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We’ve heard good things about Freedom Artists, a newer surf/skate lifestyle brand, so we asked co-founder Patrick Jensen some questions about the company and its business model.
The brand, which was founded in 2007 by Jensen and Malibu pro surfer Pascal Stansfield, is quickly gaining momentum in core shops, especially because of its at-once business structure, which is appealing to retailers in this economy.
“Since we grew up buying Ts from core shops, we wanted to sell premium style shirts at affordable prices to retailers like the ones we grew up with,” Jensen said.
Most shirts cost about $22 retail, and are designed by local artists and established guys like amateur astronomer and artist Russell Crotty.
The brand is in over 60 doors including shops like Val Surf, Becker, ZJ Boarding House, Hobie, Revolution Surf Co., Swell.com, Mitch’s Surf Shop, Cinnamon Rainbows and Ron Jon Surf Shop.
The company does all of its own screen printing in Los Angeles, which allows it to offer quick deliveries and turnaround times on re-orders.
“It’s been a huge advantage for us because all these stores that order big brands at trade shows six months in advance have no idea what the landscape will be like that far out. We can offer stores product that week, and if they sell through, retailers can re-order the next week."
The company finances its business through its profits and through its screen-printing business. Freedom Artists sees growth coming from new accounts in other regions, international distribution and expanding the line to eventually include cut and sew garments, Jensen said. Currently, the company sells fleece and hats, in addition to T’s, which have sold well, Jensen said.
Through lines of credit and its relationships with different production facilities, including its own, Freedom Artists has the resources to produce a large order, he said.
The recession has taken down some smaller brands. But Jensen said after an initial scare when orders stopped at the height of the financial meltdown, the downturn has been a “pretty positive thing for us overall.”
While some accounts went away, Freedom Artists focused on opening new accounts, and landed some big ones.
Retailers were also open to trying something new and liked that Freedom Artists could fill orders fast. And now that the brand has made it through, its orders are getting bigger and bigger.
“We grew not only our account base but our overall sales numbers,” Jensen said.
Currently, there are three core employees: Pascal Stansfield, head of marketing, Tom Reese, head of sales, and Jensen, who oversees design and production. Freedom Artists also recently added a Central/Northern California sales rep, and the company has a full time warehouse employee as well.
Jensen declined to provide annual revenue figures, but said the brand averaged 100% growth in 2007 and 2008.
With a smaller starting base, it’s easier for newer brands to log big percentage growth compared to larger brands. However, Freedom Artists is proud that it grew so much in the eye of the recession. And for 2010, the company is forecasting 200% growth.
But Jensen is still cautious.
“As we saw during the recession, things can change quick,” he said.