If you’ve ever started a company you know how much time, energy, self-sacrifice, and passion go into making it successful. You also know that the odds are against you, but with a good idea, hard work, and a talented team (inside and outside the business), success can be achieved. When someone decides to hurt that business by publishing a story that is negative, misleading, and factually incorrect, it doesn’t feel so great for anyone who has worked hard on the venture.
It’s unfortunate, but the Willamette Week decided to publish a story on Yana Surf that simply is not true. Here’s the story that is true. We totally “get” that they don’t understand our business or the markets we operate in. Just to set the record straight, if there is any question, we have all the documentation to back it up. Feel free to contact us if you’d like to have a candid conversation about the article.
Yana Surf was created in 2013 as a planet-friendly surf lifestyle brand. Yana Surf designs and markets a growing line of surf apparel and accessories. The company also designs and shapes artistic balsa wood surfboards with a design team located in Portland, Oregon; and master craftsmen located in California, Florida, and Hawaii. Our products are all hand-crafted right here in the United States and represent a fusion of artistic influences from North America, Europe, and Asia.
Our CEO, and co-founder, Wilson Zehr is an Adjunct college Professor, Ph.D. student, serial entrepreneur, and consultant. Wilson has launched or participated in more than seven technology startups. In addition, Wilson reviews literally hundreds of business plans a year (over 130 this spring alone) and has helped dozens of entrepreneurs further develop their ideas.
A former college student, Jorge Guzman, approached Wilson in 2012 about his idea to buy surfboards cheaply in Ecuador and sell them at a premium to surfers in Japan. Jorge and his two partners had built a website and ordered a sample board from Ecuador. The website was incomplete, had no eCommerce; the company had no customers, no contracts, no inventory, and it appeared dormant – the website had not been updated since 2010. All the surfboard designs on the site were “borrowed” from a supplier in Ecuador and the images were infringing on the intellectual property rights of others – though the infringement was not disclosed in advance by Jorge. In short, Jorge’s “distribution” company was not viable and was exposed to significant liability.
Wilson could not get comfortable with the predatory nature of the business model, the lack of expertise marketing into their primary market (Japan), or the internal dynamics of the partners. However, Wilson has a deep interest in surfing – he grew up in Northern California where surfing culture is deeply woven into the social fabric. He is also interested in the topic of sustainability and giving back to the planet.
Yana Surf purchased all the assets (company/brand name, website, domain names, and samples) from Jorge’s company as a starting point – assets that Yana Surf is NOT actively using. Jorge was offered a significant equity position to participate as a co-founder of Yana Surf – he made the decision not to accept the position or participate. Of course, we harbor no ill will towards Jorge, and we wish him continued success in all his endeavors. If he believes strongly in his idea we hope he will continue to pursue it.
At that point research on the products and target markets began in earnest with a dedicated team of graduate students, business professionals, and craftsmen. Every aspect of Yana Surf from the corporate identity, to the business model, marketing strategy, and rapidly evolving product line have been created and designed by the Yana Surf team; along with the help of both a local and a global network of artists, partners, and suppliers.
Yana Surf was created as a “sustainable surf lifestyle brand” to lead the sustainable surf movement that is gaining awareness and momentum in our industry. The name Yana comes from Buddhism and means “vehicle for a spiritual journey”. Our corporate mission is to “Save the Planet One Beach at a Time”. One of the ways we are already fulfilling this mission is through partnerships with global environmental organizations such as Oceana.
Starting with the Polynesians, people have been building surfboards for a couple hundred years. Surfers have been building and riding “balsa wood” surfboards for almost as long. Most of the balsa for these surfboards comes from Ecuador – they provide 90% of the world supply of balsa. Before Yana Surf was created there were (and still are) dozens of competitors designing and building balsa wood surfboards. As such, the concept of building balsa surfboards is not new at all (as Willamette Week also points out).
What is new and different about Yana Surf is our focus on quality, craftsmanship, and artistic design using a fusion of different influences; the development of distinctive eco-friendly apparel and accessories that embody the surf lifestyle; getting the message out using a new kind of Surf Ambassador; and creation of a technology platform that goes far beyond eCommerce or anything else offered in the surf industry; all with an eye towards doing good things for the planet.
Yana Surf’s development continues in earnest with the Yana team – business professionals, engineers, designers, artists, shapers, surfers, and others who want to see Yana Surf succeed by investing their talents and ideas. We have invested considerable time, effort, and financial resources to develop Yana Surf. We are extremely proud of our team, the significant progress we have made, and we are well on our way to creating an important sustainable lifestyle and surf brand. We would sincerely appreciate your support as we Save the Planet One Beach at a Time!