Young Millionaires

Per Welinder, 36 and Tony Hawk, 31

Here's something you may know about Tony Hawk: At this year's X-Games, he executed the first-ever 900-degree trick to be performed on a skateboard in com-petition. But here's some-thing you probably don't know: At the same time, he was promoting his Huntington Beach, California, company, Birdhouse Projects Inc., one of the largest manufacturers of skateboards in the world.

During the lull in skateboarding popularity in the early 1990s, Hawk and fellow pro skater Per Welinder began Birdhouse with $80,000 in combined savings. By growing their brand in specialty sports shops and through advertising and promotions with the Birdhouse skate team, Welinder and Hawk have built a skateboard, clothing and accessories company well-respected by their discerning customers.

"We really listen to our team because they're on the pulse of what's happening," says Hawk, who expects Birdhouse to bring in $12 million this year. "They're living it, and they know what kids think is legitimate and what's not. Don't just hire some marketing agency that says they can do it, because I've seen that fail over and over again. They put some extreme slogan somewhere, and it just looks ridiculous. Kids are the first ones to know it's contrived."

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This article was originally published in the November 1998 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Young Millionaires.

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