops, whose owners and employees become your good friends, close their doors. Most shop owners are doing it because they love snowboarding/surfing/skating, they want to spread the love, help the community and help kids stay stoked. It is important for all brands to realize that retail is changing and right now it is more important than ever to support the shops that have supported them through the years.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
JZ: I’m selling stuff I love and stuff I believe in, which was part of my struggle in banking. I need to believe in what I’m selling. I also like that we regularly get to assess- What are the opportunities? What are we missing? How can we work together how to manage our business and our family?
SC: All of it. Even tax season. I know it sounds crazy but the whole learning process involved in starting a business has been very rewarding. Helping my buyers produce solid sell through and margin numbers is super enjoyable. It really feels good to find out your brand sold well and helped everyone involved have a good season.
TJ: Working with the caliber of people that I get to work with on a daily basis, whether that be in the office at Ubiquity, on the road with our retailers, or across the country with the brands that we work with. The ability to build a relationship with people with common interests will always be enjoyable to me.
TL: I love it when a shop is excited about a product, love when a customer comes back smiling ear-to-ear. I am lucky to be able to work with such amazing shops and people that I get to call my friends. I love traveling around the NW and seeing how truly amazing of a place it is and getting to shred pow laps, surf waves, and skate with friends and call it work. It’s mandatory to test out the product right, especially on pow days?!
What are you looking forward to about next season?
JZ: I finally feel like I have my feet wet. I’ve been to the all the towns now- it is hard to sell without being able to visualize the town and what those places are like. And I look forward to when our show season starts in January because then Barry and I are together rather than tag-teaming it.
SC: Snow, Snow and More Snow. El Nino and storms. Rain, wind and cold temps. Ice on the roads, Snow blowers, tunnels for chair lifts. 12-foot snow walls. Canceled flights, ice on the wings and chains required. Sledding down Davison St. Fat ski shortages, face masks, and neck gaiters. Frozen toes, cold cheeks and most of all….face shots.
TJ: Getting back on the hill and turning my snowboard with friends, family, retailers, and the youth. Hopefully some powder days (fingers crossed!).
TL: The Baker Banked Slalom, Snowbowl weekend, Dirksen Derby are always some of the best highlights of the winter.
Thanks to all the brand reps and all they do to keep the snow sports industry strong and motivated, and to all of the reps in this article who shared their experience. Reps at any stage of their careers can find useful research, marketing and education resources at Snowsports.org/reps. We’ll see you at the Snow Show in January!