‘This meant I was the only person responsible for brining in the money for them. That was scary. I didn’t know how I’d do but I just said “how about we go out and just collect No’s”. It is now 6 years later and I still have not collected all the No’s and the Yes’s just keep coming. This was not a choice but something that happened accidentally.’
How difficult is it to balance the Corporate world with skateboarding?
Rules, processes, money, business vs free spirit skateboarding with no boundaries. I am in the business of full self-expression. Finding ways for my friends to be able to live up their self expression and you cannot really do that unless you are getting paid. And for me that is the only connection to the business side of it.
How did you end up working for Street League Skateboarding?
After I found snowboarding and lived out of my car two door Toyota Tercel. All I wanted to do was snowboarding. So I asked myself how can I still do this but make some money at the same time? What am I good at? The answer was that I bridge gaps. I can see the authenticity of the snowboard/skateboard world but I also see the mainstream world and I can bridge that gap for brands.
At Fuel TV I filled that gap where there was no real snowboarding representation on the event marketing side. I travelled around the states for Dew Tour, being connecting skateboarders and their stories with our producers, while activating onsite for the Mountain Dew x Fuel TV partnership. So, I went in as a snowboarder and came out as ‘skate live event person’ which led me to Street League, and I was hired as the Marketing Event Director. I was their first full-time employee.
What attracted you to work as an agent for women’s skateboarding in 2014?
That was accidental career move. I was able to take someone’s idea and turn it into a business plan. So I played around with Mafia TV and the Women’s Skateboarding Alliance (WSA) and I was able to generate some revenue for them. And then some women skaters like Vanessa Torres and Lacey Baker asked whether I could help them out finding some money too. That meant they needed to sign a contract so they were exclusive to me. This meant I was the only person responsible for brining in the money for them. That was scary. I didn’t know how I’d do but I just said “how about we go out and just collect No’s”. It is now 6 years later and I still have not collected all the No’s and the Yes’s just keep coming. This was not a choice but something that happened accidentally. And now I can say I fully choose where I’m at.
Why should a skateboarder use have an agent? What can you bring to the table that they benefit from? Is a skater better off with an agent than without?
No one can do it all ourselves anymore. My clients are super busy right now. So all the queries come to me and I filter them and maybe call them back. Then I put a recommendation together to my client. This saves the skater a lot of time dealing with the brand and a brand’s agencies of record. My clients do not have the time and patience to process every single detail on the front lines alone. Sometimes it reminds me of butterflies trying to using a calculator. I also ask all the questions upfront and have the money conversation in the beginning to rather in the middle. I do hundreds of these deals, so I know what fair market price is and am probably 10x more efficient than if someone tried to do it themselves. I know the benchmarks. Hence often times I am able to at minumum double the initial offer. I help my clients save time, make additional revenue and keep their sanity. Also the doubling of offers and I promise you, it is not from hard balling. It is just using your brain and being a great listener and a great partner. Sure I’m passionate and firm, but there’s an empowering way to that and there’s a bullying way to do it.
Are there any drawbacks having an agent at all? For example are there brands out there that do not want to deal with an agent as it may complicate things or make it more expensive?
I used to hear that. As I said I am doing hundreds of deals and I have not heard that in a very long time. Sometimes it comes up from athletes that never had an agent. There is a lot of damage control behind the scenes where a brand does not want to raise issues with the athlete and the other way around. I talked once with Mike Burnett from Thrasher and he was like ‘What are we talking about? I never talked to an agent before.’
‘My clients do not have the time and patience to process every single detail on the front lines alone. Sometimes it reminds me of butterflies trying to using a calculator.’
Where there any requests to act as an agent that you had to decline? If so what are some of the reasons?
I am turning down majority of incoming requests for an agent. Yet I am actively scouting if I were to add one more to my client list. They do not have to be a certain gender. It’s advocates for equity I resonate with. An agent in skateboarding probably takes between 10 to 20%. Some skaters are lucky enough to make $100,000 a year. So from one client say you make on average of $15,000 a year. For arguments sake you need 6 of those to walk home with $90,000 USD or a living wage in Los Angeles. But then you have to pay the accountant, the lawyer and taxes. So it becomes a mathematical question. When you do a multi-year deal, as an agent, you do not get paid in full until the end of that multi-year. You only get a percentage of each check when the client gets paid and that’s a long time to wait for work you did negotiating up front. You also continue to service the deliverables.
How many clients do you have and what are you looking for in them?
I have 14 different clients. The potential client has to really, authentically inspire me. So I promised myself to these folks and I am the only person bringing in money for them and caring after their overall business portfolio looking at it 360 degrees. So for me take on new clients, I have to make a minimum revenue for them. Also, they need to have some existing deals in place that are relatively turnkey for me to onboard them otherwise it’s several years of sweat equity I put in before I even start to get compensated for my time. This is not some selfish money thing. It is time management, as I am doing 2 to 3 contracts a week to the point where I feel like I am a lawyer and a client services person managing the execution of what the skater promised, and an agent proactively looking for more deals and massaging opportunities to be maximized for client revenue and minimized in terms of asks, duration, and usage rights.
‘An agent in skateboarding probably takes between 10 to 20%. Some skaters are lucky enough to make $100,000 a year.’
Have you ever had to reject offers for your clients?
Yes but I never speak for my clients. I pass on what my client’s requests are. They are my boss and the client. I never make decisions like that off the bat. If it is viable, I will let them know about it and my advice. Also, you only have a few things you can sell a skater, it’s not like a Nascar. You have to be mindful of your personal brand too. You look at Jenn Soto. She is very intentional which brands she is associated with like Leo Baker too. Very intentionally. To answer your question, most requests that come in we say no. Yet, most of the influencer deals that we are doing are incoming.
Interesting. That was another question. Are you chasing for deals or are they coming in on their own?
I would love to have more time to do more outreach.
I saw an ad with Leo Baker driving a Mercedes.
Yes. That was incoming.
I am not picking on Leo because others do it too like Leticia Bufoni. Where is the connection between Mercedes and skateboarding?
I totally hear you on that but all my clients weigh all that out. Does this brand align with my brand? Does the financial compensation make up for the time that I have to put in along with the stress? Do I have to post are they going to post? My clients have real life experience, having their Name Image Likeness…NIL..I just learnt this acronym…that has value. Back in the days people used to say, “Why don’t you come and do this? We fly you up for free but we cannot pay you. But it would be good exposure. It would be good for you”. We do not do that anymore. I and my clients are super annoyed when we get that type of pitch.
Are there any deals you instantly say no to like gas stations where there is no link between the sponsor any my client? They pay well but there is no fit.
I field every incoming, authentically assess it and then the client choses. That is it. They decide themselves on the authenticity meter whether it matches their values. For example, there are some athletes who are vegan. Even when MilkPEP the national board comes with a big cheque, they just can’t do it. That is one example.
What advice would you give to parents of a gifted, 8 year young female skateboarder in order to advance her career?
My mentor and my boss Circe Wallace has created a masterclass for kids under the age of 15 and are looking to be super stars. She deals a lot of parents and young kids. She is basically in partnership with parents. I would say just let the kid be. Their youth is so short. When it goes wrong is when the parent tries to live vicariously or actually through their child’s success. That is really tough for the kid. Especially before puberty, we do not know how that kid is feeling about their personal brand, gender identity, or about their parents when the parents act out and party. I have seen kids, curly blond hair cheerleader looking types then realizing that they are trans, their pronouns are not she/her. Parents can just make it so much harder for kids to grow up under the spotlight. Kids that have made a good career out if skateboarding, they did all on their own. They just follow their hearts, the parents got out of their way.
‘I would say just let the kid be. Their youth is so short. When it goes wrong is when the parent tries to live vicariously or actually through their child’s success. That is really tough for the kid.’
Apart from personal trainers, is there also a path where skaters have coaches?
Yes. People are bringin on coaches now. Andrew, who is now the men’s coach for Team USA. Andrew used to be a professional coach for Dashawn and Yuto I believe. So yes. Skaters have coaches now. Like Mariah Duran’s brothers are coaching her. Manny Santiago is an amazing friend coach for some of my clients. It is a number’s game. Certain countries are notorious for this. They pick tricks with the highest score and use it for their own run. It is not always about creativity when it comes to winning contests, it’s 1000% if you studied up on game day strategy. Those who win often have a written “what if” strategy created ahead of time or something of the like. “Stick to the plan” is something I’m hearing often in the “skateboarding dugout” at the Olympic qualifiers.
Last question: If you could interview one person, who would it be and why? What would you ask?
I guess I’d interview the future me or someone that is close to the future me to understand how to succeed in this life. Or maybe Michelle Obama!!