Up-and-coming small business strives to stay genuine to skateboarders

BY NATALIE STOUT

ATLANTA — The Atlanta company DeckSpecks is starting to gain success around the country, but it plans to keep pursuing success in a way that stays true to the skateboarding community.

DeckSpecks are sunglasses that are crafted by hand out of recycled skateboards. The company started in August 2011 by Atlanta skateboarders Luke Bullard and Kevin Radley. Radley has since quit the company, but Bullard has remained and has kept the company simple and run by his skateboarder friends.

“Everyone says, ‘Don’t work with friends,’” Bullard said. “But I wouldn’t want anyone else in here; I don’t think I could work with anyone else.

“We could hire a bunch of low-pay workers and churn these things out, but that’s not right, it’s not how this all started.”

Bullard said that he and Radley thought of the idea for DeckSpecks while trying to think of ways to make money and not have to work normal jobs. Bullard spent three months at his dad’s house figuring out how to make the sunglasses, then afterward found two investors and made up a business plan.

DeckSpecks’ first two investors were Dan Scanlan of the Atlanta metal band Zoroaster, and Rodney Leete, who hosts comedy night at the Starbar in Atlanta and works on film sets. Bullard said after a while Scanlan became too busy with touring to continue investing, so Leete became the sole investor and still invests today.

Bullard said that at first, it was just money in the hole for DeckSpecks, but now they are able to pay the bills and have almost broken even. Bullard said that other investors have been interested in his company, but he doesn’t want anyone to change the image of his company.

“We’ve had an offer for someone to buy into the company that had nothing to do with any of this,” Bullard said, “and I just want to keep it as low budget and like this for as long as possible to build the quality of it.”

DeckSpecks’ original investor Scanlan and current investor Leete are both skateboarders, so Bullard felt that he could trust them more so with his concepts than someone who did not have any knowledge of skateboarding.

“All these people that I’ve been meeting, all just want to kind of put their two cents in; and it’s not that I don’t want to listen, but I just don’t want to blow it out,” Bullard said.

Bullard gets his recycled skateboards from professional skateboarders around the country, but a large chunk of the boards he uses for sunglasses are from professional skateboarders who live in Atlanta, such as Grant Taylor, Justin Brock and Dan Plunkett. Plunkett regularly gives DeckSpecks boards that he cannot use anymore. At first he donated his boards, but now they are able to afford to pay him.

“All the guys at DeckSpecks are my friends, and I consider them brothers,” said Plunkett. “I will always try to give them what they need for their company and I will always support them.

“The skateboarding community is like a family to me, and we all try to help each other when we can.”

With two interviews coming up toward the end of June, DeckSpecks has been featured in various magazines such as Thrasher and Creative Loafing.

Bullard plans to keep making sunglasses and supporting the skateboarding community as long as DeckSpecks exists.

“I want them always to be made in America, and I always want skateboarders making them,” he said, “because no one else is going to care about it like they are.”

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