SHAPING AN INDUSTRY

Written on the 6 November 2012

SHAPING AN INDUSTRY

BROTHERS Dan and Jake Holloway (pictured with their mother Julie) leveraged the solid reputation their father built over 30 years in the surf industry to penetrate the tightly-held removable surfboard fins market.

The industry is notoriously cynical to outsiders, but the family business, Shapers Surfboard Manufacturing Supplies, founded by Len Holloway, 59, is as core as you can get. Jake, 27, says the company observed a gap in the surfboard fin market and they took it, in a move which changed the dynamic of the company.

The good reputation Shapers had in the industry made for an enthusiastic reception for the product.

“That is what really helped us in the US,” says Jake.

"The surfing industry is very diluted, it is spread relatively thinly across the world, which can make it hard to connect. But in the US, particularly, they love to be seen to be working with core surfing companies,” says Jake.

Len was an abrasives salesman 30 years ago and observed his surfboard-shaper clients using all sorts of makeshift tools in their craft. He developed tools to improve efficiency and accuracy in their work and soon developed a strong following in the industry as word spread. The company began in Coffs Harbour but relocated headquarters to the Gold Coast.

“This is the stage for surfing production, you don’t find anywhere else in the world like this,” says Jake.

The business manufactures what it can in Australia, but the only cost-effective way to produce fibreglass is to have it made in Asia, he says.

“Fibreglass is so expensive to manufacture, it takes seven to 10 days to build one fin,” says Jake.

Len says it was hard work securing an international supplier, but his perseverance paid off.

“It is very hard to create a relationship with the guys in Asia, but when you get it right, they will look after you, and we look after them,” he says.

Jake and Dan didn’t come straight into the family business. Both first completed university degrees in small business. Dan also worked at Unilever.


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