Posted Jan 05, 2016, OC Register
“Forget everything you think you know about stand-up paddleboarding. Founder and CEO of Pop Paddleboards Nick Lanfranco is aiming to revolutionize the industry with brighter colors, lighter boards and trend-setting outerwear.”
Compared with other sporting industries, stand up paddleboarding (SUP) is a very small sport with a short, seasonal window. That explains why it is mainly driven by passion. It is that passion; however, which has led the sport of stand up paddleboarding to experience a surge in popularity, allowing for new entrants, board innovations and appeal to landlocked consumers that may have overlooked buying a paddleboard in the past.
One such fairly new entrant to the scene is POP Paddleboards. Created in 2012, POP Paddleboards noted the existence of strong, competitive brands in the space, but also realized room for innovation and providing customers with other choices. The larger brands include Bote Paddleboards, SIC Paddleboards and Starboard Paddleboards, which continue to breathe refreshing innovations into the growing industry. Despite the brand equity attached to those names, POP Paddleboards felt that there was an opportunity to exploit.
“The buzz in the industry is there is not much room for any new board makers because we are seeing more of them leaving than coming,” explained POP Paddleboards creator Nick Lanfranco. “New brands do seem to emerge once in a while, but unfortunately we see them immediately moving towards a liquidation mode rather than a brand-building mode. We see POP’s opportunity in the consumer experience side of the market like retail shops, rental outfitters, tours and lessons. This is where the opportunities are wide open to enter this exciting business. We feel it’s also a great way to start out and have a good pulse on what the true potential for stand up paddling is in the action sports industry.”
The financial graphs in the industry show a bell shaped curve where 75% of a paddleboard company’s inventory moves within 90 to 120 days. The industry is experiencing enormous growth in the number of accessories and gadgets available for paddleboards, including seats, lights, ice chests, beer holders, fishing rod holders and rowing systems. Many paddleboard companies are adding these line extensions to their brands.
POP is carving its own path, which is a commitment to making stand up paddleboarding accessible to the masses by backing up each board with what the company claims to be unmatched customer service. Its use of a fun, colorful retro style with its boards certainly seeks to set it apart from the competition.
Lanfranco has received no financial backing to date and admits that his company continues to run very lean while constantly improving efficiency — spending dimes like dollars. 50% of POP’s revenue goes to manufacturing and supporting its growth. Marketing makes up about 15% of the budget, advertising is 10% and operational costs are 25%.
“Thanks to our talented crew of SUP ninjas we are able to internalize virtually every role demanded by our business,” added Lanfranco.
The 5-year model for POP Paddleboards is to focus on wholesale to retail partnerships. It is removing the direct-to-consumer influence on its website and creating a strong alliance with new and existing retail partners. In the interest of growing these relationships, POP will no longer be selling direct on its website.
“Taking one step back in this critical time will forge the relationship behind the driving force of our brand – the retail shops selling our brand,” said Lanfranco. ”Whether you’re a distributor ordering a container of boards or a rental outfitter starting a new business, we extend our knowledge, resources and support to make our partners successful. Growing our partners’ businesses is how we grow ours.”
The key for growth of the industry as a whole will be to turn people outside of California and Florida into passionate paddleboarding participants.
POP Paddleboards is stoked to announce the newest addition to the crew! Joe Sabina, will be the brand Vice President alongside POP Paddleboard Founder, Nick Lanfranco. The team plan to take the brand to new heights among many visions they foresee within the paddleboard industry.
“We took our time searching for a qualified person who shares the same business spirit and vision that we have for SUP industry,” said Lanfranco. “Joe is sharp. The whole camp including myself is excited to welcome him into his leadership position as the new VP of POP Paddleboards. His “Joe-ism” is going to be a great compliment to the brand.”
Hailing from Laguna Niguel, California, Sabina has always carried a passion for the water as well as board sports, especially as a grom being slashed around Salt Creek Beach’s sandy barrels and rocky point breaks in Dana Point.
“A few years ago, thanks to Nick, I’ve become a big fan of the sport,” said Sabina. “It’s just a different way of surfing and you can do it just for exercise and cross-training, which I really appreciate.”
At the eager age of 9 years, Sabina hopped onto his first surfboard and the rest is waterman history.
“My friend’s older brother took us out surfing on body boards,” said Sabina. “He gave me one of his old boards which had been in the sun so much that it turned brown. So of course we painted it red and black stripes with white stars and thought it was super cool.”
Sand bars and point breaks awoke a monster as Sabina tackled each board sport after his beginner’s initiation and hasn’t stopped since. From surf to skate to snow and now paddle, Sabina is what we consider a well-rounded individual who has some exciting goals and concepts for Pop.
“I want to genuinely help customers,” said Sabina. “Whether it’s just one person who wants a few boards to start their own rental outfit or if it’s somebody who wants to be a large-scale distributor, I want to make sure that our clients are successful.”
As business developed, Sabina and Lanfranco began to open the doors to smaller scale Paddleboard operations.
“They’ve become really good producers for us,” said Sabina. “They start off by renting out a few boards to family and friends and before you know it, they become the go-to person in their community for paddleboarding.”
Lanfranco and Sabina continue to service customers, both big and small, with well-touted personalized customer service that echoes the brand’s vision of exploration, fitness, water-obsessed fun-loving nature geeks to the fullest scale.
“I wants to call at least one wholesale partner a day and just check in and make sure they are happy,” said Sabina. “Relationship management is a big part of what I enjoy. I think that’s where I get a lot of my joy is seeing the success of different wholesale accounts.”
Lanfranco and Sabina–now partners in crime, are aiming to take POP to a new level with innovative board designs, business and relationship management as well as bringing it back POP’s roots: creating a fun atmosphere–both in and out of the water.
“Working with Nick is like working with your best friend,” said Sabina. “ I feel good about the brand and the crew I’m working with.
Hey Joe-whaddaya know–We had to ask a few more critical questions, of course:
POP: Slater or Reynolds?
POP: Favorite song to sing in the shower?
Joe: Dean Martin’s “Volare”
POP: Product you can’t live without?
Joe: My tent–I like to camp.
POP: Breakfast is…?
Joe: A hobo breakfast: eggs, potatoes and cheese
POP: Stranded on an island, what’s your one thing you have to have?
Joe: Flint–I need to make fire.
POP: PETA stands for…?
Joe: The People who protect animals?
POP: Random fact.
Joe: It is very dangerous to be around squirrels in Yosemite. They have the plague and people are getting sick.
POP: Save the whales because…?
Joe: They’re beautiful and they’re important to the eco system.
While most 12 year old girls spend their spring break and summer vacations soaking up the sun, listening to tunes or developing summer crushes, Sage Offutt decided to take her fun-in-the-sun activity to the next level on the crystal clear waters of Navarre, Florida. The chipper 12 year-old Colorado native has opened her own paddleboard rental business, Sage Paddle Co., featuring the latest Pop Paddleboards and hasn’t looked back since.
“Every time we go paddleboarding as a family, we would get questions like ‘oh my gosh, where did you rent the boards and where can I get one?’” Offutt told Pop. “So we started to see that there was a need on the island for this. We are a very outdoorsy family and love any activity in general.”
After taking a small loan out from her parents, Offutt invested in six paddleboards under the condition that she pay them back by the end of the summer.
“Within 17 days after the first rental, I had not only paid my parents back for all six boards, but I had also invested in a golf cart to go with a trailer that we already had for the paddleboards.” said Offutt.
What started as a business conducted virtually over the web has since blossomed into a physical location for Offutt’s booming business. The young pre-teen has partnered with REMAX Vacation Rentals on Narvarre Beach as their official supplier of six ocean kayaks as well as over two dozen paddleboards.
After scouring the web for paddleboard companies, Offutt concluded that Pop Paddleboards resonated with Sage Paddle Co.’s life style.
“Pop has the same goals and passions that we do,” said Offutt. “We looked at the model of the boards, how they’re built and they’re really good boards.”
Most importantly Pop shares the same value as Sage Paddle Co.’s motto, which originated from Offutt’s grandma: “Live life to it’s fullest and without regret.”
“When I first came across Sage, I couldn’t believe she was 12 years old and running her own business,” said Pop Founder Nick Lanfranco. “Most kids at that age are opening lemonade stands, but not Sage. She is a mature young lady who is going to have a bright future!”
“I really like the Throwback,” said Offutt. “I have a very bubbly bright personality and I think that board really represents me. Pop’s video on the throwback board is actually my favorite video that they have.”
Whether she’s on a boat, surfboard or paddleboard, Offutt has always been on the water as early as she can remember. Since she was six years old paddling on Chatfield Lake with her father, Offutt found her passion for the ocean through paddleboarding.
“For me paddleboarding is a stress reliever,” said Offutt. “I can paddle on the water and just clear my mind. I’ve had a lot of experiences with dolphins. Sometimes they jump over our paddleboard, you can literally reach out and touch them. We have seen a lot of sting rays, jelly fish, turtles and a few sharks.”
Not only does Sage Paddle Co. rent boards for the visitors of Navarre, but they also deliver and teach lessons.
“I love seeing the reaction of people when they have that moment of success, when they finally do get to stand up on the board, that is really important for me. I get really passionate about that,” said Offutt. “I want to share that with other people so they know what it’s like.”
Offutt hopes to become more involved with giving back to her local community, as well.
“My mom is a special ed teacher, so I’ve grown up with a lot of autistic kids and got to work with a lot of them,” said Offutt. “I want to do something where they can get a chance to paddleboard, too.”
Tomorrow: The world
Pop is stoked to support Sage Paddle Co.!
We’re taking this show on the road…
Ok, we’re not gonna lie: Our latest and greatest Pop Up shop is just an excuse to visit friends, make new ones in awesome cities across the nation and get everyone stoked on Stand Up Paddleboarding. While we like to constantly think outside the box, we also wanted stick with our nomadic roots to better connect with our local crew and, most importantly, get people on the water. We’ve chosen more than five coastal cities to plant our Pop Up shop, so stay tuned to our social media for updates of our traveling shop whereabouts.
Once we land in a location, we will set up for five to seven days, give you the lowdown on Pop the brand and release a small batch of killer paddleboards and SUP gear you won’t want to miss. Please remember these goods will be featured on a “first come, first serve basis,” so just like the tides and wind, timing is everything! Let us stoke you and your community out for a week while you chill with your local crew, share some amazing brew, music and score some local killer deals!
Be sure to check in with our social pages for updates on our next locale! Our starting point is San Diego, so stay tuned for the location. See you on the road.