Snowboarders ooze the slacker vibe. Their culture is based on baggy clothes, easygoing attitudes and acrobatic feats on the slopes. That’s hardly an environment that you’d expect to foster millionaires. Yet brothers Danny and Matt Kass have made a bundle with their company, Grenade Gloves, which designs and sells gear for snowboarders and their fans.
A family move in 1997 from Jacksonville, Fla., to Vernon, N.J., got the Kasses into snowboarding because “there was no place to skateboard in the winter,” says Matt. The Kass brothers are gifted athletes. Danny, 24, won silver medals in the halfpipe event in the 2002 and 2006 Winter Olympics. Matt, 28, was a professional snowboarder for four years. He taught his brother the sport and invented one of Danny’s signature moves.
Sponsors began flocking to Danny and Matt, but the brothers weren’t content to be pitchmen. “We wanted to get hands-on,” says Danny, so they learned the behind-the-scenes business. That convinced them they could produce gloves, coats and goggles with more appeal than gear from other outfitters “who had lost touch with the consumer.”
At the 2002 Winter Olympics, they stenciled their company’s logo all over the Olympic village. They didn’t even have a pair of gloves to sell, but the buzz created demand for their gear, which has irreverent military themes, such as Dishonorable Discharge mittens and Shrapnel gloves. “As kids we had an infatuation with G.I. Joe,” says Danny.
But their business is no joke. Grenade Gloves generated $5.5 million in sales in 2006, and the brothers have turned down buyout offers from Oakley and Quiksilver, two of the biggest names in sports apparel, because they want to produce gear on their own terms.
Photo by Grenade LLC..
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