Vice President of Sales, Crab Grab
Listen here, kids. If you're reading this and you happen to live in a relatively mountain-less part of the country where it doesn't snow all too often and you want to work in the snowboard industry, pay attention, because Andrew Kelly (or "AK" as his close confidants call him), is your shining example. Born in Korea and adopted by an American family in Maryland, AK fell in love with snowboarding at a young age, and he fought tooth and nail to continue to ride a snowboard for as long as is humanly possible, and currently, he is playing an intricate role in how snowboarding is presented to those who love it as much as he does...and that's what we need more of. AK is a genuine one-in-a-million type of guy, and that's precisely why snowboard luminary/comic/marketing genius Preston Strout and his wonderful wife Dawn picked him up and made him the frontman to their traction and mitten company Crab Grab. AK knows that he lives the good life and does what he loves, and if you ever get the chance to talk to him you'll see that firsthand, but he knows business too, and he's helping Crab Grab grow faster than a hydroponic Redwood tree as I type this. Keep an eye out for AK, because the kid's going places and fast, mainly because anything this kid gets his hands on (or in) is bound to succeed.
What does your current position in the snowboarding industry entail? Describe a typical day on the job.
It sounds cliché, but two days are never the same really. Working for a small, family-owned company, it's all hands on deck. In the winter time, I’ll wake up early and check my email and get back to anything urgent. If conditions at Mt. Bachelor look good, I will catch first chair and ride for an hour or two. Then I’ll drink some green tea. Currently, my job involves overseeing all channels of sales distribution for Crab Grab. I spend time managing and supporting our international distributors and domestic sales reps. I work with our retailers who sell our products, manage our online store, and respond to any customer service requests. In between, I assist the owners with other areas of the business, including marketing, invoicing, shipping and receiving, forecasting, and even taking out the trash. Then I'll drink more green tea.
Where are you from and where do you currently call home?
I was born somewhere in South Korea. At 4 months old I was adopted by a great family and grew up around the Baltimore, Maryland area. Currently Bend, Oregon and Mt. Bachelor are home.
How did you start snowboarding?
Growing up, one of my best friends was my nextdoor neighbor Tim. We went to different schools and I would go on his school snowboard bus trips every Friday night to the local hill. Through Tim I met my other best friend Joe and the 3 of us would go night riding every chance we got. We were around 16 at the time. My dad even ditched his skis and picked up snowboarding. Seeing my dad out there riding was pure happiness. Tim, Joe and I then met a bunch of other guys around our age at the local hill and the crew was set. We rode the smallest mountains in southern Pennsylvania. Catching first chair or following the weather report never mattered because conditions always sucked. Having a good time, trying new tricks, pushing each other and just being out there together was all that really mattered to us.
At what point did you realize that you wanted to work in the snowboard industry?
My friends and I loved watching edits of guys like Tim Eddy, Chris Beresford and Scott Stevens as they looked like they were having the best time. Quickly, I fell in love with the positivity, attitude and lifestyle of snowboarding. I was (and still am) snowboarding's biggest fan. In my day to day I would see people working their 9 to 5 business suit & tie jobs and they looked absolutely miserable. I remember thinking "Shit, I better figure something out." Then in January 2008 TransWorld Snowboarding Volume 21 arrived in the mail. I was freshman in college and Bryan Fox was one of my favorite snowboarders. There was an article called "The Dirty Dozen" where Bryan was featured in an interview. After reading his interview something just clicked and I had a moment of realization that snowboarding would be my career somehow, someway. I guess from that moment on there was no going back.
And how did you make that happen?
In high school I worked at a seafood crab restaurant. In my free time I would stop by my local snowboard shop and bug the crap out of the store manager until one day he handed me an application. The next day I quit my job at the crab restaurant and started my journey selling snowboards at Princeton Sports. My second year at the shop our K2 Snowboarding rep pulled me aside and asked if I would be interested in helping him out with a tradeshow. His name was Charlie Kiesa and he would become my mentor and boss for the next 6 years as I began to transition from the shop and work for his sales agency SandboxMetroplis, representing K2 Snowboarding, Ride Snowboards, Fallen & Blackbox Distribution, New Balance Numeric, Wend Wax and Beats By Dre in the Mid-Atlantic territory. My other partner in the agency was Paulie Yaremko and we also worked with Tony & Cathy Lincoln, representing Volcom and Electric. Man, I really owe them the world as they taught me so much. That summer of my sophomore year of college I made my next move. My friend worked at a ski resort in Australia the previous year and said, "Email this guy and you'll get to snowboard in the summer." I was sold. That guy was Dave Boyd and he hired me to work at a snowboard shop called The Board Lounge located at Falls Creek Mountain Resort. I was 19 and that experience really opened my perspective and helped me grow up. To this day I still use the management style I learned from Boydy. The crew down there really took great care of me and through that experience my friend Jeremy Burns became our Crab Grab distributor for Australia and New Zealand! From the age of 19 to 22 I would split my time going to college, being in snowboard shops, working as a sales rep and traveling to Australia. At this time High Cascade Snowboard Camp was paramount and sat at the heart of the snowboard industry. I knew if I wanted to take the next step in snowboarding I would have to go through there. I applied, interviewed and didn't get the job. Then, as luck would have it, fate intervened on my behalf and Tanner McCarty and Dave Marx came to my rescue. Tanner had just taken over as the manager of the Demo Center at HCSC and my friends Matty B. and Greg Furey who worked at camp passed along a recommendation. Tanner took a chance and gave me a job. The High Cascade Demo Center "Screw Crew" was assembled, and from that moment on things would never be the same for the three of us.
My first year at HCSC was the first summer Preston Strout was not working as Camp Director. However, Preston and his wife Dawn ended up living in Government Camp and lived right across the street from my house. This was during the infant stage of Crab Grab. I remember emailing Preston to introduce myself and he replied, "Come stop by our place tonight and let's chat all things everything." That night I remember being the most nervous I've ever been. I walked over to their house but my nerves got the best of me and I ran back to my place where I bumped into my roommate Ben Bogart. He sensed my nervousness and called over my other two roommates, High Cascade coaches Greg Frayo and Nick Poplawski. They barricaded the door and said I wouldn't be allowed back in the house until I spoke to Preston and Dawn. With that, I summoned what little courage I had, walked through the door and like they say, the rest is history.
Who did you look up to in the industry for inspiration?
From the sales side I really look up to Johan Malkoski (C3), Mark Wakeling (Burton), and Ryan Bachman (ThirtyTwo). These guys are true leaders and have always gone out of their way to look out for me, listen and give the best advice. From a marketing side I'm inspired most by my friends Tanner McCarty (Ride), Dave Marx (Mervin), Riley Goodwin (Union) and Tom Johnson (K2). They are all so talented, smart, hard workers and I'm grateful to call them friends. Then there are guys like Java Fernandez (Stance) & Tom Monterosso (SNOWBOARDER Mag). They are truly committed to the cause and everything they touch turns to gold. Chris Luzier and Mat Galina are two friends who work in the industry and still snowboard more than anyone I know. That inspires me to get out and ride every chance I have. I'm inspired by Chris Beresford (Dang Shades) and Sean Genovese and Jeff Keenan (Dinosaurs Will Die). They are independently creating something special and snowboarding needs more of it.
Our Crab Grab sales reps and distributors inspire me daily. They are best of the best, and I truly believe their involvement is a huge competitive advantage towards the success of Crab Grab. I'm privileged to work with them.
I am inspired most by Preston and Dawn Strout, my bosses at Crab Grab. Preston is an incredible leader, thinker, and creative genius. Dawn is my hero, and there is no one I aspire more to be like than her. Working with them is a dream come true.
What do you feel has been your biggest impact in your line of work?
I think my biggest impact is my position and ability to give back to snowboarding. I think I'm the luckiest person in the world to work for a brand like Crab Grab. As an accessory brand it allows me to genuinely support the efforts of my friends who work for hardgoods brands throughout the industry. If my friend's brands are doing well, in some sense that means Crab Grab is doing well. Their customers are my customers. It's a win-win. With Crab Grab I enjoy having the ability to impact and improve the experience of snowboarders of all ability levels. From someone humbly learning to get off a chairlift that wants to keep their foot from slipping, to the best professional snowboarders in the world looking to get the most grip out of their grabs.
What do you want to accomplish that you haven't yet?
With Crab Grab there is still so much opportunity. It's been great to see this brand flourish into something special and we are only just getting started. We have some things in the works that I believe will really turn heads. Until then, stay tuned...
Then there is Soy Sauce Nation, my Asian snowboard family. I've been humbled to see what started out as a joke, has blossomed into a supportive community for Asian snowboarders and skateboarders all over the world. I want to continue to share our message and grow our community. To all the non-Asians out there eager to join, get eye surgery. Then we'll talk…
Oh, and I still need to land a frontside invert on transition!
Anyone you'd like to thank?
Thank you Lauren Russell, Travis Tomczak, Brian Zager, Andrew Garthoff, Alan Davis and Princeton Sports. Thank you Dave Boyd & my Falls Creek family. Thank you Sandboxmetropolis team along with all the other amazing sales reps and retailers in the Mid-Atlantic who lent a supportive and guiding path. Special thank you to my retail friends John Denicola, Dave Grella, & Big Al. Thank you Tanner McCarty, Dave Marx, The Screw Crew, & the rest of my High Cascade Snowboard Camp family. I love you guys. Thank you who ever invented soy sauce and Old Bay Seasoning. Shout out to my friends at Vintage Sponsor. Love to my Soy Sauce Nation family. Thank you to my Crab Grab family. Preston and Dawn Strout and Peanut. Thank you to all my friends I grew up snowboarding with. Lot Lizards for life! Thank you to my Mom, sister Olivia and the rest of my family. Most of all thank you Dad. Thank you for being my biggest supporter and fan. Thank you for adopting me and choosing me to be your son. I miss you so much. This is for you.