Menlo News November 06, 2018

Menlo alumni describe their action sports business journeys

A panel of six entrepreneurs shared insights at the ShredX assembly

Panelists and moderators from Menlo's 2018 assembly event pose for photographs On November 6, 2018, Menlo hosted a “ShredX” panel during Upper School Assembly featuring Desi Banatao ’94, Rey Banatao ’91, Chris Clark ’93, Danielle Rees ’95, Michael Schwab ’94, and Nick Woodman ’93 talking about their experiences with various aspects of the action sports industry. A recurring theme from the panel: Work through your fear of failure.

Desi Banatao told the assembly that he and his brother, Rey, “grew up skateboard kids in the 80s” and that their dream was to create a skateboard brand to compete with the likes of Thrasher and Powell-Peralta. Even while completing advanced degrees and starting engineering careers, they held on to that dream, and eventually took the plunge to start their own company, Entropy Resins, that makes materials for action sports equipment.

“One of the things you’ll hear from all these people,” he said, referring to the panel, “is all our projects started with us being really interested in what we were doing. Having that passion pushed us to succeed.”

“It’s okay to fail,” Rey Banatao said. “It’s through failure that you’ll learn a lot about yourself and about what you really like or don’t like doing, and may give you the idea for the next thing.”

Rees, co-founder of Coalition Snow, who drew applause when she noted her company is the first women-owned ski and snowboard company, echoed those ideas, describing how she moved to Tahoe shortly after graduating from Stanford University and began Coalition Snow to serve women with ski and snowboard equipment specifically designed for women, as well as men.

When asked what advice she would give her younger self, Rees said, “I never gave myself permission to make mistakes, and I didn’t allow myself to fail. I don’t feel I had any real opportunities to fall on my face until I turned 40. I hucked my first cliff on skis at 40.” She continued, “I would encourage all of you, and what I would tell myself in high school, is to let go of perfectionism. Be okay to fail. Because it’s where learning and growth is.”

Woodman, founder and CEO of GoPro, emphasized that Menlo is the type of school where students have many opportunities to both identify their passions and begin pursuing them.

“Your life can be anything that you want it to be. You certainly do not have to have it figured out right now. You shouldn’t. You don’t want to limit yourself in that way. Recognize that life is a big beautiful thing to be experienced and this is a great platform for you here at Menlo to experience as many different things as you can,” Woodman said. He added, “You can take your own path in life. It’s not all about being quote-unquote ‘successful,’ or making a lot of money, or having some amazing job that makes other people think that you’re awesome. To me, success in life, and my success with GoPro, has been that I’ve pursued things that I’m personally really passionate about, and when you’re working on something that you genuinely care about, it’s not work. You’re going to do a better job than anyone else because it’s not work, it’s what you love to do.”

The full panel and moderators, pictured at top, from left to right:

Chris Clark — Director of Communications, Culture and Cause at GoPro

Nick Woodman — Founder and CEO of GoPro

Danielle Rees — Co-founder of Coalition Snow

Jacqueline Bressie ’19 — Member of the Menlo Surf Club

Michael Schwab — Founder and managing director of Big Sky Partners

Izzy Banatao ’19 — Member of the Menlo Surf Club and daughter of Rey Banatao

Jake Coslet ’19 — Member of the Menlo Surf Club

Desi Banatao — Co-founder of Entropy Resins

Rey Banatao — Co-founder of Entropy Resins