story by Josh Taylor Souza, with courtesy photos
Special to The City Wire
FAYETTEVILLE — Nick Jones might be the youngest business owner in Fayetteville, but even at the tender age of 25 the Lavish Longboards founder has already gained a wealth of experience.
Unlike many young business owners, Jones wasn’t born into big money, but at an early age he learned how to make his own. Raised by a blue-collar California family complete with two siblings, Jones showed a knack for entrepreneurship as early as age nine hustling Pokémon cards to his classmates.
“I guess you could say that was my first four-figure venture,” Jones joked of his Pokémon past. “After that it was typical neighborhood type stuff, but you could say I have always been taught that if you want something you have to work hard to make sure you get it.”
When Jones made the move from Fresno to Fayetteville during his freshman year of college he brought along two tools that would prove instrumental in shaping his future: A hard-working attitude and his homemade longboard.
Longboards are made for a variety of riding styles, but are most commonly used for cruising, or in Jones’ case, getting to class without having to take the transit.
Because longboards are uncommon in the area, it wasn’t unusual for Jones to be stopped on the bike-trail a handful of times a week for inquisition into the strange and sleek mode of transportation.
“I started riding longboards as a kid because I felt way safer on them than a standard board and it fit my style more. When I first got to Arkansas none of my friends had ever tried riding one and some had never heard of longboards,” Jones explained. “All of the attention on my board got me thinking of ways I could capitalize on the opportunity. But having the idea is just the beginning. Actually making it happen is an entirely different animal.”
After graduating from the University of Arkansas, Walton College of Business, Jones saw his vision come to life with the opening of Lavish Longboards in November 2010 — largely a bootstrap venture.
The pioneering days of the business were anything but a smooth ride for Jones, but he was able to push through the growing pains thanks to the advice of his mentor and former teacher Mark Zweig, founder of business consulting firm ZweigWhite.
Jones was issued a challenge from Zweig to work up his commitment in order to see his business become a success.
“I challenged him to work 12-hour days for a month straight and then tell me where he and the business were after that 30-day period,” said Zweig. “Nick responded with nothing but hard work and dedication. That is his best quality. He isn’t afraid to ask questions and there is no job too small for him to do.”
In just two years since shaping their first board, Lavish has already sold products in 38 states and nine different countries. Most importantly for Jones, he has been able to hire two part-time employees and recently add an intern.
Lavish Longboards come in a variety of styles, but the standard price is $175 for a complete board and $90 for a deck.
The boards can be purchased at The Mustache (Fayetteville), Boston Mountain Cycles (Rogers) and Boarder Town (Fort Smith). The company has plans to open a retail shop at the Matt Miller Studio in Fayetteville later this summer. Jones also sells the board online and via the company’s Facebook page.
“The biggest thing Nick has going for him and his business is his creativity and his initiative. I noticed in a short time of knowing him that (Jones) has the right stuff to make it in business,” said Jeff Amerine, Technology License Officer Faculty at the Walton College of Business. “He is scrappy and he is not afraid to take a risk.”
What sets Lavish apart from most skateboard manufacturers, is that the boards are made from reclaimed lumber, which Jones sources from local builders who provide the initial shaping. Jones is responsible for piecing the boards together and engineering the final product.
Jones plans to expand the brand further in the future but is happy with the way things are shaping up thus far.
“I love my job and not a lot of people can say that,” said Jones. “It is an empowering feeling to know that you ultimately only have yourself to answer to for the success or failure of your venture. And it feels great to see all of the effort and hard work paying off.”