- change ups
Local long-board company puts two teens on career path
Passing a trade down to one’s children is largely a thing of the past. But when Greg Finses and his sons combined a hobby with Greg’s engineering ability, the family delved into a sort of modern-day apprenticeship that required help from everyone.
GET Longboards, a Jenison-based company specializing in custom high-quality long-board manufacturing, began out of simple necessity. Extreme sports were part of the family’s lifestyle, and when sons Tyler and Evan became interested in long-boarding, they found their first few purchases were lacking in quality.
“They had good trucks and wheels but the decks were garbage,” said Evan Finses.
Greg Finses works as a mechanical engineer for a local compression and molding manufacturer. When 12-year-old Evan came to him with a broken board, Greg said, “Well, we can build a better one.”
Finses and his wife, Kim, decided to use this as a learning opportunity for their sons. Though the work incorporated Greg’s profession — engineering — it also allowed the teenagers to design boards, figure out a manufacturing process, market, price, sell and do the accounting for the business.
For Greg and Kim, one of the major goals was to let their sons figure out what they might choose as a career path. “For them, the goal was getting a better long-board,” said Greg.
But despite their original motives, Tyler and Evan were able to find where their interests and strengths could take them in their future careers, and both said that the unique experience helped prepare them to enter the work force.
When Tyler entered the mechanical engineering program at Michigan State University, he realized he had already completed the type of junior design project students in his major do in their fifth year. “(GET) helped me decide that this is what I want to do: design, build, test things to make them better,” he said.
Kim noted that the job market has grown increasingly more competitive for teenagers as jobs they would have filled in the past are now taken by adults due to the recession.
Yet with enough initiative, struggling economies can be a breeding ground for innovation and entrepreneurship. “You see manufacturing businesses close down and half a dozen people trying to keep it going,” said Greg. “There are a lot of creative people in West Michigan.”
When it comes to the survival of a start-up in today’s economy, the Internet and social media are crucial. The costs that come with traditional forms of marketing would be enough to sink many small businesses before they get off the ground.
For GET, the website, blog writing and social networking have given the company a national presence and are responsible for a large percentage of sales. GET features eight long-board models and presses boards one at a time to ensure the highest quality.
Some of the company’s marketing is still done the old-fashioned way, however. Tyler, Evan and their friends ride around on their long-boards equipped with a stack of business cards.
“It’s been an education for all of us,” said Greg.