Terry Kennedy realized his dreams of becoming an entrepreneur and getting out of the rough Compton, California environment where he grew up. The 25-year-old pro skateboarder has taken his craft from sponsorships with Baker Skateboards and Boost Mobile to a shoe line with Supra Footwear Co.; a Kr3w Denim Co. jeans line; and his own clothing label, Fly Society. He even has his own character in an EA Sports video game.
Kennedy talked with BlackEnterprise.com about how he’s making his mark on the multibillion-dollar skateboarding industry and how doing what he loves has led him to the best business decisions of his life:
BlackEnterprise.com: How did you get started in skating and ultimately starting your own businesses in the industry?
Terry Kennedy: As a teen, a friend who was a sponsored skateboarder at the time, taught me how to develop my skills. I’d see him after school and he’d be skating in the nice skate shoes and gear, and I’d ask him how he got it. He told me he got the gear through sponsorships. I wanted in.
He told me to just start skating and performing in the gear. I started connecting with other skaters and from there, I was addicted. I loved it. I put together my best tricks on a minute’s worth of footage and from there the company opportunities came.
What attracted you to the apparel industry?
Your clothes and how you put your look together is part of the skate culture. The people I looked up to in the skating industry taught me everything first-hand … I learned how sales take place, how to cut and sew items, how to screen print a shirt … Once I got sponsored, they showed me how everything was run. They’re so cool, they allowed me to have input and travel to see how the items are made. I learned all facets of the business.
What did you learn about finances and business branding once you saw success in the industry?
Pay your taxes first. The people I was blessed to be around taught me right away to pay my taxes. Then buy property. I ended up buying a loft at age 18 or 19. Then get a good accountant. Then start building companies–build a brand for yourself.
What advice would you give to young people looking to have success in this industry?
Become a fan of it. Learn it, study it. And allow yourself to grow from it. Network in the industry by going to skateboarding shows and competing. Get comfortable with your skating. Put together two minutes of video of your best stuff and present it to a company where you think it would fit. Do everything you can do on your own to gain exposure.