Combining a love for snowboarding with a passion for living sustainably, Ana Van Pelt and the Niche team have successfully created the first and only zero-waste snowboard company in the industry. We had the opportunity to catch-up with Ana during some rare downtime to ask how Niche Snowboards broke the mold and what it takes to keep hustling.
Meet Ana Van Pelt, Co-Founder & Chief Creative Officer of Niche Snowboards.
Was there a defining moment when you just knew you had to start treating your passion as a business and no longer as a hobby? Or did you always know this specific passion of yours would become a business?
Not really either! It was never either of our plans or goals to start a snowboard company. But the opportunity sort of fell into our laps, and when presented with it, we saw the potential to make a difference in a space that we felt passionately about, and that we knew could be made better. When we started Niche, no one was focusing on the fact that traditional ski and snowboard manufacturing is extremely toxic.
Given that our sport is based entirely on the environment, we thought this was crazy, and that there had to be a better way. So, we set out on a mission to figure out what sort of alternative materials could be used to build snowboards, and ended up with a combination that was lighter, more durable, and had better vibration dampening qualities than traditional materials! And now, it's incredible to see what sort of impact our transparency in manufacturing has had on the industry, and how prominent the discussion of manufacturing has become.
We’ve all heard the struggles of starting a business and the questions that keep entrepreneurs up at night, what habits did you develop or strategies did (or still do) you use to keep your internal light shining bright even when you wanted to quit?
Honestly, this is something we continually struggle with. This shit is hard, and sometimes painful, and we can get lost in the parts of running our business that do not bring us joy or reward. Some days we still want to quit! But then we get a chance to talk to our customers, or hear about their experiences with the product, and it completely turns the day around.
We truly adore our customers, and them, and our little business family, keep us going even when we feel like giving up. Also, time away with family or spent in nature ALWAYS helps. Forest bathing is a powerful thing! So sometimes when I am feeling down, I try to talk to someone who I know can lift up my spirits and remind me of why we started this in the first place, and how powerful what we've accomplished and built really is.
Now that your passion project has become your 9 to 5 grind, what passions do you practice to keep your creative juices flowing during your dusk to dawn hours?
Time in nature, snowboarding/hiking/biking, drawing/sketching, creative writing, reading, enjoying live music, watching movies, and especially traveling keeps me feeling inspired. I also just had a baby, so, daydreaming about all the adventures we are about to have together, and the world I want to show him, deeply inspires and excites me.
We know that your company and its individuals do good in many ways, what is the one do-good thing or principle you want more people to know about your brand and your team of badasses?
That the smallest efforts DO matter and make an impact. Our favorite quote is: "small acts, when multiplied by millions of people, can change the world" by Howard Zinn.
You don't have to be perfect and completely uproot or radically change your life in order to be a part of a positive movement! The littlest efforts have a quantifiable and measurable impact, and collectively, the more we can continue to support and educate one another, the better off our whole planet will start to become.
What’s one more thing you want us to tell the world about your company?
Niche has done something big - we are the first and only completely zero-waste snowboard company in the industry, and we will continue to strive to be and do better. We put an immense amount of thought, care, time and passion into every single thing we do, and we feel that it shows in our products. We welcome any and all kinds of people to be a part of what we're doing, and want them to know that they will be welcomed with open arms!
And if you're looking for a solid mom joke.... What does a two-headed dinosaur say? ...hello, hello.