Despite not even being old enough to rent a car in California at the time he started his business a few years ago, Chris Clark has done something in late 2011 and early 2012 many California business owners would love to boast: He added enough employees to triple his staff.
At just 27, Clark is chief executive officer at Shaper Studios, a retail surfboard manufacturing company under the umbrella of the Surfing Is My Religion label, founded by Clark in 2007. In addition to Shaper Studios, the SIMR label covers a self-titled brand as well as a digital online publication, Surfboard Magazine. Already a graduate of San Diego State University — he earned his bachelor’s degree in marketing there — Clark is enrolled in the Sports M.B.A. program at SDSU, holding the distinction of being the only member of the current class to enter the program having already owned his own company.
The doors at Shaper Studios opened in May 2011. With the opening at its 2,500-square-foot location in Mission Valley, it became California's first do-it-yourself surfboard workshop, where customers can learn to hand-shape and design boards for $30 and — once versed in the art — can drop by to shape their own custom boards for an hourly rental fee of the studio’s work bays and tools.
In October 2011, Shaper Studios was accepted into the San Diego Sports Innovators Springboard Program, a mentoring program that provides guidance to innovative businesses in their early stages through the nonprofit Connect San Diego. In a recent interview with SDSU Sports M.B.A. program student and blogger Ryan Kaltenbach, Clark talked about the acceptance and how he’s been working with Sun Diego Boardshops President Dave Nash to help him understand the retail environment more.
“I have a feeling there’s a heap of learning on the horizon,” Clark told Kaltenbach.
Time spent learning is paying dividends, as Clark expects to scale-up the facilities at Shaper Studios in the second quarter of 2012. The Shaper Studios brand is now partnered with several other organizations in the sports and surf industry, including The People’s Movement, vitaminwater, Matuse, surfboard fin technology company FCS and Marko Foam. Turning some of his revenue back into the community, Clark is also known for his donations and time-giving to organizations like 1% for the Planet, the Surfrider Foundation, the Keep-A-Breast Foundation, the Movember Foundation, SIMA Humanitarian Fund, Stand Up For Kids and First Book.