INTERVIEW: Marin's new CEO Matt VanEnkevort - BikeBiz

INTERVIEW: Marin's new CEO Matt VanEnkevort

A reinvigorated Marin, post-takeover, has a new CEO at the helm and the UK in its sights...
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It’s been a massive year for Marin. What has changed for the brand?
Matt Van Enkevort: I would say the biggest difference is the new investment. I think the previous ownership had reached a point, a road block if you like, and the change in ownership has brought a reinvestment of the brand to restart marketing and product development.

There is such a segmentation in the industry with the top brands like Trek and Specialized then there’s all of these brands that are kind of in the middle – like us. But really what Marin needs is to focus on what we should be doing and forge our own path to success.

The competition in the marketplace is really strong. There are German brands clawing their way in the market, a lot of strong and different brands competing out there and looking for international distribution.

From Marin’s point of view we’ve already got a strong relationship with our distributor ATB. We’ve got such a long history with them – and such an interactive history – we just need to focus on our strengths, reinvest and market the brand and we’re in a position to do that. The nice thing about Marin as a brand is that it’s got such a rich history and frankly we’ve got to start telling that story.

Clive Gosling: Marin was one of the last independent Californian bike brands and has stood the test of time. They’ve never really gone away from their roots – they’re at the epicentre of where mountain biking started. There’s a rich cycling history.

The takeover has brought a new team on board, including both of you. What’s your background in the trade, Matt?
VanEnkevort: I started racing in 1976, and first got on a MTB in 1982 and that opened my eyes. It changed the sport.

Like a lot of riders, I started to work in retail in order to get good deals on parts and I ended up running a chain of stores in Seattle which is a phenomenon there, doing millions of dollars in business. I left after nine years because I wanted to get deeper into the industry. I didn’t do it for the money – it took me five years in the bike industry to make as much money as I did looking after the retail stores. I joined Raleigh USA as product manager, then bike product manager and then after a few years I became director of product development. I left Raleigh for a couple of years to work with some Taiwanese brands. Over the course of having relationships with Taiwanese manufacturers I met the owner of FSA and then joined them [VanEnkevort was MD for FSA]. At the time it was a very small company – there were a handful of staff when we met and now it has grown to be a legitimate player. Compared to Shimano, SRAM, etc, it is smaller obviously, but still it is influential. So that was a good variety of experience in understanding the bike industry.

Clive Gosling: When I heard Matt was coming on board – he brings a wealth of experience to Marin and it also shows the industry that Marin is serious about reinvigorating the brand. He brings kudos and credibility and there’s a real upbeat feeling for everyone involved with Marin. The previous owner was such a great guy, but you’ve got to be pretty inspirational to still steer a brand after such a long time.

What are the main challenges that you’ve got to overcome in the next 12 months?
VanEnkevort: Initially it’s to invigorate our own processes. We’ve got some supply chain goals, we need more reactive product development and we’ve got to staff up a little bit, so we’re looking at adding tool sets. Our relationships with our partners need to be revitalised too. Marin as a brand has been a little too silent. Regarding product development we’ve got international products but we’ve got to learn from our distributors about the local markets. We’ve been a little hard of hearing.

Really it is relationships and product. We need not only a high level of product but we’ve also got to listen and produce what’s right for individual markets, getting the price right and the components, etc. There are plenty of challenges, but the brand still resonates.

Can you tell us anything about the investment company that acquired Marin?
VanEnkevort: They’re a European based holding company. They’re not a recognisable name, but suffice to say that they do have a passion for the bike market.

Gosling: Because of the new ownership ATB now has a comfort blanket and knows Marin has a strong future. Now we’re ramping things up in the UK. We’ve got a marketing campaign, I’m working with the brand. We’re really back in the game. It’s all systems go.”

www.marin.co.uk; ATB: 01424 753566

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