Dustin and Dylan Odbert
Founders of ambsn
Interview by Jennifer Kalban
Name and Title:
Dustin and Dylan Odbert, co-founders of ambsn
When did you start ambsn and what sparked its creation?
Ambsn was started back in Sept of 2001 to raise money for our friend Cameron Clapp who was hit by a train one night and lost both of his legs and his right arm. Dylan who was a sophomore in high school at the time raised over $2000 selling T’s that read “Cant stop the Clapp” and donated all of the money to Cameron to help cover his medical expenses. As Cameron recovered we started noticing a following for ambsn in our local town of Arroyo Grande so we kept making small runs of Ts and selling them to our friends. Dylan graduated high school in 2004, I dropped out of Cal Poly SLO and we introduced the line at the September 2005 Agenda show when it was in a parking lot across from ASR.
How did it grow into a full-fledged business?
Neither of us have a schooled business background so from 2005 to 2008 we didn’t worry about silly things like Balance Sheets, P&L statements, or Income statements all we concentrated on was getting what we thought was cool different product in stores. We floated that way for about 3 years and in January of 2008 we were lucky enough that Dick Baker took notice of us and our brand with the encouragement of Mike Hischier and Gary Ward. Dick visited our booth during that January’s ASR and asked Dylan and I a bunch of basic business questions that we had no idea how to answer. He invited us down to meet for breakfast at his home in San Clemente and it was at that famous red booth at the Baker house where we were taught apparel business 101. With the help of Dick and gun for hire Bob Mignogna we got ourselves organized and structured into a true business.
Tell us what your roles are at ambsn?
We have been a two-man show for the last 5 years. I talk a lot so it was just natural that I would handle sales, PR, marketing and event planning. Along with that I take care of all of the administrative tasks that come with running an apparel business. Dylan is our creative director and designer as well as sourcing and production manager. We both handle shipping, receiving, and warehousing.
What do your daily routines look like? Take us through it:
Dustin: It really depends on the day of the week, but we try and start every morning off with a 20 minute meeting just to find out where each others heads are at and how we can make the day run as smooth as possible. For me Mondays and sometimes Tuesdays are AR/AP days, so I will spend those two days pushing paper, making sure all of our bills are paid and our accounts are current. The rest of the week is spent either shipping product, checking in on stores, making sure our sections are cherry and that the shop kids are stoked on ambsn.
Dylan: My day is usually consumed by sampling and production tasks. As much as I would like to spend all day every day designing product there is always some sort of production or sourcing issue to deal with so that forces me to do a majority of my design work at night. I am on the road in LA a few days a week visiting our factories making sure our projects are running smoothly.
Well we currently have an awesome intern on staff by the name of Katie Redmond. She has just graduate from the Otis School of Design and has sort of been bouncing around helping us wherever we need her, but mostly getting tech packs pumped out and other things that bog us down. We have also hired a rep that is doing a great job of servicing our Orange Co and LA North accounts which is awesome and also brought on a Mid Atlantic Rep to start growing that region for us. That has taken a ton of stress off of me because it has allowed me to pay more attention to other territories.
With your current position, do you travel much? If so, where?
Dustin: Since I have been the only rep since we started I travel constantly which is pretty rad. At first it was mainly up and down California which is where we have established our base accounts, these days I have found myself not only in northern and southern California but in the North West along with the entire East Coast about every 3 months or so since we have not yet hired reps out there yet. We kind of want to grow ambsn on the East Coast the same way we have on the West Coast in that I travel and hand pick only the best of the best accounts that will tell the ambsn story and back the brand the hardest. Once the brand becomes established in those solid “A” accounts then we will feel comfortable handing ambsn over to a rep with a set of strong legs already established. We have also teamed up with a strong distributor in Japan, Maxwell Co. so we plan on going over at the end of August to attend Interstyle Trade Show and get a bit of inspiration.
Dylan: Unless it’s up to LA for the day I am usually in San Clemente most of the time holding down the fort.
What are some of the perks of your job?
Huge salaries, lavish life styles, exotic vacations and a super mellow schedule… just kidding. Experience is probably the biggest perk to running ambsn. There is no way we would have learned as much as we have as fast as we have working for someone else. The relationships we have established with a lot of extremely talented people of the past 5 years have also been huge for us. This industry has really taken us under its wing and been very kind and supportive of us and ambsn, we couldn’t be more grateful for that. Accomplishment is probably the other thing for us. Seeing kids that we have never met wearing an ambsn piece stokes out like you wouldn’t believe. We saw around 20 kids proudly wearing ambsn while we were at Coachella this year and we made sure to take photos and thank them for the support, it was pretty gnarly and felt really good to see.
Oh man, I don’t want to single out one shop over another because they have all been crucial to ambsn over the years so I’m just going to give the link to our dealer locator page and everyone can go there and see all of the amazing stores that our backing the ambsn program. http://www.ambsn.com/stores.html
Where do you see ambsn within the next 2-5 years?
We are looking to the Shawn Stussy model when it comes to the growth of our brand. Nice steady and manageable like we have done since the beginning is our outlook. We plan to keep our distribution really tight, continue to turn out fresh, forward relevant product that the kids continue to support. We also plan on bringing on a talented crew of guys and girls to strengthen our program and with the key player we do bring in we plan on sharing a percentage of the company with those individuals. We want everyone that is working with ambsn to be a part of the brand; it will just create a really strong, positive, fun work environment.
What projects do you have coming up in the near future?
We have an event called Sunday Socials that we are doing up in Avila beach once a month this summer that should be a raging pool party that we are really excited about. Champagne and Hotdogs is our annual art show, which is going to be in October and is great event that raises money for kids in need. Stay tuned to the website for details on that and other ambsn happenings.
Will you be expanding into women’s wear?
At this point we don’t have plans to but never say never.
I see on your website there is a “team” page coming soon. Tell us about that.
Yeah we are just keeping our eyes open for the right kids who fit the brand and are willing to scream the message. Right now we have a couple kids who are skating for us, one in particular is a young LA ripper by the name of Tislam Smith who we picked up through Noah over at ZJ Boarding House. He is a super nice kid that bleeds skateboarding, keep an eye out for him on an upcoming Built to Shred on FUEL TV. We are also beginning to put together a surf team so as soon as all of the right guys lined up we will update the site.
How has Ambsn been using social media?
Social media has definitely been an effective means of getting out our brand message and getting our consumers involved with ambsn. So far we have used Facebook and Myspace to promote our art show Champagne and Hotdogs along with any other events we are apart of, any new montages our team guys may have put together and when new product drops in we blast out links to where it can be purchased. It is a huge tool with a small brand with a minimal marketing budget.
Tell us a little bit about yourselves:
We were born in Sacramento and moved down to Arroyo Grande in 1998 when Dylan was 12 and I was 16. My parents had decided that the area of Sacramento we were living in was too gnarly and they wanted a change of pace so they packed us up and moved us to the beach. Dylan has always been very creative and has since the age of 12 has wanted to own a clothing company, mostly because he wanted to be sponsored so the obviously easy way is to just start your own brand I’m positive was his thinking. Once I graduated high school I went to junior college in the fall and lived in Truckee in spring to snowboard. I did that for 2 years then decided to get serious about school and for the fall 05 quarter I was excepted to Cal Poly San Luis Obispo as an Ag Business Major but 3 weeks before school was set to start I told my parents that I would not be going to school and would be going into business with my brother selling ambsn. That didn’t go over so well, but they supported my decision anyways and are psyched now on my choice. This is pretty much Dylan’s only job he has ever had and everything he knows is self-taught, the kid is really driven and passionate about what he does.
What type of music do you listen to?
Pretty much anything good but top lately would have to be Waylon Jennings, Priest, Buck Owens, Merle Haggard, Iron Maiden, The Smiths, The Modern Lovers, Gang Starr (RIP Guru), E-40, Hyro, Hank I, II, III, The Strokes, Dead Mau5 and The Arcade Fire, sort of an eclectic mix we have going on.
What sports are you actively involved in?
We both skate and surf quite a bit, Dylan tends to skate more and I surf a bit more than I skate. When winter comes around we both really like to snowboard and now that we only live an hour away from the hill we get to do that a bit more too.
What drew you into the action sports industry?
Skateboarding for sure. My mom used to take us to The Grind in Sacramento when we were younger on the weekends and from then on we have been hooked. When we moved to Arroyo Grande my first job was at Pancho’s in Pismo Beach and I worked there for most of high school then went to CCS and worked at that shop while I was going to college. The time I spent working at those shops pretty much sealed the deal for me, I have wanted to stay in action sports ever since.
How has the economy affected your part of the industry?
We have been in a recession since we started ambsn so its not like we had to take pay cuts or anything like that, if anything it has been good for us. It’s made shops realize that they need the ambsns, the Atwaters, the Insights to keep their shops special. So it has enabled us to partner up with some really great retailers. Although it was dumb luck, I don’t think we could have started ambsn at a better time.
What’s the best advice you have been given?
“Under promise and over deliver.”
What do you like and not like about working within the action sports industry?
The only thing I think that could use some work is the segmentation between surf and skate other than that this is the best industry anyone could ever want to work in.
What do you think about group Y and its events?
group Y events have been great. Its good to hear other people’s stories about how they did it and the struggles they overcame along the way. Inspiring is probably the best way to sum up the group Y meetings.
Any parting words?
We have to thank our parents and brother Ricky for all of the support as we have grown ambsn over the years. They have been the biggest and best supporters we could have ever asked for and we wouldn’t be anywhere without the fam. Also the late great Dick Baker and his wonderful wife Una and kids Jack and Ryan who have treated us like family, those people have been huge in our lives and the growth of ambsn. There are too many industry people to thank but there is a huge list and we are grateful for all the backing. And last but definitely not least are all the retailers who have taken a chance on us and carried ambsn over the years.