Industry Profile: Niche Snowboards Creative Director Ana Van Pelt
26 Jun, 2012
Job Title: Creative Director
Employer: Niche Snowboards
Years on snow: 6.5
Days on snow: I used to count them all, but lost track after the 3rd year.
Currently Riding: Niche Minx, Flux GU30’s, Nitro Crown TLS boots
Currently I am: wanting to be outside, but relieved I’m not being blown around by the chaos that is the wind storm outside my office.
Shay: Tell us a little bit about yourself
Ana: I grew up on the beach in Newport Beach, California. I have loved/been mildly obsessed with smush-faced dogs since I was a very small child, was a competitive soccer player most of my life and have always had a passion for being creative. I now live in Salt Lake City, have a small French Bulldog named Clementine, make a LOT of noises while I’m working, love a nice glass of scotch or gin, and am a member of the Moped Army and love my 1980 Vespa Si. My favorite colors are teal/turquoise/mint green, and I’m an extremely passionate, hard-working and totally silly person.
Shay: How has snowboarding changed your life?
Ana: Before I started snowboarding I was at a very bad place in life. I was extremely unhealthy and very lost. I had been through a series of traumatic events and couldn’t find the motivation I needed in life. That summer I moved to Sun Valley to live with my mother for a year. I wanted to snowboard my whole life, so I was excited to try it once winter came around. The moment I took my first run, I instantly knew I was in love. I was so excited about everything snowboarding made me feel! I wanted so badly to get better and learn everything I could, but knew if I wanted to do that then I would need to be healthy.
Snowboarding absolutely saved my life. It motivated me to be healthy and be a better person, gave me direction in life, helped me find passion again, and gave me a sense of purpose when I needed it most. To this day, it still shapes my life and I wouldn’t be where I am without it.
Shay: How did you get your start in the industry, who or what opened up more opportunities for you?
Ana: Well, I was an in-house graphic designer for a company, and one day in 2009 I kind of squeaked my way into a meeting in my office that involved a snowboard project. Dustin Morrell had been making custom snowboards out of his basement and was looking to start a snowboard brand. Me being passionate about snowboarding and having a ton of ideas about what could be done with a snowboard company, I made it clear to Dustin and my team, specifically Kirsten Kolter, that I wanted to help create this brand. The three of us have worked to create Niche together since day one, and it’s amazing how far Niche has come since that day in 2009.
Shay: How has your previous education or work experience helped you in your current job?
Ana: Having a degree in Graphic Design is definitely a huge help, seeing as those skills are fundamentally important to have and understand in order to be a Creative Director (at least in my opinion). My degree gave me an education not only in design, but also marketing, web and business. I also happen to have a work background with mostly start-up companies. I’ve experienced many times not only the initial branding phases of starting a company, but also the business planning, financial/budget planning, setting goals, and thinking outside the box to come up with creative ways to best utilize smaller budgets while still making a measurable impact. Also, I’m used to dealing with the stress, hard work, long hours and extremely gratifying moments that come along with start-up companies.
Shay: Tell us about your role as at Niche Snowboards and a description of the work you do?
Ana: I kind of have a hand in pretty much every area of the business. Being a smaller company we all wear a lot of hats. I even took a sales trip this year to fill in for the Southern California region since we do not currently have a sales rep in that territory! But most days you will find me creating our branding, marketing, catalogs, ads, stickers, POP display stuff, creative writing, web design direction, art direction for board graphics, I do some of the board graphics myself, I do all of our video editing (with the help of Mike Eldredge), and I also dip my toes in our social media. Yeah my work life is kind of crazy, I’m usually working on at least 3 projects at once… Luckily we are able to hire a few more people this year, so hopefully I will be able to focus a little more on one thing at a time.
Shay: If you had to make up a job title that most accurately described what you REALLY do, what would it be?
Ana: VP of Hustlin’ and Creative Stuff.
Shay: Describe the craziest day/moment you’ve had at your job?
Ana: It’s hard to pick a day or moment inside the office because things are crazy most of the time. But outside the office, all the craziest moments tend to involve our veggie bus. You know, you want to do something awesome for the environment so you buy a bus and convert it to run off of vegetable oil. Things seem fun and great until you decide to vinyl wrap the whole thing yourself, brakes don’t work while you’re driving, it doesn’t start when you’re in the middle of nowhere, you blow a piston and you’re stuck in a gnarly snowstorm coming out of Wyoming. Moments like those (which are by no means isolated incidents) will never get old or any less crazy. But it has probably made me a better person – I’ve learned freaking out and stressing doesn’t help anyone, and sometimes all you can do is laugh about it.
Shay: What are some memorable experiences from working in the industry?
Ana: Working with Michael Sieben is pretty awesome.. But honestly the two coolest things in the world are 1) when people are super stoked on the brand and tell you how much it means to them, and 2) when I’m on the hill and I see someone riding a Niche board or wearing a Niche hoodie and I have no idea who they are. It’s really awesome to see people stoked on and supporting something you’ve created, and one of the most gratifying feelings I’ve experienced. Especially since we are genuinely trying to create something that betters our industry and helps support the environment that allows us all to enjoy snowboarding in the first place.
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?
Ana: One that’s always at the top of our minds here at Niche is continuing to be innovative with new technologies and materials. It’s hard to find new ideas when there are so many options currently available! But there are infinite possibilities when it comes to creating more environmentally friendly construction and manufacturing practices. Niche is an industry leader in environmentally friendly construction and manufacturing, and we always continue to strive to be better. I would love to see more companies and brands striving to be better in terms of environmental friendliness.
Shay: What advice would you give to people wanting to work in the industry?
Ana: Work your ass off and obsess over whatever it is you’re looking to do. Become an expert and learn everything you possibly can! Also, meet people and network as much as possible. This industry seeks people that are passionate and hungry. If you work hard enough and put yourself out there enough, people will take notice and feed off that energy. Who wouldn’t want someone on their team who is hardworking, passionate and talented?! Also, personality is the number one thing we look at when considering hiring someone. Whether it be for a team rider, web designer, artist or photographer. If someone is super talented but a total a**, none of us in the office would want to work with them. I guess at the end of the day, work hard, be confident in yourself, and stay grounded.