Interview with Niklas Vesely
Founder of 2HEX
On the website it says ‘2HEX.COM THE WORLD’S BEST SKATEBOARD PRODUCTIONS.’ This is a big statement. Why is it the best?
2HEX.com is the first ever product configurator for the mass production of all skateboard components. We offer all components, with an infinite amount of custom variations, at very high quality and at a competitive price.
And this is how we made it happen. The problems of traditional productions:
> Traditional factories are good at only one component. The other components are traded at either low quality or too high of a price.
> Trading companies are too expensive due to the time intensive back and forth of messages between factory and customer, which they have to calculate on top of the factories’ sales price. Often, they try to lower prices by offering very few customization options to save on consultation time.
> The intercultural gap: Suppliers in China are of lower cost but do not fully understand what European and American companies want. Suppliers in Europe and USA better understand their local customers, but hare too expensive.
What makes 2HEX offer the best productions:
< For each skateboard component, we partner with one open-minded factory owner. We teach the factory owners and production staff exactly how European and U.S. customers want their orders manufactured, before filling up the factories production capacities to make it run as if it were our factory. This leads us to indirectly run one highly specialised factory for every component, without the immense hassle of managing a gigantic workforce.
< The automated web configurators on 2HEX.com allow us to offer all customization options and an endless amount of custom calculated production quotations without having to add the very high sales-manager margins that both trading companies and sales departments of factories add.
< Our European, North American, and internationally educated sales managers understand what skateboard companies want and manage productions according to European and American requirements in China.
Tell us something about yourself?
I am a skateboarder. I love sports, factories, science and working on big ideas.
You worked for a distribution company called BSS Distribution in China. What is the company and what were you doing?
BSS is China’s major skateboard distribution for U.S. skateboard brands headed by my good friend Luke Yang. During my time as undergrad, Luke was in the second year of getting BSS started. I owned a skateboard brand called “Droshky” and I applied at BSS for one semester of practical training, so that I can learn more about China and how to work with Chinese businesses.
On the job I called Deluxe distribution and got BSS the distribution rights for Venture (my then favourite truck brand). In return Luke promoted me to head of procurement, which I used to bring “Droshky” into his distribution. When I started my post grad, I did not have time to continue Droshky. BSS then took over the brand completely.
You offer everything from decks, trucks, wheels, bearings, griptape to stickers and brochures. Where do you specialise however?
As described above, we specialize in each of our products. If I had to pick one, I would pick trucks though. Trucks are the most complicated skateboard component to get right, and it is therefore the product we invested most time in.
There are some interesting blogs on your website. One talks about the most profitable component of skateboards from Bearings as most profitable to Decks, least profitable. Can you please add in a few words on why you ranked them that way?
This list is based on the margin between production cost and the price in shops:
As you can see on this table, bearings are by far the most profitable skateboard component. Also freight costs on bearings are so low, that with one bearing production, you could basically turn 2.000 USD into 20.000 USD.
‘Trucks are the most complicated skateboard component to get right, and it is therefore the product we invested most time in.‘
Is everything manufactured in China?
Many of our components and raw materials are made in other countries. Titanium truck axles are made in Taiwan, the motor for our machines comes from Japan, we use German glue and North American maple.
We run all of our productions in China. Distributing our production around the world would make it harder to organize.
However, I expect automation to bring productions back to Europe and USA. 2HEX actively supports this trend by selling a skateboard printer, that allows manufacturers to automatically print on every skateboard component.
With this growing trend, we will likely also move our productions closer to our customers.
How do you address sustainability within your supply chain?
In contrast to the believe of most Europeans and Americans, Chinese law does a good job at enforcing sustainability. Discarding of waste liquids has become so expensive, that we can basically not generate any waste liquids at all. We dye deck veneers without generating any left-over ink. The water we use to clean our truck moulds is filtered in-house and re- used.
Our main raw material (Maple wood) is sustainably cultivated and not taken from wild forests.
However, there is lots of room for improvement! Skateboard wheels and bushings are made from Polyurethane. There is still no fast way, to decompose plastics and I wish we could find a sustainable material to replace PU.
‘Statistically it is unlikely that you can find a successful business, no less a skateboard business. From 2000 persons planning on founding a skateboard business, 100 actually go ahead and arrange their first production. Of these, only 30 sell all goods and arrange a second production. Of those 30, only 5 can make a living from their business and only one can sell enough to hire employees and grow their skateboard company.’ I took this from your website and it does not sound very promising. Where did you take the data from to come to this conclusion?
It is from experience. By now I likely received over 20.000 production inquiries in total. The number of dreamers is incredible. It is very hard to filter the 100 people who just collect information to keep on dreaming, from the 2000 that send an inquiry to actually start a production.
‘The number of dreamers is incredible.’
‘Board companies fail because most founders focus too much on marketing and too little on sales’ you said in an interview with boardstation.de. You continue on the website by saying ‘Sales are the first priority. There is only one way you can make money. You have to sell. Selling should always be your number one priority. Not sponsoring, not design, not marketing, not your taxes and bills. Sales.’ I hear but why would someone by a board from a brand they have never heard of? Don’t you need to have story that appeals to consumers?
In this text, I am talking to skateboarders. Skateboarders that run skateboard productions are usually well-known in their local skateboard communities. And they already have their own story of why skateboarding is important to them.
This story of why a skateboarder loves skateboarding so much, that she/he founds his/her own company is much better than the story of most large organizations. And it is certainly enough to sell to their local areas.
Selling is the hard part. Many skateboarders are curious to try a new local skateboard company, but it takes someone strong at selling to turn skateboarders into paying customers.
I have seen many skateboarders arrange a great production and make outstanding skate videos. However, if they failed to call skate shops and sell to skateboarders, they quickly vanished.
What else are you working on?
When I am not working on 2HEX or List the, I study how to grow pieces of meat from cells. One the one hand, it is extremely sad seeing beautiful creatures with emotions and feelings tortured on factory farms. On the other hand, humans are omnivores and hard to turn into vegetarians. Therefore the sooner meat can be mass-produced without involving animals, the better! I am sharing my thoughts and progress on lab-grown meat on LabMeatNow.com.
‘Board companies fail because most founders focus too much on marketing and too little on sales.’