Industry Profile: Akinz Founder Suzanne Akin
21 Jul, 2011
Job Title: Founder/Designer of Akinz
Employer: myself — Akinz
Years on snow: 4 (5 if you count the 3 snowboard trips the year before I moved to CO)
Days on snow: Somewhere between 40 and 100, depending on how busy I am that season.
Currently Riding: Capita Space Metal Fantasy
Currently I am: Printing bike t-shirts for the Northern Colorado bike expo
Shay: Tell us a little bit about yourself
Suzanne: Hmmm. I’m a Leo. I like creme brulee, salmon, and red wine. But, yeah… grew up in Texas and went to school for Fashion Design in Austin. I moved to Colorado almost 4 years ago so I could snowboard more and am still pretty happy about that decision. Other than snowboarding, I rock climb, wakeboard, ride bikes, drink beer at the local breweries, and in general try to keep moving. Oh, and I get stoked when I have an idea and I get to see it come to life.
Shay: How has snowboarding changed your life?
Suzanne: Growing up in Texas with a family whose idea of vacation was more beaches and sunshine than snow and apres-ski, I had no idea what I was missing. I was an avid wakeboarder, but never felt the true freedom you get from snowboarding before my first snowboarding vacation with friends. Basically, it not only changed my life, but my entire life path. A year later I was living in Steamboat, redirecting Akinz towards the snowboarding industry and riding 90+ days.
Shay: How did you get your start in the industry, who or what opened up more opportunities for you?
Suzanne: I guess I created my own start in the industry. The combination of my fashion design background/education and the fact that I had been slacking off in the career department up til that point made it seem logical to forge out on my own. As far as opening up opportunities, it’s always just been friends I have from wakeboarding or riding that have let me put stuff in their shops or waived sponsor fees in favor of schwag when I was first getting off the ground. Biggest gateway I suppose would be when I interned for Shred Betties.com as a writer. Kelly (editor of SB) brought me to SIA with her and I was able to make some great contacts there. I also interned as a writer for Seshn.com when they were an online mag, not a web design co. and e-met Laura Austin who was also writing for them. She did a guest tee design for us which was pretty sweet.
Shay: How has your previous education or work experience helped you in your current job?
Suzanne: Well, I went to school for fashion design, spent a couple years as a sales and marketing manager, a little time bartending, freelance graphic and web design, and the rest spread out in management (both retail, restaurant, and ski school ticket office). I always thought my “all over the place” career path was a complete mess up before I dedicated myself to Akinz, but now that I think about it, I kinda set myself up quite nicely. Fashion design and construction experience from school, sales and marketing of my own line, managing events and contract workers, the skills to create all my own print materials and website, and the ability to talk to all kinds of people. Funny how that works out. Life experience at its finest.
Shay: Tell us about your role at Akinz and a description of the work you do?
Suzanne: Well, I’m the owner/founder, designer, accountant, merchandiser, web designer, sourcer, you name it… I’m still the only Akinz employee so anything Akinz produces was either printed, crocheted, sewn, or otherwise made by me. Plus I do all the graphic design work, web maintenance, social media stalking, order fulfillment, etc.
Shay: What’s an average day like at work for you?
Suzanne: Since I do all kinds of random jobs, it changes. One day is hardly ever like the next. This morning I ran around picking up jewelry supplies and yarn, now I’m printing t-shirts and typing this while they cure, then packing up stuff for an expo tomorrow, and then a friend is stopping in that hasn’t seen our new showroom yet and we’re biking over to the brewery down the block for a beer. There’s a lot of computer days when I’m designing and doing the other boring stuff. And in the winter sometimes there’s days where I’m basically on my couch making beanies and watching movies from the moment I get up until I eat dinner. Events get thrown in there all willy-nilly too.
Shay: What are some memorable experiences from working in the industry?
Suzanne: Hmmmm. when I was interning for Shred Betties, I got to go into the main press room and do a video interview with Torah Bright after she won X-Games superpipe. I was so freaking nervous and thought that was so cool. Now that I deal with professional athletes all the time, it doesn’t have the same kind of feel, but I sure thought it was special that time. Getting to watch our team rider Erika Vikander kill it at Miss Superpark this year was pretty exciting too. And honestly, our Sunglasses at Night parties the last 2 years have been fricking awesome.
Shay: What do you think are the biggest challenges that the snowboard industry faces and what changes would you like to see for the future?
Suzanne: A lot of people will say the growth and staying true to the sport since it’s grown so much. I agree with that too, but I really think our biggest challenge right now is all the hate I see online and in real life. We’re all out there doing something we love and we’re supposed to be having fun doing it. I would hate for snowboarding to become that lifestyle of being “too cool for school”. I want to ride and hang out with cool people no matter what they’re wearing while doing it… of course, it would be cool if they were wearing Akinz. 🙂
Shay: Education vs Experience…which do you think is more important?
Suzanne: Well, this really depends on what kind of job we’re talking about. I definitely always learn better by doing, but you need the basic background education to know where to even start. Honestly, even though I went to school for Fashion Design, a lot of the techniques I use for my clothes every day (crocheting, screen printing, etc) were learned from the University of Google and then practice makes perfect. But, I definitely use my pattern-making skills and graphic design skills learned in college on the daily as well.
Shay: What advice would you give to people wanting to work in the industry?
Suzanne: Figure out exactly what you want to do and keep focused on that goal instead of just heading out there with a “I don’t care what I do as long as I work for a snowboard company” attitude. And network! Talk to people with you on the lift or the gondola, at a bar, etc. Don’t be picky. That old guy that’s sitting next to you may be the CEO of your favorite brand.
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