20-inch BMX industry veteran and Albion associate editor Steve Bancroft has set up Elephant Distribution – founded with Volume, Demolition and S-One helmets on board.
Set up alongside business partner Russell Lowe, Bancroft has moved quickly to emphasise that the distribution business is a separate entity to the magazine. He said: “Elephant Distribution is a completely separate venture to The Albion. Obviously, it goes without saying that there will be no editorial bias towards Elephant brands and I will be paying for any adverts I run in the mag, it couldn’t work any other way. It’s going to be hard work giving full commitment to both ventures, but after working on magazines for so long I’m used to be bit of stress and I’ve never been one to shy away from a bit of hard graft.”
With stock of Brian Castillo’s Volume and Demolition labels landing as soon as September, Bancroft has already laid out plans for a UK shop tour, happening later in August.
“These days the majority of BMX product is very similar, this isn’t a bad thing as nearly all of it rides well and is durable and affordable, but it does mean that marketing is very much key,” said Bancroft.
“The BMX industry has come down to an ideas game, and we’ve got lots of them. To relaunch the brand over here and kick off some relationships with a few dealers we have a Volume and Demolition shop tour happening in late August. We’re bringing over Stevie Churchill, Mike ‘Hucker’ Clark, Broc Raiford, Chris Doyle and Mike Mastroni and we’ll be putting out a bunch of content from that.”
Of the product, Bancroft concludes: “In the USA, Volume and Demolition are two of the biggest brands in the industry, they are up there on the same plain as Fit and Odyssey – the product is top notch, they have arguably the best team in BMX and they are known for consistently putting out some of the highest quality consumable BMX media in the game. Brian was keen for that brand perception to be mirrored in the UK.”
Elephant are contactable on 01425 629039, or steve@ elephantdistribution.com
The above story runs in the August print magazine. BikeBiz conducted a full interview with Bancroft on his new venture, which you can read below:
1.You're starting a distribution company – what's it called and how can the trade get in touch?
It's called Elephant Distribution, and you can get us on 01425 629039, or email@example.com. After leaving Ride UK, when we were thinking up names for our new magazine, I pressed pretty hard for it to be called 'Elephant', the others weren't into it as much and we ended up going with the name of the pub we all used to meet in, The Albion. Ever since then the name has been kicking around in my head and I've been waiting for an opportunity to use it, I love elephants, my nan loves elephants, everyone loves elephants, they're just so massive and awesome, they remind me of how weird and amazing the world is. Plus, with a name like Elephant, the options for graphics are endless.
2.What brands will you carry in the short term and what's your ambition for the first year's business?
We are now the sole UK distributors of Volume and Demolition, and we will also be distributing S-One helmets to UK bike shops. I grew up watching Castillo ride in the mid nineties, he was one of the most stylish and innovative riders of that era and had a massive influence on not just my riding, but BMX riding as a whole. Last summer, whilst I was over in California interviewing him for The Albion, we got talking – after all it was an interview – and I learned that he wasn't happy with how is brands were being promoted in the UK.
In the USA Volume and Demolition are two of the biggest brands in the industry, they are up there on the same plain as your Fits and Odysseys – the product is top notch, they have arguably the best team in BMX and they are renown for consistently putting out some of the highest quality consumable BMX media in the game, and Brian was keen for that brand perception to be mirrored in the UK. He voiced his concerns and tried to work with their previous UK distro to align the brand's image over here with what they worked so hard to build up over there, but unfortunately they just weren't singing from the same hymn sheet.
I kept in touch with Brain and offered some suggestions and things just fell into place from there. I don't look at it as a case of us "stealing" the brands from Scoop, the reality of it is that they 'lost' the brands themselves. After Brian had informed Scoop that they were switching distros I went to visit Mason in person to let him know what was going on, at all points in the launching of Elephant we've endeavoured to talk openly and honestly about what we're doing here. As for first year ambition, we're just gonna have a good time and grow slowly and organically, running things the way we see as right.
3.This is a separate venture to the Albion magazine, which you remain editor of, is that right?
Well I'm an associate editor of the mag, Benson is the editor. George and myself are associate editors and Tim March is the publisher, we own the magazine four ways between us. But yeah, Elephant Distribution is a completely separate venture to The Albion.
Obviously, it goes without saying that there will be no editorial bias towards Elephant brands and I will be paying for any adverts I run in the mag. it couldn't work any other way. The magazine is very much a collaborative effort between the four of us and – apart from the time we tried to build a full-pipe when i was 16 – it's by far the most exciting project I've worked on to date, but we run a tight ship at The Albion and since it's inception, I've been working another job outside BMX as a fibreglass laminator making bodywork for race motorcycles. That may sound like an interesting job at first, but for anyone who has any experience in laminating you'll need no convincing that it's a sticky, messy business and it was while performing menial tasks wearing a dust-suit and a gas mask that it dawned on me that I should closer follow my passion and utilise my first hand BMX knowledge and ten years of industry experience to a more productive ends.
It's going to be hard work giving full commitment to both ventures, but after working on magazines for so long I'm used to be bit of stress and I've never been one to shy away from a bit of hard graft (apart from the odd rainy Sunday when I am known down the trails as a bit of a 'spade dodger').
4.Will you manage the business solo, or are you drafting in help?
I have a business partner, Russell Lowe, he's been a great friend for as long as I can remember. We've grown up riding bikes together and he's always been the first person to help me out with all the wacky photo projects I've worked on over the years, his outlook on and enthusiasm for BMX is the most positive I've ever seen and together we have some exciting plans to establish the brands we distro as the market leaders they have the potential to be.
5.Will this be your typical rider run company – investing back into the 20-inch scene?
Very much so yes, we're very much into supporting IBDs and have exciting plans for a unique customer service that will keep our retailers entertained as well as ensuring they have what they need quick sharp. We already have a team of flow riders in place and we're in the middle of assembling a UK team as I type. I've been away on BMX trips for a lot of the last ten years, don't get me wrong, I've loved nearly every second of it and wouldn't have changed a thing, but I'm getting older now and my girlfriend will either murder me or leave me if spend too many more months on the road so, Elephant is a conscious effort to keep me closer to home and closer to the 20-inch scene over here.
The scene where I live may not be the most progressive in terms of inventing new-fangled tricks or setting the web on fire with hot-shot web videos, but its made up of a tight bunch of dudes and I enjoy riding at our trails and local park more than anywhere I've been in the world, and I'm keen to do all I can to help support and grow my local scene as much as possible.
6.What marketing plans have you in place to further raise the profile of Volume/Demolition in the near future?
We have some big plans in place but we're not looking to revolutionise the game, BMX media is in a great place right now and using lessons learnt through feedback from The Albion and from dealing with brands as the editor of a magazine, I'd like to think I'm in a pretty good position to know how to best promote the brands.
I just want to have fun really, with The Albion I've managed to put out stuff people like by having fun and I'm confident I can do the same with Elephant. These days the majority of BMX product is very similar, this isn't a bad thing as nearly all of it rides well and is durable and affordable, but it does mean that marketing is very much key, the BMX industry has come down to an ideas game, and we've got lots of ideas. To relaunch the brand over here and kick off some relationships with a few dealers we have a Volume and Demolition shop tour happening in late August, we're bring over Stevie Churchill, Mike 'Hucker' Clark, Broc Raiford, Chris Doyle and Mike Mastroni, we'll be putting out a bunch of content from that and it should be a good time.
7.Any other thoughts/things you'd like to add?
I'd just like to let people know that we will be receiving an initial shipment of product in early September with a larger order landing early November, feel free to give us a shout on the contact details above for more information or just a chat. I'd just like to say a word of thanks to a few people too if that's okay. The response we've had to launching this new venture has been nothing short of humbling: like many people reading this, I've dedicated the majority of my life to BMX and to be shown the levels of encouragement and support from individuals we are technically starting up in direct competition with, has been profound. The deluge of help and advice has really driven home to me how awesome the bike riding community is and I'd like to extend our deepest gratitude to Carlo and Jamie at IMG, Alan at Tabletop, Stu, Colin and Jon at Seventies, Chris and Russell at CSG, Ian, Dean and Dan at 4Down, James and Aaron at Zeal and all the shops whose ears I've been chewing on lately.
When I first picked up a bike something inside me clicked, I just knew this was for me and I rode nonstop for every hour I could, as I grew older I was presented with a few potentially attractive options that would have led me to a more traditional vocation, but each time I stuck to my gut instinct and continued to dedicate all my time to BMX, and after breaking the news of Elephant to the industry, the encouragement and support we've received has proven to me unequivocally that I made the right choice. Riding a bike is one of the most positive and awesome things you can ever do with your time and I'm proud to be promoting that and I'm proud to be a part of the UK BMX Industry.