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Owning a company and producing clothing lines can be, well, pretty magical—especially when the fruits of labor can be seen on customers backs everywhere from the streets of New York City, to Brighton’s backcountry. But making an impact in the world of street wear and technical outerwear is not always the utopia that those college kids screening tees would like to think it is. Running a small business is intense, times are regularly tough and Holden has had its fair share of sailing choppy waters without a life jacket. Initially being founded in Los Angeles, LeBlanc and Zergebel had always planned on moving the operation to Portland, Oregon. And in 2006, Chris Miller split ways with Holden to pursue other ventures, and they had their opportunity, and they took the leap. “We were licensed to Planet Earth for the first four or five years, and then when we exited that license deal, Scott and I took full ownership—and in that same year, the recession hit,” recalls Leblanc. With the economy hanging by the equivalent of dental floss, action sports slumped, budgets shrunk and shops across the country ended their dreams with a going out of business sale. “Some of our biggest vendors, which were doing over a million a year in product were now going under,” Mikey explains. Now, as the snowboard industry slowly rolls out of the recession-induced coma, massive corporations have been busy seizing the opportunity by swallowing up flailing companies. For such a competitive industry, LeBlanc, Zergebel and Holden are far from the norm. In the wake of the economic storm, several outdoor companies did not survive. Last season, one of the staple brands of the industry, Forum Snowboards was dissolved like it never existed, Elan manufacturing closed its doors for good and several other brands took huge hits, leading to whole headquarters closing and massive layoffs. Holden is currently settling into its new headquarters in Los Angeles and back to the city where it all started. Moving toward their future in technical outerwear and in the street wear category as well, Holden is not just surviving anymore. “Doing street wear has always been in the plans,” says LeBlanc. “It just took a while to get it going, and that is part of why we made the move back out to L.A., we are a lot closer to everything we need to be. The sunny weather helps out, too.” In the constant struggle of business, sometimes it is much easier to cut corners and pull the occasional lowbrow business tactic, but LeBlanc refuses to operate that way. “People always say, ‘don’t burn a bridge,’ and I feel like one of the biggest reasons we made it through all of that is by keeping good relationships with our factories, our distributors and shops,” he mentions. “As soon as you start taking advantage of people, you can forget about them ever helping you.” lessons were learned during the first few years of operating independently, and shops that held on to Holden did for a reason. “I can call Mikey anytime I need. I can relate to everyone on their team and staff, and I love the history,” says Egbert. Relationship building goes way past client relations at Holden. Instead of team riders, they have “ambassadors,” which LeBlanc relates closer to family than an employee. “Really, to me it means they are an ambassador of what they do, and we respect them for who they are and what they represent,” he says. “Not to say having team riders is a bad thing. To me it is really a respect thing. It is more like,‘we respect the hell out of you, and you respect us—let’s work together.” Through it all, Holden and LeBlanc have grown together, and he has learned some things that anyone running a business should jot down. “Being worried about the future is part of being a small business owner. When you take risks, you really put yourself out there, so risk and failure are part of learning how to do anything,” he explains. “Nothing to fear, it’s just part of life.”

Arkade October 2013  

ISSUE #8.1 - Chris Grenier, Knut Eliassen, Mikey LeBlanc, Cale Zima, Dave Faircloth, Madison Blackley, Mia Lambson, Snowbird, Blindside

Arkade October 2013  

ISSUE #8.1 - Chris Grenier, Knut Eliassen, Mikey LeBlanc, Cale Zima, Dave Faircloth, Madison Blackley, Mia Lambson, Snowbird, Blindside

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