Bev Sanders, Surfing Maven, Woman Entrepreneur
Bev's sister-in-law reads my blog and sent it to Bev. Always the marketing maven, Bev sent me a note about her company and wondered if I would be interested in writing about what she was doing. After reading about what Bev was doing, I shot her an email to talk. How could I not considering the tag line of her company, Las Olas Surf Safaris for Women is "We make Girls out of Women". Sounded right up my alley.
How Bev came to own and run a Surf Safari Camp for women is quite an interesting story. An amazing women with an edge on how to market products, she let the path of life take her in a variety of interesting directions.
Bev grew up in Massachusetts near Smith College and worked at the local ski resort, Mt. Mohawk during High School. She moved out to Indiana to go to college. College wasn't her thing and instead found herself teaching at a ski resort that had just opened in Indiana and she also got into buying and selling antique furniture. She got married because she felt she was supposed to but was never really happy and six years after being married, she decided enough was enough. Bought a bread truck, filled it with antiques and drove out to Tahoe for a change of life.
When Bev got to Tahoe, she sold all the antiques and never looked back. She took a job as an instructor at the mountain and worked as a cocktail waitress at night. One night a guy comes in and takes a seat at the bar. He is doodling on a cocktail napkin what looks to be rockets. She strikes up a conversation and it ends up he isn't drawing rockets but snowboards. She was fascinated. His name was Chris and 26 years later they are still together.
They began making snowboards out of their garage. She'd go out to the mountain to go boarding and people would literally follow her down to the parking lot and buy the board off her. They were on to something. The mountains would freak when they would see them on this contraption, they were like the outlaws and rebels of the mountain. They knew that they needed to manufacture the boards in order to scale. They got on a plane and found a place in Austria to make the boards. They weren't exactly sure how they'd finance it. A strange twist of events happens while they are in Austria. Bev's first husband is in a tragic accident and she is left everything. She gives his family half of the money, which she felt was the right thing to do, and the rest goes to funding Avalanche, their snowboard company. It was 1985.
They began to distribute to Japan, Europe, California, Colorado and the Northeast. They also started being sponsors for serious extreme boarders. They would drive everywhere everywhere and promote the board. Bev noticed that the magazines would only promote the men in the sport. They would never take photographs of the female boarders and she pushed her husband to make a board that was for women. She knew exactly what she needed and it was different from the boards that they were producing. Eventually he said yes although it took a lot of effort. She was way ahead of the curve on that one. In 1995 they sold their company although still ran the company and in 1997 they finally made a womans board. She wanted to bring women to the sport on her own terms.
They moved to Benicia in the Bay Area and continued to work on the boards in a huge warehouse. Her brother in law recommended she try surfing at a place in Hawaii. She was hooked. She went back to the cocktail napkin eventually getting her husband to come with her to create a company dedicated to helping woman change their life through surfing and yoga. She did what she did originally for the boards. She hired a photographer, brought along some friends and marketed the concept.
They have now been doing this for fourteen years and it is beyond gratifying. She puts together a group of 14-18 trips every year with women from all over. It is an empowering vacation.
Talking to Bev on the phone was exhilerating. She is a free spirit who has made quite an impact in the world of sports. She has been a pioneer for women in snow boarding winning a variety of awards for her boards and became a pioneer for women in the world of surfing. As a boarder, I particularly loved how she had been one of the players in the onset of that sport. She has taken a different path but this one is all about women. I might have to go on one of those week long trips. Could have my name all over it.