Sunday, August 24, 2014

2014 Interbike Is Around the Horn

     Well, it is that time again. Going to be headed to the airport in two weeks and join my brothers and sisters of the Kali crew and start our annual pilgramage to Las Vegas for the bike industries Interbike. 
I look forward to this for reasons that are deeply personal and sometimes often forgotten by those that do not show the same appreciation that I do for this event of events amongst our peers.
     I started in the bike industry in 1993 at Specialized Bicycles. I had just moved to California and moved into the upstairs spare bedroom that my aunt, uncle, and cousin had set up for me.  I had not a clue of what to do, but I did go out there and start soliciting applications and getting interviews.  It just so happened that my aunt had been working at Specialized as an onsite travel agent contracter and managed to secure me an interview with this little company and their big red S. 
      Specialized was not the company it is today.  It, like many other companies of its time, was still fresh and exciting.  Innovative, competitive, and a family. Yea we had our ups and downs, but the staff from top to bottom (from my perspective) respected each other and had a singular goal. Bring our best. Bring the best in bike. Bring the bet in design. Bring the best in service.  It was because of those ideals I saw, I would want more. I wanted too move into sales. There was a problem. I didn't know anything about bikes. Sure, I knew how to ride one, but I did not know the industry. I began to understand that if I wanted to move forward, I would have to step back and step away from Specialized. I needed so experience. So, I left. I left to go get some experience and learn from some of the best characters I have ever met in my life. I left for Livermore Cyclery.
     It was there, at LC, that I would learn the ins and outs of the bikes. It was there I learned that I did have a nack for sales. Whether it was via genetics or observation of those around me, I picked up the tools I needed by observing those around me and asking questions. I saw Steve howard, the owner of Livermore Cyclery sell, fit, and accessorize a customer that had just picked up a shiny new road bike. I asked Steve to show me how to fit the riders. You see, it is through fit that I learned to listen and understand my customer. It was there that I started to truly start selling.  It was one thing to convince a rider to buy a bike.  It was another thing to gain their trust so that they would spend their hard earned cash on a high end bike, something that I never took for granted.
     You ask, what does this have to do with Interbike? You see, the first time I ever went to Interbike was 2009. That's right, I sent myself to the big show for the very first time because I was the store manager of a shop in Milpitas and I had never gone. I never asked. Never understood what it would take to get there until I ultimately took the bull by the dropbars and made the arrangements myself. It was there that I ran into the good folks from this tiny little company called Kali Protectives.  
     Kali was this up and coming company that from the outside, looked like that had this great product and that dealer from all over were clamoring to be a part of. I had no clue that in 2008, Kali would only really have 2 helmets that would eventually grow into a bit more.  It was there, I met up with Brad Waldron and his wife Charlotte. To be honest, I had completly forgotten that Brad had even worked at the big Red S.  Although it was a family atmosphere over at Big Red, I still did not know everyone, and I did not know who he as.  What I met was the most geniune person I had met in the industry and that bled through to the rest of the staff that was there. I thought to myself that at some point, I was going to be with that company in some shape or fashion.  
     I did not stay and hang out at the booth, but it was certainly a memorable visit for me. I met up with a lot of familier faces. I walked up and down all of the aisles during the day and up and down the strip with fellow South Bay shop employees and reps at night. It was good time and an innocent one too. Thank you to Scott who helped me through a hangover that I had on the Thursday morning of the show. I eenjoyed myself, because I certainly did not know when the next visit would ever be.  Turns out it was 2 years later in 2011. By that time, I was representing Kali on the inside and working the east coast and meeting up with shops that I had been talking to during prievious 9 months. It was there that I would let my hair down and get into some shenangons that i do not dare repeat. Lets just say, stickers were involved.
     This year marks my 4th Interbike with Kali. The company has grown and I feel like that I am, in some way, responsible for some of that growth. It is because of that, I look forward to this annual event to meet up with those dealers that take the time to come to Vegas.  I understand why some do not.  But for those that do come, it shows their independent spirt of choice in this industry. John and Joyce from a small shop in New England come by every year and they take time out of their visit to meet up with me to talk about the business and to talk about their history (which I always look forward to),  i will meet up with Mike, who has his shop in northern Florida and makes and will make sure to see me to also talk shop and talk about each other's family.  I enjoy these conversations, because it is the one time I get to see these friends of mine, face to face.  
     For those that do not appreciate this event, I will never understand. Yes, I will work my ass off. But I have a good time too. I have a good time with the crew. I have a good time with other manufaturers. I appreciate the time I have to meet up with my peers and the face time I have with the reps I work with directly and indirectly.  It is because of these moments, I will never get tired of this event. For me, Interbike is.....

Saturday, March 17, 2012

San Diego Trip: Michael, Marcus, Myself and Xplode Fight Series.

     We're less than a week away, but my cousin Michael and I will be headed south to San Diego for a bit of a family get-together.  Of course we will be doing it MMA style.  Well more like my brother Marcus will be the one mixing it up and Michael and I will be there to watch it with the rest of our Aven family in San Diego.
     MMA?  Mixed Martial Arts and yes, I said that right, my younger brother Marcus Aven is an MMA fighter and this is his first professional fight.  I will not even pretend to know why Marcus chooses to do this and what it is all about.  I do know this.  Marcus has been going toe-to-toe with several fighters over the last several years with Epic Fighting and that he has finally earned the right to go to the next level.
     He will be fighting in the Xplode Fight Series and like I said before, this is his first ever professional match.  After speaking with Marc, he is pumped to be in this Featherweight matchup against his opponent Squire Redfern.  I know little about Redfern, but I do intend to find out more as this week goes along.  As for Marc, where do I start.
     Marc is one of my four brothers (and two sisters) and he has always been massive bundle of energy, which makes his entry into the MMA world make so much sense.  This is the same kid who will jump off the roof of a house on a mountain bike and stick it.  This is the same kid who will slide across the carpeted floor on his knees over my baseball cards and thinks he is a riot.  This is the same kid, who can hit mountain bike single trail for the first time and ride it like he owned it.  That was an impressive feat, except his roommate at the time out did him by riding a mountain bike for the first time that day, in slippers and just slayed that trail too (yes, I said slippers).
     Marc, is a gentle soul outside of the ring, but when it comes to sports, he is focused on the task at hand.  Whether it is a mountain biking or fighting, he knows what his goals are and he knows how to achieve them.  He has the desire, the will and the fire that burns deep within oneself when it comes to making it happen.  Will he win this matchup, I don't know, but I'll bet on him any day of the week.  Has he been knocked down?  Yup, but he always ends up on top.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Scenes From The Toy Show

Just a few shots from this past weekends San Jose Toy and Comic Book Show. Check out buddy's photo site at Darkenship for more images.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

San Jose Toy and Comic Book Show - The Aftermath

March 11, 2012 San Jose, CA - What a crrrrazzy day it was at yesterday's March 2012 San Jose Toy and Comic Book Show.  Vendors, collectors, moms, dads, kids, grandparents.  They were all there for one of, if not the biggest, event that the fantastic folks from Time Tunnel put together.
     The Friday before was absolutely frantic and busy as vendor after vendor showed up to start their display.  I manged to get there around 4:30 and left shortly after 7 having only finished a small portion of what needed to be done in order to get my half of the display finished.  Rik, arrived shortly after me and he too left with a lot too finish.  
     Saturday morning, after very little sleep, My wife Wendy, my daughter Miranda, and I met up with Rik, his brother-in-law Richie and Rik's youngest son at the local Starbucks (there are are seven of them in Morgan Hill, so we picked the closest one to both of us).  Scheduled to meet at 6am , we all arrived after 6:20 and got on the road by 6:40 and arrived a little after 7.  The building had a quite calm about it, with just a touch of nervous optimism.  I, like many others, had not sold as well at the December show and were looking for a complete turnaround.
     Finishing up the setup went smooth and soon vendors were coming around to see what everyone was selling and to see what they could buy at the end of the show.  I for one had $40 earmarked for the main guest of honor, but I digress.
     The earlybirds started things off in a hurry.  They were looking for a lot of new and exciting things.  Maybe they had some prearranged purchases.  Maybe they were just looking to see what was hot and possibly new.  Whatever it may have been, it was fast a furious with the early birds.
     Then a strange thing happenend.  There was a sudden calmness.  There seemed to be a small wave after wave of people coming through.  It was as if they came, they went, and came back again.  It was almost like we the vendors were the beach and the people were our water changing the landscape by purchasing item after item.
     Yvone Craig showed up mid morning and from all reports started signing from the second she sat down.  I was kicking myself because I forgot to bring my Vina the Orion woman action figure with me to get autographed.  Yes, I know, she is most remembered for her role as Batgirl, but were talking Star Trek OG people!
     As for the main attraction, Billy Dee Williams, Lando Calrissian to the Star Wars faithful, Gale Sayers to you Brian's Song fans, was there by 11:30am and had a line that started at 11:00.  I had sent Miranda to get in line and 45 minutes later I get a text stating that she had 5-10 minutes left before she was to meet up with Williams.  I went over there with a friend of mine who was taking pictures of the event.  After 5 minutes of waiting in line with Miranda, she and I were able to get our picture taken with thee Mr. Billy Dee.
     Meeting one of my Star Wars favorites was cool, but it was back to business and the people did not stop coming.  I was able to meet up with some old friends that have been coming to my booth for a couple of years now.  It was truly exciting to see that Star Wars was still fun for everyone that came by the booth.  Not only Star Wars, but Star Trek, Pirates, DC, Marvel, Transformers, Hot Wheels and G.I. Joe.  Rik, my self and our other partner Fred, had something for everyone and it showed.
     At the end of the day, we were exhausted and we could not have had more fun working this damn hard.  This was, by far, the one show that I had the most fun at.  The fans were incredible.  Whether if it was your first time or your 33rd time, it was absolutely amazing to be part of this one.  Like I said before.  The great folks of Time Tunnel Toys did a fantastic job and I can't wait for the August 18th show.  Dawn Wells will be there.  You know, Mary Ann from Gilligan's Island.  The girl next door that everyone really wanted and still do!  Stay tuned as we get set and get ready.

Do let me know what you think.  Publicly or privately, your feedback is much appreciated!

Monday, March 5, 2012

San Jose Toy and Comic Show This Saturday

     There are just a few more days left until the first of the three toy and comic shows that is put on by the fine folks at Time Tunnel Toys.  You will find some great deals, some hard finds on new and old items, as well as celebrity's from television and movie history.
     I will of course be there again with my buddy Rik Argel and we will be there kick things up a notch.  I with the older Star Wars and Star Trek toys, him with the Marvel, DC and sports figures, we along with our buddy, Hot Wheels Fred, will have a large selection of toys and collectibles from yesterday and today.  We will not be the only ones, but I guarantee, we will have a lot of what you are looking for.
     But I would say the real attraction will be the two celebrity guest that Joe and crew have provided for us.  The one and only Billie Dee Williams of Star Wars fame and the lovely Yvonne Craig who played Batgirl in the Batman television series and Orion alien, Marta, from the original Star Trek Series.  To  have these two icons from the small and silver screen is an absolutely amazing and I for one look to escape my booth to stand in line and get their autographs.  I have Lando Calrissian action figures but, damn I wish I had a Harvey Dent action figure from the 1989 movie, Batman.
     The toy show will be this Saturday from 11am to 4 pm (9am for the early birds).  Admission will be $15.00 for the early birds and $5.00 general admission after 11am.  Let me know if you are coming to the show and if you are looking for something and I will see if I have it and bring it.  If you see something there, do not be afraid to make me an offer.  I listen to them all!  See you at the show!

Saturday, March 3, 2012

2012 Indianapolis Motorcycle Dealer Expo Wrap Up

     Well, I did it again.  I had some great intentions to keep by blog going at the event, but some how my comped Internet access went by the wayside.  But, never fear, the event was a blast and crazy busy, at least it was crazy busy at the Kali Protectives booth all three days.  I got to meet my friends in the industry and was able to make a bunch more.
     Whether you were from around the corner in Indiana, Illinois and Ohio, or from as far east or west like California and Vermont, there were a whole lot of dealers looking to find the next great thing to bring to their shop.  A lot of those individuals stopped by the Kali booth to check out our helmets, our technology and why in the heck we were so busy.
     To learn more about the helmet technology and the difference between what Kali does vs. what everyone else does, check out the Kali Protectives technology page here.
     The best part of the show was definitely making things happen and discussing the industry, Kali's place in a customers store, and the education of why someone should be wearing our helmet.  The one thing I did leave with, was that there is a buzz of optimism and intrigue that 2012 will be a year on the rise for the moto industry.  More people getting back on their bikes, going places, racing, or just crusin', this looks to be a great year in this industry.  Do I have my work cut out for me educating dealers and consumers on why they need to be wearing our helmet?  Heck ya I do, and as I roll up my sleeves and get on the phones, I look forward to putting a Kali helmet on you.

Motocross Action Dealer Expo Recap, featuring Kali Protectives.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Dealer Expo Experience Day #1

     As many of my friends know, I have been in the bicycle industry for most, if not all of  my adult life.  All of the companies that I have worked for (Specialized Bicycles, Livermore Cyclery, Sun Bike Shop, and Cognition Cyclery) have prepared me, as I like to say, my second life, at Kali Protectives.
     Kali, if you do not know, sells bicycle, motorcycle, and now snow helmets.  Bicycle, got that covered.  Snow, not much experience there, but I will learn.  Motorcycle?  Learning the helmets was one thing, but understanding and learning the different dealers across the US and what they go through on a daily basis, seemed like it would be a foreign world too me.  As it turns out, although there is certainly a very clear division of labor, the industry is much like bike, only there is a lot more money involved and a ton, and I mean a ton of competition out there in the helmet world.
     All of which brings me to this, I am now at Dealer Expo in Indianapolis and Thursday has been an experience all in its own.  Mind you, the convention starts on Friday for the dealers, but setup for the vender's is on Thursday.  I have not gotten a full vision of what to look at, but to say the least, it will be big, and it will be impressive seeing all of the different parts, accessories and even motorcycles that will be littered all over the convention center (which is a stones throw from Lucas Oil Stadium for you football fans).
     The booth layout for Kali is nice, and the setup was easy and smooth.  Our 20x20 space has enough space for us to show the dealers our new helmets and protective gear.  This will not be my first trade show, but this will be my first trade show for moto.  I have the technology down, which for me, is what I love about the company.  Uncompromising protection for our riders.  Uncompromising in support for our dealers.  Uncompromising in what we do!
     Of course, there was your sales meeting and our company dinner after, but it is the shenanigans that we get into after that lets us relax and blow off steam.  Talking about them though, would obviously break some kind of code, but to put your mind at ease, there is nothing illegal, all is in good taste (depends on your POV though), and all is in good fun.  All of which is that I am nursing a slight headache (hangover) and look forward to day #2, of which I have my appointments ready and the product learned.  Graphics are another thing and I have a few hours to memorize everything.  But I am ready and look forward to meeting my friends that I only get to talk to over the phone.

Cheers - J