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CONNECT succeeds in spawning innovation among San Diego’s sports businesses

At a recent CONNECT San Diego Sport Innovators (SDSI) gathering at the Challenged Athletes Foundation on Waples Street, panelists shared a common theme. Regardless of a company’s start date, size or product niche, each conferred that tapping into local scientific, research, media, marketing and finance communities is key to growth.

President and CEO of San Diego’s Security Business Bank, Paul Rodeno, who is a program sponsor and founding SDSI investor, hosted the luncheon featuring sports-related companies ElliptiGO, The People’s Movement and Sanuk. The businesses, at very different stages of development, are all customers of Security Business Bank, where San Diego banking specialists are well versed in providing solid business strategy and advice to growth-oriented organizations.

Rodeno applauds CONNECT and its accelerator groups for introducing entrepreneurs to regional experts, supporting the growth of local businesses seeking to do things differently, shake up the status quo and build better, safer and greener products.

Doing good
Kevin Flanagan, CEO of 1-year old socially conscious footwear business The People’s Movement, described his company’s pro environment ethos. According to Flanagan, their inaugural product—The People’s Shoe—inspired by a classic sneaker worn by migrant workers in Shanghai, reflects his founding team’s love of design, passion for surf and adventure and desire to do good.
With a pro environment ethos, The People’s Movement packages its stylish shoes in reusable totes that won’t clog the oceans. Upcycling plastic bags into totes, bicycling workers and a paperless office define the emerging company and create a sense of cool that helps to drive sales.

A better bike
An indefatigable desire to build a next-generation bicycle led panelist and endurance athlete Bryan Pate to launch local sports business ElliptiGO. In its sixth year and with about a dozen employees the company has sold more than 3,000 ElliptiGOs, an outdoor elliptical bicycle and low-impact cross training device.

To convert his vision into reality, Pate tapped into the talent of ElliptiGO co-founder Brent Teal, a mechanical engineer who could help build a prototype device.

Pate, a proponent of raising product awareness in authentic ways,
allows consumers to test ride the ElliptiGO through local retailers by signing up on the company’s web site. The ElliptiGO team has found that this type of experiential marketing is integral to sales success and persuading buyers that the product truly is a better/different approach to staying in shape.

Inventive marketing
Panelist Jeff Kelley, Southern California native and founder of 10-year old SANUK, has a successful, later stage business that was recently sold to shoe giant Deckers Outdoor Corp.

Sanuk’s new category of shoe is a testament to the level of innovation that defines many SDSI member companies. Sanuk, initially making sandals out of inner tubes, yoga mats and carpeting, has leveraged innovative materials and inventive marketing to expand into a global footwear operation. Kelley commended the power of the Internet and social media, which—in combination with the right specialists and backers—he links to
SANUK’s rapid growth.

Following the panel discussion which was moderated by Bill Walton, NBA legend and Executive Chairman of SDSI, Rodeno said, “I think the folks at CONNECT would agree that San Diego is the perfect place to kick off a group like SDSI. From surfers to skateboarders, we have a home-grown market of product testers for new brands and new technologies. And, we have a strong platform of veteran business leaders to help guide the growth of companies at varying stages of development.” Dennis is a senior consultant with OutSmart Marketing Solutions, Inc.

Dennis is a senior consultant with OutSmart Marketing Solutions, Inc.

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