If strapping on a pair of skates and hurtling down a steep, frozen incline at speeds upwards of 40 mph—all while navigating obstacles and jostling to be first to the finish line—doesn’t sound like your cup of tea, Backside Five probably won’t be sponsoring you for Red Bull’s Crashed Ice 2013. But don’t worry. You can still wear their apparel.
Like Crashed Ice, Backside Five grew out of a love for ice hockey. Darren Smegal registered the company in Canada in 2006 when belt buckles he custom fabricated for a friend sparked a huge demand at an event. But it wasn’t until he met fellow action sports-enthusiast Joe Rizzo playing ice hockey at a Houston rink that a partnership was formed, and Backside Five was officially registered in the United States in 2008.
Since then, Backside Five has been designing and producing apparel reflecting the energy and lifestyle of the action sports they love. They focus on manufacturing eco-friendly clothing only within the United States and Canada. A minimum of 1% of their net profits are donated to several charities.
I asked Joe a few questions about what happens when what you love becomes what you do:
You found a way to turn a passion, and a lifestyle, into a business. What is that like?
It’s pretty remarkable and quite a challenge at the same time. Much like a musician with a fresh song that no one has heard, you don’t know what people will think about the apparel until the designs are exposed at launch. The trick is to create something we like that represents the action sports lifestyle and have others like it as well. So far it’s worked out quite well!
I know you strive to be as eco-friendly as you can. Why is that important to you?
In all fairness, the majority of our shirts and hats are made of eco-friendly materials including organic cotton and bamboo. The printing process and some of our products are not so eco, but the market does not supply 100% of what we’re looking to produce as a brand.
This is extremely important to us for several reasons. First, being eco-friendly is just the right thing to do, especially right now. It’s not the most profitable business strategy, but if our company, and others that use eco-materials, create enough demand, the price for raw materials will lower and promote suppliers to offer more eco-/sustainable materials to the market.
In what way do you use AnswerConnect?
As a small business, overhead is one of the largest expenses for our company. AnswerConnect allows us to provide a mode for our customers to contact us through a customer service line without having to pay someone at the early stages of our growth. With the auto email we receive once a message is recorded, we can both see this message and answer quickly. It’s affordable, easy to use and fits our small business needs when other fixed costs are crucial for us to sustain as we grow.