Transworld recently checked in with Keith Hufnagel for their annual State of the Union feature in the January Issue of Transworld Business. In the interview Keith discusses the current trend of pro skateboarders leaving large corporate companies to start their own companies, the importance of diversity in the skateboard industry, as well as the steady process of events that have lead up to where HUF Quality Footwear is at today. Check out a preview of the interview below, and click here to read the full interview.

State of the Union Interview

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It seems like there is an emerging trend of pro skaters leaving brands to start their own companies. This is something that you jumped on back in 2000, and HUF has steadily been gaining market share. What are a few of the specific strategies or key moves you’ve made over the past year that you can attribute the brand’s success to?

Yeah, at this moment it does seem very trendy to be leaving sponsors—we’re seeing more and more instances of pros leaving brands each day to start their own projects. It reminds me a lot of what was happening back in the ‘90s, when Girl and Chocolate started. To me, I see this pattern as a very positive and natural progression for skateboarding though. It’s not even necessarily that a lot of these pros are leaving completely terrible situations; instead, I see a lot of the current movement more so as a reflection of what skateboarding has always been about—self-expression and that DIY mentality. This is a “trend” in the sense that more skateboarders are looking around at their peers, and seeing that it is possible to take matters into their own hands, and shape their situation and industry according to their own unique vision. It’s dope because this then becomes a shift in which the industry will become more diverse and creative, which is something it really needs.

In terms of my own situation, I actually didn’t leave any company to start HUF. I did end up parting ways with DVS in 2010—after I had established HUF as a shop and brand—and that was in order for me to start my own footwear company through HUF. You could say this was more of an educated jump on my end in order to continue developing shoes, no longer under the DVS brand, but rather under the HUF name where I would have more creative control in line with my long-term vision. This is similar to what we’re seeing now—these pros see a lack in the skate industry that they feel their own vision can fulfill, and they are taking active steps to realize those creative undertakings. For me, it was the same—I just saw an opportunity and ran with it. Footwear is extremely difficult to launch, but we’ve worked really hard as a brand to develop it to the place it is today—that’s just the sacrifice you have to make. I don’t know if success can be attributed to any short-term strategies, as it is a long and steady process we’ve been working at in order to arrive where we are at now.