Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Bruce Gabrielson, Founder of Wave Trek Surfboards, located in Chesapeake Beach, MD, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
Located in Chesapeake Beach since 1980, Wave Trek has focused on the inland surfing population along the Baltimore, Annapolis, and Washington DC corridors. New boards are primarily custom boards. The smallish Chesapeake Beach shop carries most items surfers need, plus a number of display sculptures on sale made by Bruce. Adjacent to the shop is the Bruce "Snake" Gabrielson Surf Art Gallery and Museum. This free museum is often seen by individuals from around the US and other parts of the world.
Tell us about yourself
I was taught to shape by Dale Velzy when he was shaping for Soul Surfboards in Huntington Beach during the mid-1960s. I was able to start Wave Trek when Dale retired and gave me all his shaping equipment and templates. I am a member of the Surfing Walk of Fame in Huntington Beach and the East Coast Director of the International Surfboard Builders Hall of Fame.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
Have continuously made surfboards since 1969.
What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?
There are a few things that seriously influence the surf shop owner. Custom boards are increasing in price and not price competitive with the cheaper soft top boards used by most beginners and part-time surfers. Surf shops have had to focus on selling soft top boards, t-shirts, and related merchandise to remain in business.
Overhead for shop rental is also very expensive. The better shops have purchased their own facility to keep costs down. Finally, the business is primarily seasonal. Your business model must include items such as skateboards or, in some cases, ski equipment to help cover the off-season expenses.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
I think one of the best things I can recommend is to have much of your inventory online. Easy to advertise and maintain, and you can reduce your inventory.
Is there anything else you'd like to share?
I think it's a good idea to have something else that will pull customers to your shop. I have an adjacent surfing museum that is always visited after the museum tour.
Where can people find you and your business?