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Tiffany Montgomery
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Truth 2008 sales to reach more than $3 mill

By Tiffany Montgomery
April 16, 2008 6:59 AM

I headed down to San Clemente yesterday to meet Jeff Ray, the owner and president of Truth Soul Armor.


Jeff describes the brand as flying under the radar a bit given that its revenues have doubled each year since 2004 and should reach $3.5 million for 2008.

Truth Soul ArmorTruth is also in key accounts such as HSS, Hansen, Becker, Hobie and The Buckle. In fact, The Buckle has boosted its orders for Truth and has placed an all door buy for fall for mens and juniors, Jeff said. In all, Truth has approximately 300 accounts with 700 or so doors (including The Buckle).


The background: The brand started in 1993 and was mostly associated with the Christian music scene and a bit with action sports. Jeff, who grew up surfing in San Clemente, switched the focus more to action sports when he became the majority owner and lead executive in 2004. Truth sponsors athletes in surf, skate, BMX, snow and motocross.

 

Previously, Jeff operated and owned a successful construction company that was "printing money," he said. He still owns the company but is not involved in day-to-day operations. Jeff wanted to get involved with Truth because he is passionate about action sports and liked the brand's Christian message.


Truth Soul ArmorJeff's been at Truth full-time for three years now. In 2008, Truth will turn a profit, he said. "The bottom line is I'm the biggest investor - I'm all in now," he said. "So we are going to make money."


The vibe
: Truth uses a lot of freelance artists to create a look that Jeff believes stands out from the crowd. "To a fault, we don't try to follow other brands - sometimes we get spanked."


That being said, Truth has incorporated poppy colors for spring into its line but will "still keep our edge," Jeff said.

 

The religion issue: Jeff said Truth employees come from all different action sports backgrounds and experiences but Christianity is the thing that knits them all together. The religion aspect can both help and hurt when the brand calls on accounts, however.


Truth Soul Armor"Some hear the Christian term, and they say, ‘Ohhh. I'm not so sure we want to get into that,' Jeff said. "We are not trying to get into anyone's face with religion, it's more an art driven thing. It's not like our message (on clothing) is ‘Jesus is my homeboy.' Sometimes it's our strength and sometimes it's our Achilles heel."


Rebellion is a theme that runs through action sports, and Jeff believes Truth is more "punk rock, bucking the system" than a lot of other brands.


"The world is not friendly to our message," he said. "There's a lot of pressure to water it down - from retailers, from potential investors. We'll either make it or break it, but we're not going to stop being who we are."


Financials: Truth has raised about $500,000 in private placement money and is looking to raise $500,000 more. So far, investors have been people who appreciate what the brand is doing. The next step is to attract "smart money," or industry investors, Jeff said.


"We'd like to raise more money because there is some stuff we'd like to invest in, but we don't have to have it," he said.


Truth Soul ArmorCurrently, Truth advertises in Transworld Motocross, Surfer, FreeSurf and Mundo Rad and spent about 10 percent of its revenues last year on marketing, Jeff said.


International: Truth just hooked up with a distributor in Greece, is doing a test run with a Japanese distributor, had a direct buy from a Spanish retailer, and sells a lot of product in Canada and Puerto Rico.


The future: Judging by the wide-range of high-profile athletes that want to get involved with the brand - including snowboarders, skateboarders and even Nascar drivers - Jeff thinks there's a lot of opportunity.


"I'm a big optimist," Jeff said. "I really feel like we can go anywhere."

 


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