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One of the best things about this website is all the unique people I get to meet who keep this industry rolling. One of those people is Chris Harrison. If you don’t know who that is he is the product designer for Federal Bikes. I got him some questions about Federal for you all to check out, I think you will find this pretty interesting! Check it out and let us know how you feel about it in the comments!
Federal has been involved in BMX for quite a few years now. When did the company get its start and is it still under the same owners as the originals when it started?
Federal is the house brand of Seventies Distribution which is owned by former Ride cover boy Stu Dawkins. Federal came about when Stu and the staff at the time saw the opportunity to embrace the emerging market for products manufactured outside of America. As a result Federal is one of the companies that helped pioneer manufacturing in Taiwan and continues to do so to this day. As with all companies people have come and gone, and things have changed, but Stu still remains the owner and he still rides occasionally contrary to popular belief.
Where are you guys based out of? Has the location changed at all over the years?
We’re currently based out of Seventies Distribution in St Leonards, both Seventies and Federal used to be based in the centre of Hastings but when a bigger premises was required they moved up the hill to St Leonards and have been there ever since.
Who are the people who keep running Federal from the owners to the other people nobody really knows about? From designers to guys getting the coffee.
Everyone at Seventies has an input with regards to Federal and we’re lucky to have such a great team behind it. The team is as follows:
Stu Dawkins: Owner
Stu and Chris
Myself [Chris Harrison]: Product Design and Manufacturing, general overseer and other random day to day things.
Bas: Team Manager and also general overseer.
Edd: Epic Film creator
Elwood: Graphic and web design
Everyone else who works at Seventies helps out as well with regards to sales, accounts and warranty etc. We’re one big happy family……..except for Roger who was born salty haha!
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Sadly we haven’t got as far as hiring a designated tea boy but everyone has to take their turn as the tea bitch!
What is a typical day like for you? Is there such thing as a typical day even?
My day isn’t really that typical, I currently work from home as I’m studying for my Masters degree at uni. So basically I wake up, answer emails and talk to our agent in Taiwan on Skype, then I’ll head into Uni for the day, taking the chance to answer emails as I go on my phone. Then in the evenings I’ll sit down to do some designing etc and answer any other emails I have left. It’s pretty intensive trying to balance it all but I love it!
It seems like Federal has made some huge changes in the last few years with the direction of the company. So what are the goals of the company as a whole, and where do you see it going as time goes on?
I guess our goals are to make products that we’re happy with and that people are into. We’re re-growing the brand again and as it hopefully gets stronger and stronger we’ll be able to diversify a bit more and we’ll have the funds to put more into product research and development. I’m conscious of the market already being saturated product wise and we try not to add to that where possible as I feel it’s not only detrimental to ourselves but also the industry. We’ve been really lucky with the team that has come together, from everyone at Federal to the pro and flow team riders. I hope we offer something that people want to buy into and be a part of, I mean obviously sales are important but I personally get more pride and enjoyment from doing something that people are in to.
I noticed there have been quite a few new products coming out for 2009. One of those things was two different versions of the frames, one being heat treated and one not. What can you tell us about that? Also, if you could go over some of the other new products you have coming out?
First up I just want to specify that the heat treating referred to here is post weld, our regular frames come with heat treated headtube, dropouts and BB as standard. Just to clear up any confusion.
Our heat treating options were actually introduced as a 3 tier option, with regular, front triangle and 100% heat treated. This was mainly done as I got annoyed that some companies were marketing front triangle only heat treated frames as 100% heat treated, this I personally don’t agree with as i feel it misleads the consumer. So we introduced the 3 tier system to show the differences and to see where the market would eventually lie as we enter this new territory. It’s become apparent that the middle tier is not viable so in future it will be either non heat treated or 100%. There’s still a long way to go with what the market will actually settle on, given the economy etc, but for now that’s where we stand.
Does Federal have any plans to branch out into other markets like a lot of the other companies? Any beach cruisers, fixed gears, or anything like that in the works?
No, none whatsoever. Imagine if IRO tried to enter BMX? It just wouldn’t work and would piss people off. It would also detract from what we are as a company. I know a lot of people involved in the London Fixie scene but I think it’s ultimately their industry to grow and not ours to rape and cash in on. I’ll add that there’s definitely room for a Taiwan fixie specific company though but we want to focus on BMX.
What is the soft goods, stickers, and small things you guys also make looking like? Is there any new designs or anything coming out you can tell us about?
Our first range of clothing dropped a few months ago and has gone done pretty well I think, we’re working on the new range now, which Elwood is in charge of. One of the t shirts features an angry letter that Hamilton’s Mom sent him one day when he’d just upped and fucked off to San Francisco, it’s pretty epic!
It seems like lately everyone has been making a team video. Do you guys have any new web videos or DVD’s in the works you can tell us about?
After a quiet year last year, with Brighton Ain’t Ready and Ride to Glory we’ve got some big things planned for this year that I sadly can’t go into too much detail about right now as they’re still being planned. We’ll most likely do a few trips and do some high quality edits along the lines of the Paris and Cologne video and then release them on a DVD later in the year with a bunch of other footage collected.
How about road trips with the team? Any big trips or a get together in the works?
Yes, America baby!
Speaking of the team who are you guys hooking up these days from pros to just people you hook up?
Jesus that’s a long list, here we go in no particular order:
Eric “Barney” Cuiper
Tyson Jones Perri
How do you guys go about picking new people to sponsor? What kind of advice do you have for kids out there looking to get on the team?
Umm Bas handles all the pro team stuff and we just discuss who we think fits with the brand and what we’re about, as they’re going to be paid its quite a big decision to make so it’s not taken lightly. With flow guys I usually just pay attention to the ComeUp etc and like to look for kids who are doing their own thing and making stuff happen for themselves. Everyone we sponsor are individually nice people in their own right too and that helps. I know it’s a cliché but if you’re looking to get sponsored just do your own thing and put yourself about, eventually someone will notice.
So somebody has an issue with one of your products. Who should they contact to work out a warranty issue? What kind of turn around time can people expect if they send in something?
Any warranty issues should be dealt with through the respective distributor of the country the product was purchased in, if you don’t know it then the shop you bought it from should be able to help you. If you have a particular gripe feel free to email firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com and I’ll try my best to sort it out. As far as turnaround goes its obviously dependant on the issue but we’ll try and get it sorted as quickly as possible.
If somebody has a general question about Federal who should they contact? How about if a shop or distributor would like to pick up Federal products who should they contact?
firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
Is there anything I might have missed that you would like to say?
Thanks Kurt for the opportunity do this, apologies its 5 months late haha. Thanks to everyone at Seventies/Federal and all the team riders involved, you’re the best, especially Stu who doesn’t get nearly half the credit he deserves for what he’s done for BMX as a whole. Thanks as well to anyone who’s ever helped me out with anything, you know who you are.