How Serial Entrepreneur and Racecar Driver Ken Block Found Success Both On and Off the Track
If you know anything about the worlds of skateboarding, snowboarding or gymkhana motorsports, you've probably seen products shaped by 47-year-old Ken Block -- even if you don't recognize his name.
The serial entrepreneur began shaping the extreme sports industry before even becoming an athlete himself. Block cofounded DC Shoes in a garage in 1994. The brand soon become a pillar in the skateboarding and snowboarding apparel industry. In 2004, Quiksilver bought the company for $87 million, and Block decided to go from designing apparel to becoming a professional athlete himself.
Beginning in 2005, he quickly found success racing as a professional rally driver – in more ways than one. Not only did he compete on a national level in the World Rally Championship, but with his background in marketing, he harnessed the power of social media to promote his racing career. Videos of him speeding through complicated courses have gaining up to 70 million views each on YouTube.
However, Block wanted to use his entrepreneurial skills for more than just promoting his racing. In 2010, he founded Hoonigan Industries, an apparel brand for auto enthusiasts. In the last year alone, the brand grew 50 percent, according to Block. And he isn't slowing down – he believes the brand is on track to grow 100 percent year over year.
Entrepreneur had a chance to ask Block a few question on his experiences mixing serial entrepreneurship and a career in extreme sports. Here's how Block keeps up on and off the racetrack.
Q: You're known for your bold moves on the racetrack. What does risk taking mean to you when it comes to running a business?
A: For me, risk taking means not being afraid to take on marketing strategies that are outside the norm of what other companies in the space are doing. I’ve always been a believer in pushing the boundaries of what’s possible with brand building and marketing.
Q: What social-media platforms do you like best, and what is your 'strategy,' if you have one?
A: I love Instagram because of the reach that it has and its rich content. Your reach doesn’t get throttled back like it does due to Facebook algorithms, and the content is visual, which is easier for folks to process. You’re also not capped to 140 characters like on Twitter. I won’t share my strategy with you though!
Q: How do you use YouTube to your advantage?
A: YouTube is a great way to reach a global audience and for other people to help you spread your message. When people see something amazing on YouTube, they’re inclined to share it, so they can seem like tastemakers amongst their social set. Everyone wins in that situation.
Q: After 20 years as a serial entrepreneur, if you could give yourself advice at the beginning of your career based on what you know now, what would it be?
A: I’d tell myself the same thing I’ve done from the start: Make sure you do things differently than everyone else.
Q: A common struggle for many entrepreneurs is work-life balance. What's your take on that?
A: It’s definitely difficult to maintain that balance, but I can’t stress how important it is to make time for the non-work things that matter, like family. While it’s not always easy to make time for things like that, it’s always the most rewarding thing that you end up doing during your work day.
Q: What do you do in your spare time?
A: I like to snowboard, downhill mountain bike, wakeboard and hike with my dogs. I’m big on the outdoors!
Q: What's the most important key to continuing to grow your company?
A: Never settle and never coast. Always push yourself to innovate and grow.
Q: What's next for you and Hoonigan?
A: Well, with luck, we’ll continue to experience the same great growth we’re going through right now. Working with retail partners like Zumiez this year has really helped bring awareness to our brand with other retailers as well as consumers. We want to become a force to reckon with, and I think we’re well on our way to achieving that.
Kate Taylor is a reporter at Business Insider. She was previously a reporter at Entrepreneur. Get in touch with tips and feedback on Twitter at @Kate_H_Taylor.