‘For me personally, skateboarding saved my life, so why wouldn’t I want to give back, right?’
Publisher & CEO
Can you tell us something about Canada that no one knows?
What is amazing about Canada is that I spoke at a Conference in Germany about 4 years ago and I was basically speaking to 140 different countries. Someone asked me in the audience what Canada is like? When I looked out to this audience and I see all these different countries, that is what Canada is like. We are made up of many religions, nationalities,genders from all over the globe and we all get along. Also, the location of my famous hippy jump over a Ferrari, that was on Yonge Street in Toronto which is the longest street in the world.
You have done a hippy jump over a Ferrari?
Yes. I was the first one in the world that has done a hippy jump over a Ferrari in 1976 when i was 15. Back then we called it a high jump.
You are the founder of CJ Graphics Inc. in Canada and your company has won more awards 6,500 than any other printer on the planet and you took over Canada’s biggest skatemag called “SBC Skateboard”. Why?
Because I am crazy about skateboarding. SBC Media had several brands, and they went into receivership. I thought it was important especially as I am involved in the skate industry, it would be good to have a printed skateboard magazine. However, we also have SBC Snowboard and SBC Skier and of course SBC Skateboard which is number one in Canada and probably number two in the world. All 3 mags Focus primarily on Canada.
‘I thought it was important especially as I am involved in the skate industry, it would be good to have a printed skateboard magazine.’
You said you are crazy but why did you rescue a printed skatemag while everyone else moves to digital?
The spectrum of skateboarding is very diverse, and everybody gets along and helps each other. When a 7-year-old kid needs some help in the skatepark, everybody wants to help. I like this about skateboarding, and you do not see this in other sports. For me personally, skateboarding saved my life, so why wouldn’t I want to give back, right? When I speak publicly at events and advocate about skateboarding and the many benefits, there are over a hundred, people are often shocked and especially adults and corporate people. We are learning to fail a thousand times before we accomplish a trick…so we learn to never give up. Also, there is or certainly was a negative perception about skateboarding. However, skateboarding is amazing for younger kids and special needs kids. We developed programs around that. We do a blind and vision impaired program. Asperger’s, Autism…skateboarding is amazing for anybody with or without a challenge.
On the website it says that ‘SBC Skateboard has not made money to- date, since CJ Oyster Publishing’s rescued SBC Media in 2015, when it was declared bankrupt.’ How is the financial health 6 years later?
We just started to break even about 6 months ago and hope to make a profit in 2022. We changed the size which is interesting as everybody fought us on this. I noticed all those mags were getting damaged as they were too big, so we made it smaller which made it less expensive to produce and to mail and people seem to love it as it is more hip…and shelf space is valuable these days. As well new size fits in your backpack perfectly.
On that note, what advice would give as a print expert to someone starting a skatemag in regards to size, paper thickness, binding etc?
When I first took over, my definition of quality with a print background is different to a publisher’s definition. So, they told me it has to be perfect bound, not stitched. Matt paper as opposed to gloss. Ultimately though you want to find a good printer as they will be your partner and help figure out what is the most cost effective on their equipment. The expression size does not matter well in this case it does and the smaller it is the less expensive it is to make. So having a great design partner is also very important as well good stories, great pictures and nice paper.
‘We changed the size which is interesting as everybody fought us on this.’
Can you give us a brief summary of SBC Skateboard your role with the magazine?
My understanding was that SBC stands for ‘Some Big Company’ also heard SBC backwards is CBS ’ Cool Board Sports’. Steve Jarrett was the founder. He was a big snowboarder and skier. He had 14 titles at some point, published 1/4ly including SBC skateboard which is my favorite. They were all board mags like wakeboard, surfboard etc. I invested in it personally, promoting, marketing, contributing where I can and selling ads to keep it afloat.
How many people work for SBC skatemag?
1,200. Just kidding. 7+ myself and we have 3 Editors 2 of which are also photographers.1 social media and 1 Digital editor. 2 sales directors and 3 part-time 1admin,1web and 1IT and many contributors. They get paid small amounts and we hope to increase that as we get more advertisers. It all cases it is for the love of the sport that they are on board.
What is your role?
I am the Publisher & CEO. Now and then I write an article or 2 and only once did I ever override part of a story in the past 6 years. We all at SBC really work as a team.
‘That is a really good question…’
‘…and simple answer is NO!’
I read in an interview that your parents sold their house to send you to a private school in New York State for children with dyslexia as you tried to commit suicide once. It was there you fell in love with skateboarding. Can you take us through how it all started and how skateboarding helped to turn your life around?
When I was growing up, I had a terrible childhood. I was teased because I could not write or read. I get bullied and into fights. I was then institutionalized and was put on Ritalin. It was a terrible experience. The psychiatrists were brutal. They told my parents I will never do high school or university. Maybe an assistant mechanic at best with proper training. My parents and I both though that I can do better than this. I was eventually diagnosed with dyslexia and ADHD. We found this expensive school across the US border, so my parents had to sell their home and downsize. For the first time I felt normal at that school. I had my first best friend and he taught me to skateboard, and it jump started my life. I got addicted. It gave me more confidence with now owning more than 37 companies, being very successful and receiving a medal from the queen, from the province for giving back to the community.
What are some of the challenges SBC faces today?
People do not want to pay for the magazine. Everything is free which is a challenge. Who is going to pay for it while there are less advertisers? You really need to have subscriptions as your advertisers want to know that the mag is going to the right places. We partner with the distributors and shops all across the country.
‘ What a humble guy.’
When you look at printed publications in general, it looks like advertisers become more involved in the editorial aspect. What is your take on this?
It is a trend in magazines in general. They call them advertorials. We really do not do that. If one of our majour advertisers for example suggests something, we usually put it on the website. We do not want that conflict where advertisers write our content. It is all done by our own staff.
Is there a comeback of printed mags?
Absolutely. People are computer fatigued right now.
Do you have to make comprises in accepting specific ads just to pay the bills?
That is a really good question and simple answer is NO! In some of the mags we do place ads from our other companies such as hand sanitizer, portable ramps, ramp surfacing material etc. In the Snowboard and Ski mag, there are automotive ads in there.
Last question. If you could interview one person, who would it be and why?
Probably Richard Branson.
What would you ask him?
Words to inspire others.
One of my favourite people I did interview was Rodney Mullen. I did an ad hoc video interview. It was the world freestyle roundups in Vancouver and he was one of the judges. They allowed me to be the one person to do the interview and two minutes turned into half an hour. We had a great time. He wrote me a letter just recently which was nice. What a humble guy.