First of all, I am proud of Vans as a company. Everyone who ever worked with us and has seen my dad Paul, Jim and Gordy's dreams come true and grow. Vans has become a place where thousands have made their job, home and career.
I am also so proud of my daughter, Kristy, who has been involved with me at Vans her whole life. Since she was born, Kristy has gone along with me to work. At the age of 12, she traveled internationally with me to Europe and Asia. In 1995, when the Vans Warped Tour began, Kristy was a staple like Kurt Soto and myself, working alongside of Kevin Lyman, the founder. We saw thousands of teenagers in many countries around the world as well as 17 years touring here in the USA.
Sometimes people think being part of a family that started a business is easy. It's just the opposite in the Van Doren family. Even though we do not own Vans anymore, we treat it as we do and take it very seriously. Kristy always had to earn everything she has and then some. We're always the first there and the last to leave.
I also am so proud of our "Legend" riders like Tony Alva, Steve Caballero, Christian Hosoi and John Cardiel. I have traveled the world with these four remarkable guys. I have many stories. Ha Ha. I am proud they represent Vans and we would not be who we are without the likes of our great athletes.
I am sitting writing this just after visiting 15 stores in two days. The old tradition was that my father Paul, Jimmy and Gordy (the founders) would visit all 50 of our stores each holiday and say hello and thank the people who worked so hard for them and drop off some items. About eight years ago, I decided to re-establish this Vans Van Doren tradition and for two days we would drive around to visit as many stores as we could get to - somewhere around 20 to 25 stores.
Steve and Kristy, far left, visiting a Vans store during the holidays
My goal in doing this with Kristy and longtime friend and co-worker Bob Provost, a 31-year employee at Vans, is to say hello and thank our employees for working extra hard this time of year. We always drop off some food like cookies or candy and a special item like a shirt or a hat that only these 25 stores will receive from us. Last year, I was so happy with the success we had been experiencing from our stores, I decided to make up holiday shirts for every employee in retail.
Then I found out that we had 4,200 employees out there, but felt great sending them out to our 245 stores with a fun contest for all. All I asked was for a photo to be sent to our office from their crew wearing their holiday shirts and we would come out to the store with the best photo and take the whole group out for a nice dinner of their choice.
This year, we did the same but we had a little more fun as the guys in the apparel department came up with a great T-shirt design. It looked like your grandmother’s old sweater. The stores have loved them this year so we made 4,600 shirts and 300 for our main office. The photos coming in are great and it will be hard to choose only one winner again.
Sometimes a little thought can become a great inspiration for all.
Well, a new one the last few years is making Vans Waffles on a stick.
There is something about food and me. People love to eat and I came up with this idea from our people in Germany and my roots with the Dutch. It’s a waffle looking like our favorite outsole trademark on a Popsicle looking stick with Vans printed on it. Put some maple syrup and powdered sugar and whip cream and you will have lines of people waiting for them.
At every trade show now the first two hours we serve these from our Vans booth. The smell alone drives people to our booth then we can show our customers our new shoes.
The best advice I can give would be to know what you are passionate about and pursue it with vengeance. Don't take a "No" for an answer. Find a game plan and think it out in your head ahead of time. I want to work for this company so I need to get my foot in the door. Sweep floors if you have to, but get started.
Recently, we had a young woman who moved from Chicago in an administrative role to get in the door here. At Vans, another woman just moved to the U.S. from our European team to join the global marketing team here, and one of our own marketing team members is moving to Europe to pursue her dreams. It's all up to you and your attitude. Do what you do best and do not settle for less. Don't change what made you successful in the first place.