Matt Coplon is one of my favorite dudes that I’ve had the chance to work with on projects over the last few years. He’s always psyched and in a positive, motivated mood and helpful beyond belief. When I was thinking of the industry series, he was one of the first names that came to mind for hardest working people in BMX. Matt is an all around champ for Profile and Madera, handles all of the U.S distribution and team for Country Bikes and even finds time to work with The Skatepark of Tampa on all sorts of projects. Talk about hustle. This interview gives you some insight into his job and how he manages all of these things without losing his mind. Take a peek and then leave some love in the comments…
Name: Joseph Matthew Coplon
Location: Tampa, Florida (TBR)
Years riding: Since November 25th 1989. As of today, that would be 7,443 days and 8-1/2 hours.
Years at Profile Racing?
This year will be my decade of decadence.
Let’s start this from the beginning. When you originally started at Profile, was your job title “team manger” or was it something that sort of naturally happened as time went on?
I started here September 1st, 2001. I handled the building, packing, and shipping of orders. There were days when I would build hubs all day. Other days I would assemble cranks for 8 hours. On the most dreaded, I would build complete American bottom brackets for hours on end—the oil smell that remained on my hands through the night would make me feel sick. But, overall, it was better than managing a skate park where those in charge were unappreciative of a staff that busted their asses.
In 2002, Jeff Harrington left and headed up to FBM. A couple days later I was handed a managerial position handling all in-house sales and the team. Honestly, I really didn’t know what I was doing. To this day (ten years later) I’m still learning the rings. It’s been a painful, yet extremely fun and eye opening experience.
Photo: Scott Ehlert
So your “official” title today is team manager/do anything and everything?
It seems everyone at Profile is somewhat of a Renaissance Man. I handle the Profile and Country Bmx freestyle teams, handle Madera with Mike Hinkens, oversee all in-house sales, direct the marketing for Bmx freestyle, and type away at emails for about 3 hours a day. Oh yea, and drink a lot of coffee!
Prior to Profile did you work in the industry at all?
I did. I worked at Central Skatepark for 4 years—managing the pro shop for the last two. My last year there overlapped my first year at Profile. It’s funny looking back at those years (1998 to 2002) and the wild times we had with those I worked with: Mark Mulville, Vic Bettencourt (Circuit Bmx), Chunk (FBM), Pat Geraghty, Nate Smith, and my wife (Ariel Gunn). That place was controlled Chaos.
What’s the story behind Madera? I’ve heard multiple people say it’s “your baby”. How much say in the start of that brand? I know you recently passed your team manager title over to Mike Hinkens, so what are your roles with Madera?
We wanted to do a new brand that offered the same quality as Profile but was less expensive to produce. We did so by making Madera less ornamental and with less upgrade options. Less time in the machines with configurations based solely around aluminum and chromeoly (no titanium upgrades) avails a less expensive product. That is Madera in a nut shell. All Madera components are made here, in our shop, in the beautiful state of Florida.
The idea of it being my “baby” is a running joke. I named the company and spearheaded sales and sponsorship. And yea, I am still protective over it. But, Hinkens has been in the family for a long time, he’s uber-professional, and has always been somewhat of my right hand man. His position as TM was only a matter of time. Now, he and I work together on most everything. Mike is specifically handling the team (trips, videos, etc…) and website where as I am handling sales and overall promotions.
You have been pretty involved with Country bikes as well lately. How did you get introduced to Torsten? What are your roles with the brand? You ride for them, and handle their U.S distribution, right?
I met Torsten in 1999 in Atlanta, Georgia. After both of us converged on a contest up there, he and two German friends came back to Florida and stayed for a couple weeks. We rode every day together (I watched Torsten do the best truck-drivers) and became pretty tight. You got to love that dude—he reminds me of black bear (One that wouldn’t eat a human of course).
Country Bikes started soon after: 2001. It went strong until 2003 when Torsten decided to start a distributor handling Profile and Macneil exclusively in Germany. Country Bikes was put on the back burner but by 2008, enough revenue was raised by the distributor to re-start Country’s production. Now, starting Fall of 2010, we (Profile distribution) have begun to distribute Country here in the states. I’ve felt honored to ride for Country over the last couple years, stand behind their product and ethics, and am doing my best to spread the word here in the states through starting our domestic team and handling sales.
Photo: Scott Ehlert
And finally, you have been taking on more with the Skatepark of Tampa. How did you get involved with the park, and what do you do with them? Is it something you have to keep up with, or is more of an event-based job?
I started going to the Skatepark of Tampa right when they opened in 1993. It’s been my home away from home for years where both Ryan Clements and Brian Schaefer have always been really supportive of whatever is going on in the local bmx scene.
Last year, I asked if I could help a bit more: solidify and freshen up the bmx team (we added Tom Villarreal, Josh Shaw, and Conall Keenan), put together edits representing our scene within the park, and help to organize a couple events each year. Over the past two years we’ve had two successful bmx jams that fell in October. The next event is April 9th: “The Salad Bowl Jam.” Above SPoT being one of the most well known parks in the US, its support (especially with the organizing of Tampa AM and Tampa Pro) allows for the street course to be changed every November. It’s like getting a new park every year. It’s an honor and a real treat to be a part of things there.
All right, so that’s 4 solid jobs that you have wrapped into one. How do you handle balancing all of these different roles out and still manage to have some sort of social life?
Social life? What social life? No, honestly, my social life is very bmx based. It’s what I love to do. It’s more about finding time and motivation to ride. I can’t and don’t want to stop. If I’m not riding, I’ll have a cup of coffee, read a book, and post a blog entry into my semi-literary blog (www.mattcoplon.blogspot.com): that is, I guess, my alternative social life.
I want to thank My wife Ariel for understanding my bmx crutch—I do somehow fit a lot of riding in. And thank those who motivate me daily outside my positions of responsibility: Matt Arnold, Alan Shirley, Jeff Harrington, Forrest Roberts, Phil Bailey, and Scott Ehlert. Those dudes keep me on my bike.
Care to take us through a “typical” day for you? At least something close to what you try and run your day through?
6:10am: Eat a bowl of cereal and feed my cat. Kiss Ariel on the cheek, get in my car and turn on some “Mission UK.” Drive an hour.
From 7:30am to 10am I’m catching up on emails and doing news/facebook updates for the sites.
From 10:15am to 4pm I’m building orders, taking sales calls, chatting with the team, and dropping in and out of Charlie’s office to discuss adverts, promotional projects, and to relay day to day shit talking. Charlie is a pretty fun dude to work with.
At 4pm I’m back in my car and usually on the phone with our riders.
At 5pm I’m on my steed pedaling into the sunset.
Photo: Scott Ehlert
I’m sure a lot of people think that being a TM is a pretty chill job where all you do is keep tabs on the team, make sure their bikes are dialed so they can keep doing what they do. What kind of work is involved with that? I’d imagine you have to work with budgets and produce all sorts of reports and what not, right?
Yes, it’s definitely a lot more complicated than it seems. Tying into our budget is team expenses (travel, photo contingency, video production), product distribution to the team (and the many riders we flow product to), advertising (websites and print advertisements), web management, web design, etc…I’m missing a lot here in this list. It’s pretty involved where every year I have to take a Saturday and crunch numbers (at my house: nice and quiet). It’s a giant head ache sometimes but once the pace is set for the year its semi-smooth sailing.
My consistent quagmire has been learning to balance my relationship with our riders: between friendship and business. This is another subject I could go into detail about but I’ll spare you…the bottom line is that sometimes trying to keep your friends (which is pretty much all of Profile/Madera) completely content within the companies’ means can be difficult. I do my best.
I know I have had the chance to get in on one of your commute phone calls in the past. Don’t you use your long commute to make calls and keep up with the team and everything? So really, your day doesn’t end until you are out of your car?
That’s really funny that you ask. I get a lot of calls between 2 and 4pm at work: that’s prime time for handling sales as we have to build, pack and ship orders. Considering most bmxers wake up late and a heavy amount of shops are out west, the phone is always ringing that time of day. So, if you call and I ask to call you back, don’t take it personal. Sometimes it’s hard to find a minute to spare.
So my commute (an hour to work and an hour back) works best for catching up. My day starts at 7:30 and ends when I pull my bike off the rack at 5pm.
You also have the opportunity to travel with the team quite a bit. You have had the chance to travel all over, go on Road Fools and Megatour, right? Do you have anything in the works with the teams that you can tell us about right now?
Yea man, it has been an honor to travel heavily with both Profile and Madera. We’ve been on MT twice and this past August was RF with Madera. It’s a lot of work (logistics, injuries, timing), but being able to ride in different cities with your bros makes all the hassles worth it.
Considering Hinkens is the full time TM for Madera now, I’m solely doing trips with Profile. We have a trip starting May 1st. We’re going into the Everglades with Rob Dolecki to shoot photos inspired by Clyde Butcher (ClydeButcher.com). In late September, we’re flying out to meet up with Mike Meister in Denver for a Colorado trip based around ghost towns. It seems like I’m always trying to base trips around a theme. That’s always a task considering road trips are hard just trying to fit some bmx in: everyone’s schedules seem to be completely different on a day to day basis.
Photo: Mike Kuhn
You also have to travel for things like Interbike. How do you feel about tradeshows? I’d imagine they get a little painful after the first few hours, right? Haha
Actually, I love trade shows, especially interbike. For some reason (it might be due to the influx of people through our booth) time flies every year in Vegas. It’s like “bam,” 9am and I’m chatting with some dudes from South Africa, noon rolls around and Mulville and I have some lunch, 3pm and I’m talking to some guy from a remote mountain town in Colorado, 6pm and my jaw hurts from yacking all day so I go back to the motel and fall asleep to some show on Area 51 (that same show seems to be on every year). Repeat for two more days. I love it: meeting new people, sharing stories, and talking about bikes. It’s every bmxer’s dream. Bring em. I’ll take a couple more a year if I had the chance.
What are the best parts of your job?
When someone emails/calls us to let us know that they appreciate what we’re doing. I’m thankful to work for a company that prides itself on craftsmanship–so when someone sends a note of appreciation, satisfaction, or a “thanks for the help,” it makes the day go by a lot easier.
Are there any downsides to your jobs?
Like with any job, there are plenty. The main issue is disagreement. A lot of us here at the shop constantly butt heads.
So, you still find plenty of time to ride? I feel like after a day in your shoes, the energy level would be dropping pretty quick.
I do. I’m fitting in about four days a week now since my wife moved in. Before that it was six, sometimes seven. Being put on a tighter schedule has only motivated me more. The days I do ride I tend to try new things or am more likely to sit in a parking lot and try something for hours on end.
It also goes back to my friends. I do have a pretty sweet core group of dudes to ride with.
Energy level? It’s funny because the more active I am the more I can handle. If I’m lazy, I’m done. Throw in a nap and I’m throwing in the towel. I’ve got to stay on my feet.
Did you ever go to college at all? Do you feel college is important and the only way to get a real job?
I did. I graduated in 2000 with a degree in Literature. I was planning on going to grad school full time but I got a job at Profile in 01. Over the past ten years I’ve been in and out of different grad programs, taking a class at a time. I think I have 6 classes under my belt but just can’t find the time to commit. A sweet road trip will pop up and I’ll have to bail on two weeks worth of classes. At that point, you can’t catch up. Maybe some day I’ll go back as I do love school. Right now I’m having a ton of fun being a 34 year old bmxer and reading/writing a ton on my own.
Do I feel college is important? For some, yes. But I think the question is do I feel education is important? Absolutely, whether it be through school, a trade, or just through personal experiences. Educating yourself (ah-la becoming aware of what’s going on in your neighborhood, this country, the world in general) will help to make you a better, more caring person. With the way things are and especially the way things are going, fighting selfishness and the destruction caused by selfishness is what we need to focus on. As animals (and as part of the animal kingdom) we have this innate sense of survival of the fittest. But as humans, we’ve evolved to fight this by taking care and relying on each other. I’ll spare you my hippy philosophy. In Cro-Magnon terms; Greed and selfishness–Bad, care and love, good.
Photo: Mike Kuhn
What kind of advice do you have for the people out there who think working in the industry would be right for them?
I was about to write a damn essay on this but I’ll spare your eyes and brain. If the opportunity arises, take it. But prepare to jeopardize your feelings of love towards a favorite past time/art/means of tension release. It’s great, don’t get me wrong, but it’s not a cake walk. I think it would be better in a world where those riding and buying bikes (and the Industry as a whole) were much more populated. Maybe the extinction of Fossil Fuels and the Despots we’ve put in power to secure those Fossil Fuels will force us to put foot to pedal? At that point, everyone will need (and more than likely love) their bikes.
Some how, you also find time to play in a band. How has that been going? Do you guys have any new music or shows coming up for people to check out ?
We’re on temporary hiatus right now until this summer: we have a couple shows planned in June. One of those shows is called “Tropical Heat Wave” put on by our amazing public radio station. It’s kind of like a much smaller, one day version of SXSW in Austin. Funny thing is you’ll find a lot of adult alternative bands playing…the there’s LYOF: our loud, obnoxious metal band.
Other than that we’re just trying to find time to practice: our drummer is a full time nurse, the guitarist manages a restaurant and works on hot rods as a side job, and our bass player works at a salon in NYC and can only make it down once every couple months. When we do practice/play, it’s always a good time though.
Here’s a video of us covering “Burning Fight” by Inside Out (with our friend Melissa on guest vocals).
Is there anything I missed that you would like to add?
I would like to thank all my friends for keeping me motivated to ride, used book stores for offering a cheap, more environmentally friendly option for reading print, everyone at Profile/Madera for giving me a good reason to wake up at 6am every morning, Torsten and Patrick at Country, Ryan and Brian at SPoT, Jon Wells at Sun rims, Chad at Deco, and my lovely wife Ariel for putting up with my crap. Thank you, Kurt, for the interview.