With no Skate shops in Barbados and with a freshly built skatepark, I said why don’t I open a skate shop.

Johno’s Skate Shop

Johnathan Austin
Johno’s Skate Shop

September 2023

Tell us something about Barbados people do not know?
Barbados is a beautiful island in the Caribbean, that has attractive beaches, many tourist attractions and the local people are generally welcoming and friendly. A few years ago, we had our first official skatepark built, the Kaitif Skatepark. A world class facility that has everything from rails, ledges, vert wall, a bowl and much more. Our local skate community is also great at making our visitors feel welcomed. Offering an opportunity to skate in paradise.

Tell us something about yourself?
My name is Johnathan Austin, better known as Johno, owner and operator of Johno’s Skate Shop. An online skate shop located in Barbados. I am 19 years old and I have been skateboarding for about 8 years. I found skateboarding when I was 11 or 12, as I suffered from an illness called gastroparesis that I was suffering from at the time. Gastroparesis is the slow emptying of the stomach and every time I would eat I would throw up. This caused me to have to seek treatment outside of Barbados as the doctors on the island did not know what exactly I was suffering from or how to treat my condition. I struggled to cope with the constant prodding , hospitals stays, procedures, medical tests, IV sticks and drips and bad tasting medicine. While in hospital I was able to use the computer and I came across a video of someone skateboarding. I was in awe of all the stunts and manoeuvres done in the video. From there the only thing on my mind was skateboarding. So, in 2014 after my first Hospital stay diagnosing my illness, when we were discharged, I told my dad I really, really wanted a skateboard. I guess he saw the excitement in my eyes and he went straight to Walmart in Miami and bought a skateboard. I would never forget the skateboard it had images of Waffles on it. From there skateboarding was the only thing on my mind, it gave me a sense of purpose and helped me cope with my illness.

From there skateboarding was the only thing on my mind, it gave me a sense of purpose and helped me cope with my illness.

Jonathan Austin • Boardslide • Bridgetown, Barbados

Thanks to your US trips, you got in touch with skateboarding. What made you decide however to open up your own skate shop?
I decided to start a skate shop during the pandemic in 2020. Johno’s Skate Shop was conceptualised while, I was discussing the future with my Dad and said if I am doing Marketing and Management at Community College, I think it would be a good idea to set up my own business. With no Skate shops in Barbados and with a freshly built skatepark, I said why don’t I open a skate shop. My dad thought it was a good idea and told me to write a business plan. My business plan made sense to him and the journey started with the brainstorming on the name of the shop, the development of the brand and finding wholesale suppliers, registering the business and building the website. My dad is a minority shareholder or in real sense my business mentor. The skate shop was opened on the 14th September 2021. I sold out the majority of skateboards and protective equipment in 3-4 weeks. I have since added roller skates, roller blades, new skateboards and other supplies.

I advertise on social media and having really great branding has assisted my success. Neil Barnard from 809 designs developed my logo after I shared that I wanted it to reflect my love for bright colours, yellow and pink included. All in all, I value my customers and feel that providing excellent customer service is essential as well as delivering a good product. I spend hours researching brands and sourcing supplies to ensure that all my customers are satisfied.

Are there any other skate shops on the island?
They had a few skate shops in the past, a few years back. However, at the time of Johno’s Skate shop conceptualization there was not any skate shops. Which is why I saw starting a skate shop as a perfect opportunity, especially because we now have a new skatepark and the skate scene is growing rapidly.

5% of sales go towards kids that need help with medical bills and also to help kids within the skateboard community.

Johno’s Skate Shop storefront   © Pascal Lieleg

Are you selling any national skate brands too?
We haven’t meshed with any local brands as yet, as the scene is still relatively small and there aren’t many local skate brands on the island. However, I will be open to adding product from any current local skate brand and future skate brands on our website in the foreseeable future. On the contrary, we do supply many internationally recognized brands like DGK, Baker, Real Skateboards, Blind and much more.

Who are your team riders?

Johno’s Skate shop does not necessarily have a team. However, we do have a giveback aspect called Johno Cares 2. Where 5% of sales go towards kids that need help with medical bills and also to help kids within the skateboard community. In July 2022, we announced our first Johno’s Skate Shop/ Johno Cares 2 Ambassador, where Tarryn Alleyne, was identified as a young, up and coming local skateboarder. I am sponsoring him with skateboard product and possible opportunities for development overseas. We look to sponsor other young skateboarders on the island in the near future. Additionally, we also donated to 14-year-old Sapphire who has Scoliosis and this assisted her with getting physical therapy as she was fitted with a back brace. Raphael who has stage 2 Liver disease and needs operations and visits overseas to manage his illness. While conceptualizing Johno’s Skate Shop, I knew that it was crucial to have a giveback aspect. I am very grateful that I am now able to help others through Johno’s Skate Shop/Johno Cares2.

I am also working on launching Johno Skate Shop regionally within Caribbean.

© Carson Smith

If you could sign up any skater, who would it be and why?
In my wildest dreams, I would sign Kader Sylla. Not only because he is a remarkable skateboarder, but I can respect that he has created a very good personal brand at such a young age. Where he influences millions of skateboarders all over the world.

Last question: If you could interview a person, who would it be and why? What would you ask?
There are many outstanding individuals, I would love to interview. However, if I was to pick one within the skateboard scene, I would choose Stevie Williams, founder of DGK. The fact that he was able to build such an astounding brand, regardless of where he came from, is inspirational. I love everything from the deck designs, T-shirts and overall brand presence. If I was to interview him, I would surely dive deeper on how he built such a distinctive brand.

© Pascal Lieleg