The Business of Snow Sports: How to build a start-up in the snow business from the ground up with owner and creator of FUEL Clothing, Shane Levi Gould

Posted By: The Ski Channel on February 8, 2010 1:55 pm

The Story of FUEL Clothing

Shane Levi Gould is the founder, creator, and troubleshooter behind the clothing brand FUEL. A modern gentleman, a true go-getter, and a story of hurdles, set backs, and uncanny ambition in the action sports retail world, Shane shows us that if we pour our heart and soul into it, we can get what we want.

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I met Shane while standing atop an Indo Board in the hallway of the snow sports convention in Denver. He was walking by with a smile, wearing a FUEL t-shirt, and I immediately called him out, “I am addicted to your network!” Shane laughed, and if I knew what I know now, I probably would have been a bit sheepish as that name has been, by his words, “a can of worms.”

As I later learned, Shane is the owner of the clothing brand FUEL, which is actually the original name which is often associated with the television network which it came from. Shane registered the name 18 years ago for a mere $287 dollars and has spent over a milliondollars since then protecting it. “If I could go back I would have never chosen the name, if I thought it would  have been so cotly protecting it.” Although when he described his vision behind it, at the time it was all about the ‘fuel’ of action sports in his life.

Shane has been surfing, skateboarding, snowboarding and riding MX bikes his entire life. Quite frankly, he knows no other lifestyle. Born and raised in South Carolina, it is a bit surprising that snowboarding became his career path. Shane went pro in ’91 and continued to ride as a pro snowboarder until ’01. Ten years of professional snowboarding taught him the ins-and-the-outs of the business, and it was only a natural progression to begin a company while a rider.

 

Shane in his pro days

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His action sports clothing company started like every other — small. He began by selling t-shirts out of his trunk on skate and snowboard road trips around the country. FUEL, at that time, stood for “fueling up” to “fuel the passion” and the original meaning still holds.  In 1982, he really started to discover his love for snowboarding and with it came his entrepreneurial spirit. Shane was proud of his peers as individuals and with it came the vision and execution for FUEL.

 

 

 

“I could talk for days about the hurdles I have encountered,” but they have all made him a stronger and wiser businessman. It may just be me but there is something very heroic in entrepreneurship in that it takes a certain drive and hunger for risk to succeed. Although my friend Joel Miller made a good point in that “you can’t tell people at the bar you are an entrepreneur as they think you live in your parents’ basement.”  Yes, the struggle isn’t always heroic.

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For Shane, the struggle not only came in the hurdles of bringing something grassroots to life, but in the form of legal battles. As I mentioned previously, the name FUEL is a simple and hot commodity. Shane has spent years protecting his brand equity through the name and most notably the battle with cable channel Fuel TV. “The network came to me and said we want your name.” Shane says he was willing to negotiate but he wasn’t giving up the equity he had created for free. “Unfortunately in this world the party with the money always has the upper hand.” It is hard to argue with bloodthirsty legal professionals who get paid to get what they want. For Shane, the Fuel TV battle was an epic saga of money-infused insanity, which ended with Shane finally taking the win. It was a struggle which really threw the momentum of the company off, taking precidence over Shane’s ambitions for the brand. And as with any other start-up, it wasn’t the only battle.

Shane skating

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Shane also speaks of his distribution struggle. “Getting your product into stores is never easy.” There are a lot of brands, a lot of stores, and a lot of hoops to jump through. After years of different types of distribution, Shane now sells exclusively online within the US and is actively looking for an exclusive chain store distribution partnership. Although this year, FUEL is building a flagship store in South Carolina that has become Shane’s baby. He is well-known locally and wants to make the products more available to the people who love them best and those that come from all over the globe to visit his home town.

 

The new shop under construction

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Luckily, Shane’s drive has paid off. After years of entrepreneurial struggle and hardship, FUEL flourishes. Shane’s unique styles and designs are one-of-a-kind on the mountain top and are sure to make a statement. With only a six-color palette, he has created a signature outerwear line with seven styles and a mix of inner patterns for mountain and urban wear. I tried on ‘the tron’ which has a choice of three inner patterns and contrast stitching. Shane calls it the team jacket, as it’s made to throw on, whether you are riding or heading to the beer store.

Personally, I liked the “Channel Zero” jacket featuring retro TV sets reading “FUEL” as it truly embodied his story and sense of humor. When all is said and done, Shane is able to laugh about his ‘complications’ and carry on talking about what he loves most, the love of action sports. In action sports, the business side is worth your effort, as at the end of the day, you will always be driven by your love for the sport.

 

For more information http://www.fuelclothing.com/

©JennaHannon 20100209-01 adrenalinehottub.com

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