Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Skullcandy - Fostering a Niche Community

I recently had the pleasure of being part of an Inc. Magazine live chat with Skullcandy founder Rick Alden. In case you were wondering, Skullcandy makes headphones, apparel and accessories for the skate, surf, snow, moto and bike about a niche market! 

Rick spent his life's savings and refinanced his home to start Skullcandy after having his "Aha!" moment while on a ski lift in Park City, Utah.  "I was listening to my iPod and felt the phone buzz in my pocket and thought, 'Wouldn't it be cool to have a set of headphones with 2 jacks?' ..and that was it."  Just a few years later Skullcandy has amazing offices that lookout to the ski resort areas of Utah and a passionate fan base full of alternative sport enthusiasts.

Rick touched on a number of business topics; how the company deals with overseas merchants, how and who they hire and what their plans are for the next five years.  But I was interested in "how the company fosters a sense of community among Skullcandy users".  Here is Rick's response:

"MusickEd...I like the name!  Wow, that's a good question!  It's interesting because that question typically gets asked 'How do you maintain a sense of community within the Skullcandy organization"... but among our users we really do get involved heavily in events and things going on outside of this organization.  

In 2005 it was the first time we opened up a non-endemic lifestyle shop - we went out and started selling headphones to Musicland.  Musicland eventually got acquired by a company called FYE stores and there were 1,400 of them at that time and that was our first national footprint.  In order to create demand for those kinds of retailers we have to be in lot of different places.  But at the same time, because there were1,400 FYE stores we were able to take the revenue with profits we  were making out of places like Target and Best Buy and commit to more endemic marketing efforts like US Open Surf, Maloof Money Cup, and the Warped Tour.  So hopefully we are able to stay in touch with the community of Skullcandy users.

And of course, if you go to the website, you'll see a lot of "reach out" and interaction with the users as well. It's been a great community."

 Watch the entire live-chat here.