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SES writer Shelby Stanger sat down during connected before the holidays with Steve Van Doren, Vans’ “Ambassador of Fun,” to talk to him about his career, his approach to his job, and his advice for others in the industry.
Steve’s family founded Vans, which is now owned by VF Corp.
I was the middle child of four. I always wanted the biggest present at Christmas time and didn't care what it was - just the biggest box.
Steve Van Doren with legendary Vans athletes
I was always voted "Most Inspirational Player" on my sports teams since I had the most energy and spunk and worked harder than most. I didn’t have the talent so I had to make it up in effort.
Often, my sisters would tell on me for talking too much and I spent many classes in the hallway. At 10 years old, I worked alongside my brother every weekend and summers at Vans with my father.
I loved to talk and I wasn't shy ... a natural salesman. My father had all of us working on math from the beginning as we helped him schedule the shoe production as well as working in the warehouse doing inventory and pulling shoes.
At the very beginning, my main job was passing flyers out at the new store opening each week. In the summer when I was 13, 14 and 15, I would work alongside my brother and make shoes in the factory. We were introduced to every aspect of the company, but sales was the most enjoyable for me.
My position now and for the last 16 or so years has been as a brand builder. From 17 years of traveling with the Vans Warped Tour to many more years of large and small Vans events, I have always tried to keep our company real.
It’s about being at every event making sure the athletes are taken care of, as well as the musicians and tour workers. I only ask and do as I was taught years ago from my family. Take care of your people. Be a people person. Show that you give a s***! And don't be a phony. Lead by example.
Today, I handle our events and grassroots marketing efforts across the Americas, which include our new House of Vans initiative for the East Coast region.
I work very closely with all of our legend riders and travel with them globally to help share their knowledge and passion with the world. I get to be the "Ambassador of Fun," showing my passion for our great brand and what we do for the youth of the world.
I am the brand historian as I have seen everything and lived it 24/7 for the past 46 years. In one sentence, I can describe my role: If Vans is doing an event, promotion, sales meeting, store visit, product launch, trade show, anything at all, I or someone representing Vans with my passion will be there telling our story and passing it on in the Van Doren way. We have great people who are dedicated and care about their job and that’s the long and short of it.
See Page 2 for more from Steve Van Doren