Ryan is one of those guys who can shred like a pro, party like a pro and run a brand like a pro. Let’s face it, this is BMX, that’s not really something too many people could handle. At least not to this scale. I don’t remember the first time I saw something about Ryan, but I do remember wanting a Freebird frame and a Trans AM when I was like 14 because both were badass. Since then, I’ve had the chance to get to know Ryan from his interview I did with him way back in 2007 to the times we got to party when we crossed paths at events and what not. Needless to say, he’s a real rad dude on and off the bike. I figured it would be a good time to talk to the business side of Ryan. Let’s take a look into the Subrosa ring leader’s career path…
Name: Ryan Woodstock Sher
Location: Orlando, Florida the month is May and the year is 2011.
Years riding: ∞
Years working for Subrosa: Since I closed the doors at F-Town, but officially a brand from 2006.
Let’s start out from the beginning. When did your pro career start? What was the deciding factor that you were now riding as a “pro”?
Well, I pretty much determined it, hahaha! I was riding for Kink Bikes at the time. I was on the flow team, but I got a photo in Ride BMX Magazine, and Zach gave me photo contingency. I was working a bike shop, and when I got the check I went in and quit. I think I said something like “I made it, I’m out of here!” I then had to live off that small photo check for months and months. I wasn’t actually a paid pro, but I didn’t have a job either. I think that was around 2001 sometime.
Did you ever work in the industry doing any other jobs other than riding prior to the Subrosa gig?
I guess I did sort of indirectly. I worked at a bike shop in Arizona for years. I did everything from repairs to sales, and even managed the shop at the end of that. I also designed my Kink Signature Frame with Jim C, and helped out with a ton of Shadow Conspiracy parts and soft goods through the years.
When did you initially come up with the idea of starting Subrosa? How long did it take for you to go from idea to making it official?
At the time I was riding for Kink. The Shadow Conspiracy took a trip from England to France and Ronnie came a long on that one. We had talked about a few other ideas for companies to start together but none of them seemed right. When we discussed doing a bike brand with completes and frames it was like “Why the fuck didn’t we think about this sooner!” On the trip we started talking about the reality of starting a brand, and like I said, I rode for Kink at the time. I didn’t want to burn any bridges with Zack or anyone over there, so I knew before we went further with Subrosa I’d have to leave Kink. I didn’t want to design bikes or bike parts for Subrosa while I was getting paid to ride for Kink. Upon arrival to the U.S. From the trip, I changed my flights home so I could talk to Zach in person, I didn’t want to leave the team over the phone. It was rough, but super positive. That was the Spring of 2006 and at Interbike that year, we launched the brand and announced the team.
Since then, it has been steadily growing and expanding. Did you ever expect things to go the direction that it is today?
Is it weird to say I did? I mean I knew what I wanted to do with the brand, and teaming up with Ronnie and everything he knows about the industry it seemed to me that it would grow as it has. Now it’s time to keep growing, and building on the foundation of quality bikes and components and huge fan base we have.
Your official title is “brand manager”, right? What exactly does that mean? Is it like “Owner / I run this bitch/team rider/ tire burn out champion”?
Well it’s a little sliver of all that I suppose, besides burn out champion, I’m the sole owner of that title, I basically decide what products get made, what it looks like, who rides for us, how Subrosa looks and feels, and I make fun of Chadwick. I have a lot of really smart, really hard workers behind the scenes that really make Subrosa work though. Nothing I want to make would get designed without Byron Anderson and G.L., it wouldn’t get made without Mr B. cutting checks, it wouldn’t get sold without Jared, Brien and Super Dave, and it wouldn’t get shipped without Billy and Josh to ship it to shops. I wouldn’t have a website and many other things without Chip Riggs, and Subrosa wouldn’t be exist without Ronnie and the riders and shops that support us, so a huge thank you from me to everyone involved.
Care to take us through your “average” day? I know Ronnie B is in the office at like 5:30 in the morning. Are you on that level of hustle? What are some of your general roles that you have to handle during the work week?
I’m no where near Ronnie’s hustle! In fact I’m not sure of too many people that are. I cruise into the office around 9 to 9:30 or so. I start the day off with coffee, emails, website updates, and then tame the Facebook monster. After that is when the fun starts. It can be anything from layin’ out a new print or web ad, to designing a shirt for our Platinum Dealers. Pre-book catalogs to dealer lookbooks, to grabbing new stuff for the team riders. Subrosa has 20 plus riders around the world now.
I can’t imagine you had much time to go to college for business or marketing with starting your pro career so early? How did you learn the ropes? Was it piecing things together over the years with Kink and the other brands you rode with?
Pretty much. Between Zack at Kink and Ronnie at The Shadow Conspiracy you couldn’t ask for better teachers. In the early days in the life of The Shadow Conspiracy I helped out with some softgoods. I had a little project going called F-Town and I showed Ronnie some of my ideas. I think that caught Ronnie’s eye first. Since then we realized we work really well together.
Do you think college is important for getting a job in the industry? What kind of qualities do you feel it takes to pay some bills from BMX?
I think college is really important for people who can use it to learn. I knew that the way I learn best is not by reading a book and taking a test. I felt like college for someone like myself would’ve been a huge waste of time and money. For a lot of people though, college is very important. Different vocational schools have tons of courses that riders wanting to get into BMX business can benefit from.
You have say in every part of the brand from the products, to the team, marketing, branding, budgeting, etc. How do you manage all of those different parts of the job? Who are the people who help you accomplish all the different aspects of running a brand?
Well it seems I jumped ahead and answered this one all ready, but everyone at Sparky’s Distribution lends a hand at some point in Subrosa. Ronnie, Mr B., Courtney, Jill, Ashley, Mike, Brien J-Rod, Super Dave, Mark, G.L. J- Rich, Chip, Billy, and Josh. Basically everyone there except Chadwick. Subrosa would be anything without all these people, the team, shops, and the riders that support us. BLOOD IN BLOOD OUT.
I know you have a pretty artistic side. It shows in your tattoos. How much influence do you have on the branding, graphics, advertising and general art side of things?
I have a lot of say in all that stuff. Usually the process is that I’ll come up with an idea for an ad, graphic or product, and I’ll meet with Ronnie about it. We go back and forth and I’ll use his input and ideas to come up with the final piece. Like I’ve said Ronnie and I have an awesome work relationship. We never get mad or bummed out when the other doesn’t like an idea or something, we both just go of each others ideas, and input to make some bad ass stuff.
If you had to pick, what would you say is your favorite thing to do when it comes to running the brand?
That’s a tough one. At different times I love all of it. I mean coming up with concepts for bikes, parts, softgoods, is high up there. It’s so badass when the samples of whatever you design come in and you see your idea and you can touch it, and put it on a bike. OK, that’s my favorite, when a new item you designed comes in. Team trips aren’t bad either.
The complete line for 2012 is looking amazing. How much time do you put into getting those bikes designed? Are there things you learned when you started doing completes that you had no idea about?
Hell yeah thanks Kurt! Literally after the complete bikes are shoot and prebooked, we begin working on the following years. You know, basic stuff like color and graphic ideas. Then we use feed back from the distributors, shops, riders and team to make improvements for the next line. It takes quite a while, there are a lot of pieces to a complete bike.
I’d imagine you make your way overseas quite a bit to check on production. What are the best and worst parts about making that trip? How often do you go?
Well Taiwan is usually G.L.’s department. I of course went over there last time to learn more about what was possible with our factories, and meet all the people involved and I ended up rolling a van down the freeway. I haven’t been back since, but I’ll be going over again for the next Taiwan Bike Show.
Have you considered starting another brand? Could you ever see yourself doing something like that?
In theory I’d love too, but at the moment there isn’t enough days in the week. Right now I just want to focus solely on Subrosa. I do like inventing different kinds of food though. Maybe I’ll open a restaurant.
You still some how manage to ride as a pro for Subrosa and Shadow Conspiracy. Do you feel like working in the industry has slowed you down at all? Do you ever get burned out on riding after talking about bikes all day, every day?
To be honest I do sometimes. Working as much as I do does cut drastically into my ride time, not to mention I moved from the land of cement parks (Portland, Or) to the land of one, that you have to pay for. We’re woking on an idea to help ride more, possibly indoors, so we’ll see how that goes.
How’s your part for Get Used To It coming? Can we expect a full part out of you?
Filming is going full speed ahead. We’ll see what I can get together by the deadline! I’ve got some moves planned.
Speaking of that, how do you stay on top of everything when you are on the road? It seems like missing a day sets me back two or so days. Does the same apply to you?
Being on the road is a huge part of my job. Coming back into the office after a trip is pretty close to hell. That’s one of the biggest reasons why I moved here. When I’m in house things go smooth, and get done quickly. Sometimes it’s really hard to explain ideas over the phone, texts, or emails. So yeah when I get back in the office, it’s a lot of catch up, but I like being in the office, so that helps too.
What are the perks of working in the industry?
Well let’s see, free travel, get to ride for work, free bike stuff, free clothes, tons of friends! It’s amazing. The list goes on and on.
What are the downsides to working in the industry?
There’s not too many. Learning weird industry rumors and secrets is weird. The few rare times I’ve had to be “A Boss” sucked. It’s mostly all gravy.
What do you think you would be up to if the BMX life didn’t work out?
I’d be the best strip club D.J. ever. I’d be D.J. Dump’m Out.
What kind of advice do you have for people out there looking to get into the industry side of BMX?
If you want to help BMX grow, and do positive things for it, join the party. If you want to cash in then fuck right off.
Is there anything I missed that you would like to say?
Hoang Tran, Miles Rogoish, Mark Mulville, Kyle Hart, Scott Ditchburn, Lahsaan Kobza, Greg Smee, And Seamus McKeon our some of the best dudes out there. Thanks to them and The Skeleton Crew Worldwide! Get Used To It.