Industrial Profile 1/1/2004

Vice President of Marketing - Sole Technology


Interview with Don Brown

Pick up a Happy Magazine ( to see the Industrial Profile in print.


Being a Vice President of Marketing at any good size company can be more than enough for one person to handle.  Try taking on that responsibility with 4 brands at once.  We paid a visit to Don Brown, VP of Marketing at Sole Technology (home of Etnies, Emerica, eS, and 32) to find out how he got there & what its like.


Can you bring us up to date on the major events throughout your career that led up to becoming the VP Marketing for Sole Technology?

I grew up in on this little Island off the coast of FranceEngland is its name! Brighton was the town that I grew up in and learned to love skateboarding, and surf crappy polluted wind swells. In Its hay day of 1977 Brighton had one of the strongest skate scenes in England; the town’s nick name was Pig City due to all the police harassing the skaters. 


There were only two vert ramps in all of England and neither were close to me, I started messing around with freestyle. Next thing you know, I’m entering contests and doing well. It was then that I first met Pierre Andre (the owner of Sole Technology).  Pierre used to come over from France to compete in the English contests…those French were pretty damn good…in fact I think Pierre won the first contest I saw him at. He had a nice mustache and a pair of blue dolphin shorts!!


In ‘83 I decided to go to the states. Three friends & I bought 1-way airline ticket that came with 5-day Greyhound passes for 99 Pounds ($150). We landed in Newark & headed to Texas where we met up with Jeff Phillips, Craig Johnson, Scarecrow and the rest of the crew…The rest of the Greyhound days took us to Ca. We stayed at the Del Mar Skate Ranch which was the hang out for the best skaters in the world….Billy Ruff, Tony Mag, Tony Hawk, Danny Way, Tod Swank, Dave Swift, Alan Losi, the list goes on and on.


You must of have an elastic dollar.

I did. I had the skate equipment covered but no money.


I ended up getting a job at Vision/Sims in the warehouse. I worked some crazy hours, taking a 2 hour bus ride to and from work, but it really didn’t matter to me. All I cared about was skating. Eventually I turned Professional for Vision skateboards & had my own pro model boards with a big pig on them representing Pig City!  I won many majors but the biggest accomplishment was winning the World championships at Münster, Germany in ’89.


At the end of the ‘80s Pierre Andre had started to distribute etnies in the US. One day Pierre and I were skating under HB pier and he asked if I wanted to help him out with etnies. That’s where it all began with etnies.


Where did etnies get its start?

In ’86 etnies was started in France by a high quality fashion shoe conglomerate in France.  This company saw the creativity in skateboarding and saw skaters as a tribe. They decided to start a shoe company called Ethnics.  But the name was to close to the Etonic shoe company it needed to change.  It became etnies. Natas Kaupas, who was the best street skater in the world started to ride for etnies. He made a big impact on legitimizing the brand in the US…he had the first pro skate shoe ever.


So it was just the two of you holding it down in the U.S.

It was just us doing whatever it took to make it happen.  Pierre oversaw the overall business side of things and I handled the team, sales, and shipping….


It (1991) was an interesting time in the industry. Things were at rock bottom. Back then etnies was the only true skate shoe company that was run by skateboarders. Needless to say, we were kicking some serious arse! Being skaters ourselves, we knew what skaters needed and wanted, and we also knew how to take care of our core retailers.


Then what?

We hit a minor snag.  The French company that owned the Etnies name sold the company to another conglomerate.  That’s when Emerica was born!  But in no time the conglomerate lost hope and etnies was back in our possession.  They didn’t realize the power of the brand was in the people behind it, not the brand itself.


What are your primary responsibilities now?

I read Happy Magazine 75% of the day and the other 25% is spent checking the mail to see if the next issue has turned up yet!

My main responsibilities are to know the global market along with what the needs of the riders of the world are and translating that into a strategy for the Sole Technology employees to follow. I’m constantly bouncing from different departments providing direction and giving feedback.


What else?

My heart is closest to the team riders and retailers as they are out there every day living it. Both the team riders and retailers give me the closest insight as to what we need to focus on for the future…they are out there everyday on the front line.


I was also recently voted to serve on the board of IASC (International Association of Skateboard Companies).  The organization was founded to give a collective voice of the skateboard industry at the same time as promote the sport and keep it strong.


So you’re a juggler?

Yeah.  (While practicing newly found juggling skills with burning bowling pins in his office)  And I also enjoy Russian dancing and Tequila, but that’s between 5-6AM. In this position juggling is a necessity.



Yeah, somehow over the years, Tequila has become the Sole Technology drink. We have a really tight family here and have a very special way of welcoming our new employees, the “Sole Tech shot”. Snort the salt, shoot the Tequila, and squeeze the lime in your eyes. No joke, I’m completely serious. I think I’m going blind from doing so many!


We want more!

Sole Technology is the craziest family of employees in the business… I really think that is why Sole Technology is one of the best companies out there. We are a true family…we have the best times together!


Is there anything new & exciting about to hit the streets?

STI, or the Sole Technology Institute.  STI is the very first scientific research organization dedicated to the biomechanics of skateboarding. If you look at other sports, there is extensive biomechanics research involved with designing footwear. It seems ironic that something like skateboarding and other impact filled action sports has never been studied. We decided it was time to start our own research and develop the world’s first skate specific technology developed of true biomechanics research.


The set up we have is amazing….Eric koston, Paul Rodriguez, Ryan Sheckler were all here just the other day checking stuff out and working with our biomechanics engineers, testing some equipment. Get ready as we have some amazing stuff coming!


Anything else new & exciting?

The Etnies skate park.  We’re building a park right next to our offices.  We wanted to give back to the community, it’s important for us to support what we are about.   The etnies park is going to be insane!! The cement is being poured as we speak by the skatepark builders in the world…California Skateparks. It’ll open late November.  More info can be found at


There must be some trying challenges in your work with all this going on?

Time is the biggest challenge.  And it’s a challenge because Chad from Nixon hasn’t sent me a watch when he said he would.  And if he doesn’t call me back, I’ll have to bring the old sundial back!


What’s occupying your work-time these days?

A good portion is spent on planning for the future…sometimes if I’m writing a personal check I write the year as 2005 as my mind is there so often!!


Thinking back on some of the major points you shared with us, what’s the most rewarding aspect of your job?

Dealing with riders and people every day who are there for the love of it. It’s so refreshing to be around these people.  So many people get caught up in all the money and politics of this industry…go ride, that’s what it’s all about. 


Is there anything you can tell the readers about working or succeeding in the industry?

The most important foundation is having a passion and drive for riding. From there it’s important to have a competitive spirit and have personal goals that blend in with what your work goals are. This industry is a 24/7 job…it never stops…but you enjoy every moment of it.


What are a few of your personal goals, and your company’s goals?

Live life to the full and always enjoy what I’m doing. Give back to all the sports we’re involved with by supporting foundations. Provide all the riders of the world with the best product for their needs.


What about school?

For me things were a little different.  Due to Schools in England I was out a little early.  In hindsight, more education would make some things easier.  But ultimately knowing what you want to do and having clear goals in life are very important. Skateboarding taught me that. 


Closing comments?

I hope there aren’t any bullets in that gun you have at my head!

Thanks to everyone at Sole Technology that make things happen, thanks to all the board shops that keep things real, and thanks to everyone who has ever worn a pair of eS, Emerica, etnies, and 32 shoes…..get ready to see some amazing stuff from us coming soon!

Oh…one more thing…Mum I think I’m going to stay here for a while…I know I told you I will be gone for 3 months…I’m only around 19 years over!