Company interview: Create Originals

Could you give us a brief introduction and outline how the company was started (when, by whom, etc)?
Back in 2007 Hakeem and I (Brian) quit our jobs running a moving company in the hopes of starting a skatepark with the money we’d saved. After getting laughed at by a bunch of realtors who wouldn’t take us on as clients, I got discouraged. I was staring at a bunch of skates and parts and came up with a rough idea. I told Hakeem about it and he liked the idea. So we began to work on developing the product into what it is today, together. Then in 2008 once we had the prototypes we had long time friend and brother Billy come visit to show him what we had done and offered him the opportunity to be an owner and obviously member of the pro-team.

Was it a challenge to set-up a hardware company as skater-owned, without the financial backing of an industry heavyweight partner?
Yeah it was difficult. We have certainly had our share of hurdles to overcome along the way. There were many big issues. Conceptualizing NEW ideas that are not already in the market can be difficult since there are so many products already. Once you have the new idea the patent process presents many difficulties both legal and financial. Since we do not have a boot company behind us it was also difficult to find a manufacturer and then to get the parts made to our approval. There were many obstacles along the way. Last is probably the most obvious, taking your entire life savings and risking it all on something you believe in isn’t easy and that’s exactly what Hakeem and I did. It changes the way you actually live. Cash-flow is a constant struggle. To date in-order to keep things moving we still work at a blader owned moving company Bee’s Moving to keep things moving along.

Hakeem Jimoh (left) and Brian Lewis
Hakeem Jimoh (left) and Brian Lewis

Tell us a bit about the technology behind your frames?
Ok well right off as far as the patent is concerned this is a “Custom Graphic Display” UFS inline skate frame. So the graphic insert display portion of it is proprietary to us. The core is made from a Nylon mix that is specific to us as well. The clear shields are actually somewhat interesting. They are made of Lexan which is the same material used to make bullet proof glass. They are perfect for what we needed. They are shatterproof and if you wear your cores down to them you can still grind on them.

The idea of introducing interchangeable graphics to blading frames, with unlimited possibilities for creativity, is genius in its simplicity. How did you come upon the best way to implement this, and why do you think it wasn’t done before?
Thank you, that’s kind of you to say. Once Hakeem and I started talking about it together and really examining the best way to implement graphics we actually solved the question of the best way to implement them relatively quickly. Once we had our preferred embodiment for interchanging the graphics we then spent a much larger amount of time designing and debating over the other dimensions of the frame as they relate to performance. While Billy has mostly ridden anti-rocker over the years Hakeem and I have been skating many different set-ups just for the fun of trying new ways of blading. So it was very important to us that the frames be well suited for flat, anti-rocker, tri-rocker and freestyle. Oddly enough accomplishing that was a longer process than implementing the graphics system. In the long run it was worth the extra effort. We are very proud of how they ride and the shape of the groove. The team all seem to really like it and Alex has even specifically told us to never change the groove.

Brian Lewis, Hakeem Jimoh and Brandon Ford
Brian Lewis, Hakeem Jimoh and Brandon Ford

You’re entering your fifth year of the company. Do you plan to celebrate, and what can you tell us about new products and softgoods in the works for 2013?
Although we have made some great accomplishments there is still a lot of hard work to be done. Since Hakeem and I are still working at a moving company to keep reinvesting in Create Originals, it doesn’t feel like celebration time just yet. We do have plans for new product lines and soft goods. Right now we are focusing mainly on the CRS frame and the Kickstarter that goes along with it. You can view the progress with the Kickstarter or become a backer here. We are forward thinkers and have many plans for both the near and far future.

It’s widely known you’re a company which takes good care of their riders, values their opinions and input, and even sends lottery tickets in the monthly packages. This is a nice gesture, and very good PR. What do your team riders mean to the company, and how have you selected the individuals that represent your brand?
We are extremely proud of our team and truly appreciate their involvement with Create Originals. Simply put it wouldn’t be the same without them. So obviously, they mean a lot to the company. Both in the way they represent and market the brand and products as well as the input on product and company direction. We feel very lucky to have such a incredible collection of bladers supporting our company. The selection process is based not only on their ability to blade but their love of blading. As bladers ourselves we tend to go with those who most inspire us and who we feel are taking the sport in the direction we’d like to see it go. It’s also important to us that they have a mutual respect for each other so as to truly feel like a team and a part of Create Originals.


Your entire pro team is American, with the International team rep’ing Europe and Japan. Where do you see as the next major region to blow up, and where are you looking to expand to next?
The guys on our international team are all PROs in every sense of the word. Both Gabriel and Marc have pro boot sponsors and Takeshi is in a league of his own. Although he has no pro boot sponsor he is one of the most dominant X-Games athletes ever and hasn’t lost a contest in the past 7 years. We have several bladers in mind to add to the team all around the world. We don’t typically choose riders by where they live but by their talent.

What major events do you plan on being involved with in the coming year? Do you find the tradeshow spaces at events such as BCSD and Winterclash a valuable opportunity to engage directly with your customers and promote the current line of products?
Yes. Engaging directly with consumers is not only necessary but a lot of fun. We work so hard for no money so we truly enjoy our experiences at BCSD. It is also great to see our blader friends from all over the world. Hopefully we will be able to go to Winterclash in the coming years. For now it just isn’t financially feasible for us.

Billy O'Neill and Hakeem Jimoh, first prototype frames (2008)
Billy O’Neill and Hakeem Jimoh, first prototype frames (2008)

What has been the best selling frame you’ve ever produced?
I am not sure exactly. I would have to say either the Create Originals “Scriptbrush” frame, the Billy O’Neill “Blade or Die” Frame or any Alex Broskow frame.

What has been your favourite customer generated custom graphic inserts? Any funny ones worth a mention?
This is a tough question. There have been so many great designs. I think my two favorites have been Bartek Ees design where it appears you can see through to the wheels, and Corentin Noyer made a 3D skatepark in his.


You’ve got your frames included with some high-end pro blades on the market, such as the Adapt Harmanus One, and SSM Bolino Pro. Is this a big segment for frame companies, or do most sales come through frame only purchases?
The opportunities for a frame company with no boot company behind it coming on boots are slim. We’ve been fortunate to have probably the most collaboration projects opportunities. I think it should be mentioned that USD actually gave us the first collaboration and we’re grateful to them for that. As far as where we make most of our sales it varies from year to year. Also, it isn’t always about the number of frames sold as there are other things to consider. Like what’s the profit margin for the OEM deals, and you have to be careful not to saturate the market and devalue your product.

As a small company we still have yet to have a year where we have inventory for the full year so that is less of a concern for now. It will be interesting to see how many frames we can sell when we have a 12 month inventory. Despite the inconsistent inventory we have still managed to sell more frames each year. We are very thankful to our customers for that.

How important is social media and the online relationship with bladers who ride and support Create Originals? Further, tell us a bit more about the online exclusive team video ‘Originals’ you’re working on.
Social media and the internet is huge for us. It really puts us in the drivers seat for how we market and advertise the brand.

“Originals” was actually Alex’s idea. When he saw Sean’s edit he thought it was too good to just release as a regular online edit, so he suggested making it a series of high level edits. We obviously loved the idea and “Originals” was born. We are juiced on the edits that have come from the series to date and can’t wait to work on and release more of them.

Leon Humphries – flatspin 360

There’s been massive buzz surrounding the new suspension frame project you’ve kicked off on Kickstarter. Tell us a bit more about the CRS frame, some of the challenges you’ve faced, and what the level of support thus far has meant to the company?
The CRS frame creates a world of possibilities for the performance and ride of your frames. This is accomplished by the incorporation of a large number of possible urethane durometers for the many levels of suspension as well as rigid spacers for zero suspension. All of that can be changed in and out with great ease and at a very affordable price compared to suspension frames of the past.

The challenges have been many. Some of the biggest have been… solving the problem of how to make an easily customizable, affordable and blading specific suspension frame that also works for anti-rocker and freestyle, perfecting the idea into 3D and writing the patent, as well as creating the prototypes and Kickstarter information and video. It has been hundreds of hours of work and challenges to make the CRS frame a reality.

In a time when rebranding is running rampant we are proud to have products that are unique to Create Originals. That in itself is a challenge. At a time where the general talk about the state of the industry is so negative, we feel that what is happening with this project speaks volumes to contradict the nay-sayers. Blading is alive and well. We as an industry need to invest time, money and work to nurture it to grow. The support we’ve seen has been overwhelming. Although we have not yet met our goal, we reached 50% funding in the first week and are currently 90% funded as I write this (roughly $27k). There’s no greater compliment to us than to have people believe in us and this project by investing their hard earned money by backing us on Kickstarter. For that we are so grateful, thank you all so much.

Brian and Hakeem with the first CRS prototype frames
Brian and Hakeem with the first CRS prototype frames

Closing thoughts?
In closing I’d like to say thank you for the opportunity to answer your questions. To all you bladers out there, remember blading isn’t dead or dying. There are many of us that simply won’t let it. Don’t be a part of the problem be part of the solution.