I recently caught up with friend and UK skate shop owner, Stuart Kinghorn to chat about his transition of slowing the brakes with Roll-Kings and the making of Hedon Skate UK.
For those who know Stuart. he’s a pretty humble dude with a very ambitous state of mind. If he wants to do something, he’ll get it done. If he wants to go somewhere, he’ll be there. This is one of the things I love about Stu – he’s reliable, friendly, generous and pretty fuckin’ good at skating too!
We met through the UK rollerblading scene and I knew you as Roll Kings Stu, tell us more about what happened with Roll Kings?
I started RollKings in April 2010, which seems so long ago. I basically just ran with everything and didn’t seek the advice I should have. It would have made things so much easier if I’d stopped and asked a few people and taken advice onboard. I figured if I just kept my eye on keeping cashflow positive and bending over backwards for customers it would all come good. Unfortunately that only worked to a certain level, growing a business is different to starting one.
We had 2 opportunities with RollKings,both of which I didn’t capitalise on for different reasons. The first was at launch, the first website was horrible and I didn’t see it from the customers perspective enough to realise this. The branding wasn’t as good as it could have been either but I was blinded by the lights of getting stuff up and running at first. if anyone is familiar with the concept of Wealth Dynamics in creating a good business then I am most definitely a creator, I have the ideas and get the ball rolling but I need other people to fine tune things from different perspectives, I needed a team to plug my gaps in essence. Our second Christmas was incredible and by our third Christmas we were ready to really go for it in terms of products being in stock but then had a disaster. Our web provider did a runner leaving us with an illegal website we couldn’t trade off for December. The ‘Rogue Traders’ watchdog style programme is filming an episode on the company airing soon. So not only did I have to pay for a new site quickly but we also lost the Christmas sales which I guess would have been anywhere between a half and a third of our annual turnover for that year off the top of my head. It also ruined the reputation of reliability and it never really recovered from. I had decided to pack it in by end of summer ’13 and the Winter Splinter tour was the last throw of the dice to clear stock by the end of that Christmas. Then a conversation on that tour changed everything and Hedonskate UK became a possibility.
We’ve recently seen you’ve taken on launching HEDONSKATE UK, Tell us more about what made you peruse Hedonskate?
Firstly it was Scott Quinn who introduced the idea to me as he had been spending a lot of time with the Hedon guys. We then had a couple of emails/skype session with Mirek- one of the Hedon owners, and bounced ideas around. I went over to Katowice where the shop is in March to stay with them- still skeptical we could get numbers to work for us, we worked on the idea, drank a little vodka, and something clicked. People might be familiar with their ‘working crew’ edits, that working crew is the reason I signed up. Everything is done in house at Hedon, so it ticks all the personalities and skill sets you need to be a success, there is so much hard work ahead which I am more than ready to get stuck into.
What did you do before you entered the world of rollerblading retail?
Before and during until March 2014 I was a Business Analyst for a large financial services company, making a good solid salary, I was progressing at a decent pace, getting exposure to things that would develop my career. I could have easily made a career most would be proud of from it and that was always the dilema until this year. I just got to a point when I said ‘stop kidding yourself who cares about money just do what makes you happy’, so I hand wrote my notice on some scrap paper at 2am and handed it to my boss at 8.30 that morning. Some people can’t understand I did that, but that’s just me, I trust my gut.
What do you consider to be the biggest challenges facing skater owned shops and why do you think skater owned are so important to the industry?
Low barriers to entry. Ironically the thing that let RollKings start can also work against us. A skateboard shop that has been established 20 years can call up and probably get a deal for one of the main skate brands, throw it on their site, hammer Google, make a team, and bam there’s a new competitor who probably doesn’t have to worry about cashflow too much. This is when you hope the skater owned part comes in.
Skater owned is important because we are the only ones who just get it. You can tell straight away, skater owned support the industry in a more rounded way. We don’t just throw tons of cheap product at events, we help at those events, we create those events, we go to and feel the buzz of the community, we would be there without a business side anyway skating or enjoying them ourselves. We even keep some people skating and that is no exaggeration- I’ve travelled around a bit because RollKings was online only, I seen crews get stronger when RollKings rolled up,not because of the business side but due to the things that happen from loving the industry- for example if we bring our team through on the random for a spontaneous session locally it gets all the guys out- even the ones that only do once in a blue moon, and maybe they bring their little cousin or something that time who then starts blading. We might do someone a deal at a contest because their frames snapped before their run and we know how bad that feeling is and how much it means to be a blader at an event. People get juiced on that and I believe they respect your store more, skater owned, no matter who, is always better provided you have a clue about running a company and working with customers.
Believe In Blading was more than just the RollKings strapline and so is the Hedon hashtag lovethebladers.
What do you hope the future holds for Stu and Hedonskate UK?
Immediately we want to keep getting better, there are things we can improve straight away now the site is launched and believe me the whole working crew is indeed working on doing that. Autumn/ winter we have some fantastic deals lined up for customers on products I would have never been able to source on my own, that comes back to the team again and the benefits being part of the bigger brand. We will be doing a lot more specific UK things with our own UK budget- events, teams, tours, in general just really pushing blading out there more and more, interacting with customers, fans of the brand talking to parents etc etc. We can’t wait to have our first booth at the Slamm Jamm trade show.
Personally I’m hoping to still skate properly, I always thought the old guys were being quitters moaning about their knees when I grew up, but the last 2 years my knees have held me back a lot. I want to keep doing something I love and that’s the most important thing.
If anyone would like to get involved with us or feels they can bring something to the table for us drop us a mail- firstname.lastname@example.org I am always looking to network and one thing I wished before starting was that there was a better way into this side of the sport. The cliques of our community annoy me. There are so many talented, intelligent bladers in the UK that can offer something and just don’t know how to get their foot in the door, to them I’d like to extend an open invitation to get in touch.
Would you like to thank anyone?
Its a bit boring but there is a long list I feel important to mention.
RollKings wise: My old man and Debi for the start up and patience, Aysha for the initial designs, Geoff for saving everything I touched in Final Cut. Ross Martin especially- he is the guy who made the cardboard skater figures that got onto Rollernews last year, his own project is called Theshadowmarket you should checkout, Ross did so much for not a lot in return and I can’t thank the guy enough. Quinny for believing in RollKings and Hedon above everything, I know other shops try to poach him again and again and who wouldn’t – his loyalty is so credible as is his ability on skates. The rest of the RollKings team, hopefully everyone understood I did as best I could for them with what I had, Chaz, Rosie, James, Lewis,Jake, even Dev and Adi Wallace who things went sour with in the end, without those guys skating for the shop we had no chance. Rob for running the show for a solid year Chick and all at unit 23 for all the trips we’ve had there The Vee and Jimmy Keyte B&B although I know Jimmy did alright out of that deal with all the beers I’ve left in his fridge over the time now AND HOLLY FOR BEING IN COCO TANG