Mike Schneider: Founder of FlatFace Fingerboards

Episode 291

What do you do when you have an idea to make a product you love better? You create a company of course! Even if you are only 9 years old! Mike Schneider, Founder of FlatFace Fingerboards, wasn’t daunted back then by the task of making a category better. And he isn't today either as his company is one the largest in the world in fingerboard manufacturing! Mike has been called the Tony Hawk of Fingerboarding and is not only a professional fingerboarder, and Founder of FlatFace Fingerboards, but also the creator of "Fingerboard Heaven". So much inspiration here! You are going to love hearing about his incredible start-up story and the nuts and bolts around it. You don’t want to miss listening to this episode. Today on #TheKaraGoldinShow.

Resources from
this episode:


Kara Goldin 0:00
I am unwilling to give up that I will start over from scratch as many times as it takes to get where I want to be I want to be, you just want to make sure you will get knocked down. But just make sure you don’t get knocked down knocked out. So your only choice should be go focus on what you can control control control. Hi, everyone, and welcome to the Kara Goldin show. Join me each week for inspiring conversations with some of the world’s greatest leaders. We’ll talk with founders, entrepreneurs, CEOs, and really some of the most interesting people of our time. Can’t wait to get started. Let’s go. Let’s go. Hi, everyone. It’s Kara Goldin from the Kara Goldin show. And I’m so thrilled to have my next very, very cool guest here with me, we have Mike Schneider, who is the founder of Flatface Fingerboards. And as I was telling him, before we hit record my 17 year old son, I think I gained huge, huge cred when I told him that I was interviewing, like today to talk about his company. And he was quite impressed that I was interviewing you. So the question that I have for everybody out there is did you play with fingerboards when you were younger, so that is the big question of the hour. And I’m so thrilled to have Mike here. So he can talk to us a little bit more about the founding of his company, Flatface Fingerboards. He’s been called the Tony Hawk, a fingerboarding, and is truly the next level of fingerboarding. But he’s not only a professional finger boarder. He’s also the owner of a business that he started flat face fingerboards, which is just unbelievable. We were chatting a little bit about only has a few people working there. But I mean, what he’s been able to do, and growing that business and scaling that business is just really, really inspirational. By the way he started fingerboarding and really scaling skate parks at age nine. What else he’s now in his, if I have this right, late 20s. Is that correct? Awesome. And he spends his week practicing building and socializing with other finger borders, and what can only be described as fingerboard. Heaven. So I can’t wait to hear more about this very, very inspiring journey. Definitely a cult favorite product for so, so many. So welcome, Mike.

Mike Schneider 2:39
Yeah, thank you so much for having me.

Kara Goldin 2:41
Absolutely. So let’s start at the beginning. I’d love for you to share with our listeners a little bit more about your company and fingerboarding. I mean, you probably maybe not often, but maybe every once in a while run into people who don’t really know what finger boards are.

Mike Schneider 2:59
Yeah, so fingerboard is a miniature skateboard. It’s a scaled down skateboard. And basically, you use them with two fingers and do tricks on them using the same physics as skateboarding. And there’s a whole community of people who are into this hobby. And it’s a lot of fun. You can do it anywhere. Yeah, it just kind of goes along with skateboarding culture a little bit. But also you don’t even have to do real skateboarding. So it’s just, it’s a cool thing for everybody. I mean, there’s people of all ages that fingerboard from like, you know, eight years old to like, 80.

Kara Goldin 3:31
So you became a fingerboard? Or before starting your company? Do you remember your first experience of how did you decide where you’re a skateboarder? How did you decide to start? fingerboarding?

Mike Schneider 3:43
Yeah, so I had just started skateboarding, I was nine years old, or maybe I was eight, when I started. I was nine years old. When I saw fingerboarding. In my school, kids had tech tax, which are like a plastic, kind of like an intro level to fingerboarding like a basic toy version of it. And you can buy them in like, you know, Target, Walmart, whatever. So a lot of kids are playing with these in my school. And I just thought it was the coolest thing ever, because I had just started skateboarding. So it was just super fun to me. And so I started playing with those during class with everybody else. And then before you knew it, like I was making my own making the ones we had better and changing parts on them and trying to improve them and stuff like that. And it kind of all grew from there. It was just something I really enjoyed, and I wanted to do it the best that I could.

Kara Goldin 4:33
So it’s one thing to enjoy a sport like fingerboarding it’s another thing to actually go start a company. I mean, this is crazy. And I mean, so crazy awesome and inspiring. And I hope anyone who’s really found something that they really enjoy that is, you know, kind of curious about Mike’s journey might be inspired by it as well to go and create and Then go and start. But can you tell me a little bit more about that, obviously, you wanted to make things better. And that’s kind of how it started, but share a little bit more about kind of the early days of actually creating a company.

Mike Schneider 5:14
Yeah. So basically, I started making boards out of wood. So the ones we had were plastic, and I was making them just how a real skateboard is made. So it’s like layers of wood glued together, and then you mold it and shape it and drill it and all those things. So I would sell those to kids in my class for like, $3 $4, here and there. And then I was really interested in computers to like, from early age, so I made like a little website, and I just put like some, you know, pictures, descriptions, whatever about my fingerboards. And the next thing I knew, like, people were ordering them from all over the place. And I couldn’t even keep up with the demand for them. Because like, you know, I could make one or two or three in a day or whatever, but it’s like, you know, people really wanted them from all over. So yeah, my mom always reminds me that like, one day, when I was nine, I went up to her. And I was like, Mom, I’m starting a company. And she was like, okay, run along, have fun. And neither of us knew it would be anything like really serious. You know, I was just having fun doing what I was doing. And people just wanted to because I guess it was good. And yeah, and it grew a lot from there, obviously. But that’s how the whole thing started.

Kara Goldin 6:26
So this is 20 years ago. And at that point, and, and I mean, it’s wild. And so how were you getting the word out? About fingerboarding? I mean, I’m just thinking back at, you know, 20 years ago, I mean, what, what was the platform that you were using?

Mike Schneider 6:46
Yeah, so it was before any kind of social media and stuff for the most part, but there was forums online, like message boards. So that’s where the fingerboarding community was. So I was on there. And we’d always talk about all kinds of different things. So it was very easy for me to say like, Oh, check out my website, or check out this board I made and then people would message me or email me and say, like, hey, I want one that looks really cool. And so that’s, it’s all been word of mouth. And the cool thing is, even after everything’s evolved with the internet and stuff, nowadays, it’s still pretty much word of mouth, like very rarely paid for any kind of advertisement or anything like that. For the most part, it’s all natural, just like people telling each other about it. And I guess I got in at a good time. But yeah, the word of mouth kind of just worked. And now it’s like, when people start fingerboarding, they hear about me, without me having to like, put myself out there. Like I just do what I do, I make videos and stuff for fun. But it’s all just like, a natural progression of like, how people hear about it and stuff. You’ve been

Kara Goldin 7:49
called the Tony Hawk, a fingerboarding, you’ve created something really special out of a passion, what advice would you give to other entrepreneurs, given your experience? Like what do you know, now that you didn’t know, when you were first starting,

Mike Schneider 8:06
I would say just, if you have something that you can offer to others, that’s, you know, something of value, I guess, something better, something different, something unique, or just an improvement on something that’s out there already. I think that’s the best way to run a business, like something that you have a real reason for. Because you, you know, it’s your vision, it’s something that you think like, would be really great. And you kind of figure out how to bring it to the world. I think that’s like, the best way to make a company in anything. Because if you’re making a company just to like, make money, and you’re just like, oh, what kind of company can I make, you’re never gonna succeed, you’re gonna be in the wrong place, doing the wrong thing. But if you see like, alright, this is something that I like, or this is something that I see that needs improvement that I think I have what it takes to offer that. That’s kind of like the best advice I would give people like, kind of follow your passion. Follow your heart, really just whatever, like, whatever makes sense. And don’t focus on money. When you make a business, obviously, you have to make sure the money works. Like you don’t want to be losing money. You want to be making money when you do things. But that’s like such a minor part of it. If you really focus on what you’re actually doing, how you’re doing it and how it affects other people, you know, money will follow, you’ll be making tons of money and you won’t even have to think about making money because it will just be like, Okay, how can I you know, what’s next? What can I improve? What can I offer people and I think the best way to do it is just as natural as possible. Like, like don’t force anything.

Kara Goldin 9:37
Yeah, absolutely. And I think that that is what you’ve said and how you set it is so motivating. And I think I always ask guests, you know, what keeps them motivated, but I bet just the way that you’ve set up this community, right, where you’re solving problems for them, you’re really talking about your own kind of curiosity and a lot of The YouTube videos that I’ve seen and also some of the forums that I’ve seen, I mean, you’re just sort of throwing things out there and responding, I think a lot of it must really give you a lot of motivation, right to know that people are thinking about what you’ve created, right? I mean, that’s, that’s awesome.

Mike Schneider 10:18
Yeah, that’s crazy. I still can’t believe that. I mean, I do all this stuff every day, all day. And I still just randomly kind of take a step back. And I’m like, I can’t believe that I’m doing this and that all this is happening. Like, it’s unbelievable. But yeah, I mean, the motivation comes totally naturally, because I just love fingerboarding. And it’s really cool. Like, there’s endless things you can do, it never really gets boring or old or anything. So it’s the thing that I love. So I’m always kind of finding new ways to keep it interesting. And that in turn kind of keeps the company interesting. And, you know, we do events and stuff, too. So everybody’s, everybody’s always excited for all these different reasons. And it’s an endless world.

Kara Goldin 10:57
So you talk about you talk about events, but you also have an incredible place in Massachusetts, that you have set up where people can come. Correct. And I’d love to hear more about that.

Mike Schneider 11:11
Yeah, so originally, when I was like, you know, 910 1213, there was no fingerboarding events or community in person in the US, like, we would see videos from Germany, where they had these, like get togethers and contests and all kinds of stuff. And we’re like, wow, that would be really cool. If only we had something like that here. And so I think I was like, around 13 or so I made like the first fingerboard event. And it was not really event. But it was like, I invited some people from the forums from online, and they came to my parents house. So like, we set up all these tables in the driveway. And we made a video of it. And it was like, inspired by the events in Germany, where fingerboarding was already really big. And that kind of showed people like you can get together with other finger borders, you don’t just have to like stay in your own little bubble. And so the community started kind of growing because of like, I do these events. And each time it was twice as many people as the one before. And so eventually, like we had to rent out a place and bring everything there. And like we’d have these huge events where people were flying in all over the world. And we’d do you know, we’d have like three or 400 people at these events. And so fast forward to now basically, I bought my own buildings so that I can just put everything there and keep it and then open up every month and have an event every single month where people come in. And yeah, it’s it’s grown into like a huge thing. It’s a big tradition, like we do two big events every year where like everybody comes in. And then we do small events for free every month. And basically there’s like 30 Plus fingerboard parks, they’re like the size of your dining room table, probably each one. And they’re all They’re all really like a unique work of art. But they’re all like different types of skate parks and stuff. So people come here make friends fingerboard for the day COMMBUYS stuff. There’s a lot of filming that goes on. It’s a lot of fun. That’s fine.

Kara Goldin 13:12
Do you do events in other locations, too, are pretty, it’s just easier for you just to do it. And this location.

Mike Schneider 13:19
Yeah. So I pretty much just do these events at my own place here in Massachusetts. But I do travel a lot like to other people’s fingerboard events. I have a ton of friends that do events like around the country. So if you’re not able to get to Massachusetts, like there’s tons in California now, there’s ones in Texas, like there’s there’s really an event almost anywhere. If you look around and stuff

Kara Goldin 13:42
that’s wild, it seems like there’s just a ton of physics involved. And you know, fingerboarding it’s not. And I think it’s it’s interesting, because it’s not, I don’t know, maybe that’s not every sport, right? I think that it’s complicated. And the more I looked at it, it’s just it probably takes a lot of thought, do you find yourself thinking through a lot of different whether it’s tricks or different ideas constantly?

Mike Schneider 14:09
Yeah, I mean, it’s a lot like skateboarding, where like the technique and the physics all played together. Yeah, like it does take a lot of skill and talent. But it’s also like fairly easy to pick up. Like, when you start, some people learn it really fast. And they can kind of get the hang of it. And other people in my take them like a lot of trial and error. But it’s one of those things where it’s like muscle memory. So once you figure it out, it’s kind of exponential improvement, like what you can do. And then in terms of like, what I’m making and stuff, it all fits into that. So for example, the way that the board is designed is going to impact the way that it performs, which is going to change if it’s easier to do tricks or harder to do tricks and how it feels when you’re using it and stuff like that. So it’s really a whole world. It’s really just scaled down skateboarding. So everything that skateboarding tails, it has the same things going on in fingerboarding. Even though like, at a quick glance, it might just look like somebody’s just like, you know, messing around with a little toy with their hands. But then when you really look and see what they’re doing, it’s like, they’re controlling the exact way that it flips and where it goes and doing all the same trick. So skateboards so

Kara Goldin 15:20
well, that’s really what I was seeing, too, it’s much more complicated than maybe other sports that are out there. So I’d love to hear was, have there been any funny mistakes along the way that ended up to be huge successes that you’re like, Whoa, that that just blew my mind. I didn’t know that that was actually going to happen. But now it’s something that is just part of your company.

Mike Schneider 15:43
I mean, maybe the whole thing. Yeah. Because, you know, I was a little kid, and I’m like, Oh, I’m gonna make a company. And I always thought I was gonna be a doctor. Like, since I was little and up until I was about 17, I wanted to be a doctor. And then all of a sudden, I was like, I don’t want to be a doctor. And I’m making more than a doctor, like, I have to do this fingerboarding thing. And so yeah, I guess the whole thing was kind of like a funny, not really mistake, but I never in a million years would have dreamed that like, it would be anything close to my job, you know, and now it’s my full time job. So that’s a big one. And then probably smaller ones. Like, for example, my first wheeled prototypes came from, like, electronic components that my dad had for like engineering, there was like, these circular plastic pieces. And then that’s kind of what evolved into like, oh, we can machine these into fingerboard wheels. And then we can add bearings to them and stuff like that. So yeah, there’s all kinds of like, things that evolved from things that were not necessarily on the trajectory for it.

Kara Goldin 16:48
It seems like your parents really encouraged you to create Yeah, to where they constantly thinking about, you know, getting you to create more, I mean, to have parents that really encourage that I think is important.

Mike Schneider 17:03
Definitely, they’ve always been super supportive of me. At one point, I remember my parents asked me like, Oh, how’s your fingerboard thing going? And I was like, Oh, I closed the website. And they were like, You closed the website? What do you mean? And I was like, Yeah, I got too many orders. So I stopped taking orders. Like, I’m just trying to catch up on these for now. So I’m not taking any new orders. And, and they’re like, Are you crazy, that’s the best problem you can have. Like, we got to figure out a better solution than closing the website. And that’s when the idea came like that I could hire them. And basically, they could take care of everything that was slowing me down, like packaging and customer service, and mailing them out and sending people their tracking, and whatever, all those little things like, that was just extra time taken away from basically me making the boards. And so that was the first kind of like real push, because before that they were just supportive, as in like, yeah, go have fun, do it, you know, do whatever you want kind of thing. But from that point, it became kind of like we’re working together and really seeing like, how, how much we can get accomplished by, you know, having that additional assistance and support and stuff. Yeah, so now, both my parents worked for me, and, you know, we each have different roles in the company, and we kind of make everything work together. And it’s really, really awesome.

Kara Goldin 18:25
Oh, that’s great. So it’s now a family business that you’re all running. That is that’s absolutely incredible. What do you think is the hardest thing about running a business? You touched on this? I mean, you know, there’s a lot of things like customer service, I mean, it’s great that you focused on that and didn’t let that not be an issue, because I think that customer service and customer complaints can kill a company. So even if you have a great product, and you’re super cool, and all that kind of stuff, especially with social media today, I mean, it can really work can get out and spread very, very fast. So I think that’s important. But what else has been, you know, surprising for you or hard for you? Is there a hard story that you’ve had along the way that when you thought, Oh, my God, what am I doing here?

Mike Schneider 19:14
Um, there’s been a few challenges. I think, like, the most important thing is kind of just having like a overall big picture view of everything and not getting caught up on little things. Like if there’s a customer service complaint or something like that. It’s like, you kind of have to understand just how to handle things like you know, we always are super friendly with all kinds of stuff like that, even if we know that the person’s kind of like wrong, or something like even if it’s not our fault, we make sure that they’re they end up happy at the end. But like in the earlier days, it was really challenging. Like now, having a business is second nature to me. It’s like I don’t think about it because it’s just what I do. But you know, as I was learning to get to that point, there was certainly challenge is like there would be people that would make up things that weren’t true and then spread them on the internet. And, you know, you have to figure out, like, how do you handle something like that, where it feels like they’re, like, you know, threatening your life to work with a bunch of lies, like, there was like this guy who used to say, like that my boards were made in China. And it was me in my basement, making my boards by hand, so I was really offended, obviously, yeah, and I could easily prove that he was wrong. So ultimately, it wasn’t an issue at all. But at the time, it felt like this huge, dark cloud hanging over, like, Oh, my God, this guy’s gonna ruin me or whatever. And stuff like that. I mean, it was hard at the time. But looking back at it, I’m like, alright, you know, when I needed to, I defended myself when I didn’t need to, I was quiet, you know, it’s like, you don’t want to get wrapped up in that stuff. But you can like politely, you know, you can put out a nice video of you making your board and that says it all, you know, you don’t have to say like, Oh, this guy’s sucks. He’s saying this and that, you just, you know, the proof is in the pudding. And the product always speaks for itself and stuff like that. So any kind of challenges like that, like, I don’t know, if you want to call it like a PR challenge or something. But you just have to, like, almost ignore it, but prove them wrong with what you’re doing. And just stick it through. And anybody with a brain can see who’s right and who’s wrong

Kara Goldin 21:14
and weather the storm. And I think, you know, focus on what you can control. And I think that that’s, that’s a really, really important piece. So flat faced fingerboards is the biggest fingerboard company in America. But I’m sure you have competitors out there that the quality is not as good or, you know, do you worry about competition, or what’s sort of your philosophy around competition?

Mike Schneider 21:40
That’s cool. I’m glad you asked that, because I kind of developed a really unique position where I don’t really see anybody as competition. Usually, if somebody’s stuff is good enough, I will ask them if they want me to distribute their products on my website to me, because I kind of have like the biggest platform for it. So then it helps both of us. And I’ve been able to kind of help out a lot of smaller companies that wouldn’t really have made it on their own, or they’re kind of on the edge or whatever. And then it’s like, I can give them a huge boost. And it helps me and it helps them and it helps all the people like, for example, like you said before, like customer service and having a whole company versus being a one person show where it’s like just the person making boards, like maybe they don’t want to handle shipping them out to other people and dealing with complaints and this and that. So sometimes it’s almost more beneficial for them just to work with me, and then, you know, sell their boards on my website. And then I’ve been able to help like the American finger borders, in general have access to stuff from like Germany in different countries where shipping would be very difficult and expensive and take a long time and stuff. So I can just get a whole bunch of stuff from Black River from Germany and then distributed here. And then it’s like, it takes everything to a whole new level. Because now everybody has access to all this stuff from all over the world.

Kara Goldin 23:00
Now, it’s very, very cool. You have such a great story and such a great attitude, and just so many lessons and so much inspiration for sure. So it was a pleasure talking to you, Mike, and thank you for everything that you said. And we’ll have it in the show notes as well. But share with everybody where they can not only get the best fingerboard available, but also just overall connect with you too.

Mike Schneider 23:30
So on YouTube, if you type in Mike Snyder, you’ll find all my videos, you can watch fingerboarding and action and see what all the phone is about. And then you can go to my website, flat face fingerboards.com I’ve got Instagram, Mike Snyder 161. And that’s about it. The website and the YouTube is a big thing.

Kara Goldin 23:48
I could sit there for hours last night I was looking at these videos, and it’s they’re really, really good. Thank you so much, Mike. I really, really appreciate it. Thanks all for listening to this episode. We hope you enjoyed it. And I want to thank all of our guests and our sponsors. And finally our listeners keep the great comments coming in. And one final plug if you have not read or listened to my book undaunted, please do so you will hear all about my journey, including founding, scaling and building the company that I founded hint we are here every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Thanks everyone for listening and goodbye for now. Before we sign off, I want to talk to you about fear. People like to talk about fearless leaders. But achieving big goals isn’t about fearlessness. Successful leaders recognize their fears and decide to deal with them head on in order to move forward. This is where my new book undaunted comes in. This book is designed for anyone who wants to succeed in the face of fear, overcome doubts and live a little undaunted. Order your copy today at undaunted, the book.com and learn how to look Your doubts and doubters in the eye and achieve your dreams. For a limited time, you’ll also receive a free case of Pentwater. Do you have a question for me or want to nominate an innovator to spotlight? Send me a tweet at Kara Goldin and let me know. And if you liked what you heard, please leave me a review on Apple podcasts. You can also follow along with me on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn at Kara Goldin. Thanks for listening