When you’re starting a new business, it’s helpful if customers can find you via Google search. It’s even more helpful if you learned the ins and outs of search engine optimization from some of Google’s first employees.
That’s one of the secrets of success for Tommy Wrenn, owner of Cape Cod Skateboards. With nearly three decades of experience in high tech, when he wanted to create a new business, he was able to hit the ground … rolling.
During the early days of the pandemic, Wrenn, his partner Rachel and their four children moved from Newton to the Cape, where their families had homes since they were kids.
“There wasn’t a lot of work to be had and I needed to keep my skills sharp,” he said. “I fell into that whole bucket of people that were like, if you’re going to do something new, just do something you love.”
Wrenn, 49, has been skateboarding since he was 7 and has taught kids and parents alike to skateboard. “I realized that there really wasn’t a core skate shop on Cape Cod. There are places that sell surfboards, snowboards, scooters and sunglasses, but there wasn’t anything that was pure skateboarding.”
He planned to open his shop in May 2021, but he said a fraudulent board manufacturer stole hundreds of thousands in upfront money from several local shops. When his credit card company and his local bank were able to get his money back, he decided to change the shop’s focus, specializing in custom-made boards produced in the USA, rather than carrying established brands that were made in China. “The supply chain issues made obtaining product too difficult,” said Wrenn.
Former pro skateboarder Robbie Gangemi, owner of Boston-based Popmaster Innovations, was able to build the boards by hand and Scott Boilard, a lifelong friend, came up with illustrations.
“When I started this brand, I wanted to work with my friends and primarily skateboarders,” said Wrenn. “Scott was the epitome of that because we were both born in the same house in Worcester, back in 1972. He went the fine art route after college and I went the commercial art, digital media and web development route. I called him and asked if he was interested in doing some graphics for my skateboard manufacturing company. I said, ‘Skateboard companies are really cool because you can do anything you want.’ We worked on some creative and discussed where I wanted to take the company.”
The result was an iconic Jolly Roger logo that Wrenn said is “reminiscent of Cape Cod and the whole underlying pirate mentality of skateboarding.” Boilard’s striking board designs include The Atomic Monster and The Mermaid vs. The Giant Squid.
Gangemi was able to get boards manufactured by last fall. With boards in hand, Wrenn, who studied graphic design and web development at UMass Amherst, set about doing his thing.
“Being able to build my own website, produce my own graphics, make my own videos, manage my own social media accounts and handle all my digital marketing made the project an easy lift – that’s what I’ve been doing my whole life,” he said.
“We started off with a run of 50. Then we did a run of a hundred and now we’re up to doing 200 at a time. The brand caught on, and now we have five different pro models and a team behind it all representing the brand.”
Wrenn said having a long history in the sport is paying off.
“In skateboarding, everything is grassroots and everything is real. You don’t get street cred in this industry unless you’re actually a skater. If I was just some soccer dad trying to start a skate company, it would’ve been a whole different ball game. But because I’ve been a skater for 40-plus years, I’ve skated with most of these people at least once or twice in their lives.
“You can be anywhere and you see someone skating, you can walk right up to that person and say ‘What’s up? I skate, too,’ and you instantly have a common bond because you share the same trials and tribulations that every skateboarder experiences.
“Every skater knows that the essence of skateboarding is getting back up. It’s all about perseverance. You fall, dust yourself off and get back at it. That’s life. I learned that from skateboarding.”
Cape Cod Skateboards, 216 Route 28, West Harwich, capecodskateboards.com 774-209-2918