Quitting your job at 26, buying a house, and starting a snowboard company all within a couple months might be a recipe for disaster for most people, but Blue Montgomery has managed to make it work. As the founder and owner of Capita Snowboards, Blue has grown the company from a garage in West Seattle to where it is today. Now on the verge of releasing their newest team movie, Defenders of Awesome 2, Blue talks to Outliers about growing up a snowboarder in Iowa, releasing content in an increasingly digital world, and putting together a team that not only works well together, but respects each other.
M – Your name—it’s pretty unique, but so is your career pathway. Former pro snowboarder, you founded a snowboard company, and now you’re a film producer.Where did the name come from?
“It’s a family name. My dad’s family is Scottish and their family color was tartan blue plaid on our family’s kilt—it’s called Montgomery Blue, so that’s where Blue Montgomery comes from. My real first name is John. I grew up as a little kid following around my dad’s bagpipe band. When I was in high school I played the snare drum in the McKenzie Highlanders Pipes and Drums of Des Moines, Iowa. So that’s where it came from.” <Podcast 0:57>
M – What was the craziest thing you’ve ever done to get to the mountain or to get on snow would be?
“The craziest thing would probably be in the summer of 1990, my friends and I had our learner’s permits, and my parents went away for the summer and left their very responsible 15-year old son at home. I wouldn’t say we stole their car, but we drove their car from Marshalltown, Iowa, to Government Camp, OR, and camped in the woods, ate ramen noodles, hiked up the to the hill, and snowboarded every day. We got back to Iowa, the car was ok, and everybody was safe. I had thought we’d gotten away with it until my dad saw 5,000 extra miles on the car.” <Podcast 6:00>
M – You’re releasing a film, can you tell us a little bit about it?
“At Capita, we make a movie every three years, and this is a follow up to our 2011 release, Defenders of Awesome. This one is called, Defenders of Awesome 2: Stay Badass. The Seattle premiere Saturday September 27 at the Neptune theater.” [Tickets Here] <Podcast 8:00>
M – Being a founder and owner of a snowboard company that’s also producing a team film, how involved are you in that process?
“I’m pretty involved from a producing standpoint. What that means, in a nutshell, is I kind of put up the framework of the project. I decide when we’re going to make a movie, when it’s going to be released, what type of budget it involves, what type of partners we’ll work with, who’s gonna be in the movie, and who we’re going to have to film and execute the movie. Then just follow it through with everything from the packaging and the distribution and the premiere tour—we’re doing 90 premieres in 30 countries this year.
Within that, like with any project, you have to hire great people. Mark Dangler was kind of the project lead. He co-directed, filmed, and edited the movie. He’s really the hands-on guy that filmed the movie. He orchestrated the filmers, organized the on-site direction, organized the trick list, the set list, the travel, the execution, and the management. He deserves all the credit in the world for making this movie what it is and bringing it to fruition. He’s the man.” <Podcast 10:40>
M – How do you feel about the free online distribution model? Looking at the marketplace right now, there are a lot of companies, like Burton, who are producing their own content and giving it away online for free, then there are companies like Absinthe Films, who are still selling DVDs and downloads, what’s your take on that?
“It depends on what your needs are. Is your movie a revenue source or is your movie a marketing expense? With the examples that you used—it’s really clear. Absinthe, that’s their product, that’s what they create for financial gain. Where as Burton, they have an option, like all companies do, to sell other things. They can choose whether their movie is going to be a revenue source or a marketing expense.
I think a big difference too, is that we live in a time right now where everything is disposable. All the information is here and gone in a blink of an eye. Psychologically, free has very limited to no value. If you get something for free you might appreciate it, but you don’t treat it with the same care or respect of something that you paid full price for. When you put a movie online for free, it’s super awesome if that’s your choice, but it just arrives and vanishes in a blink. Maybe it’s my age or my it’s my appreciation of snowboard history, but I just like the idea of a tangible thing in your hand that you can collect.” <Podcast 14:40>
M – The team seems to have pretty good chemistry as a group, did they film together this year, or was it more independent filming?
“It depends on the guys. A lot of them had crews already and rotated in and out of each other’s groups. The team, they like each other a lot and get along. That was one of my dreams when Capita was younger. Call it like my fatherly, paternal thing or whatever. But there are a lot of company’s that have a very defined look and feel, and their riders reflect that. Their riders are like a team of…clones sounds too negative…but they all have a certain style that represents the style of the brand.
I just never wanted Capita to be pigeonholed. I wanted Capita to be diverse and always evolving. I never wanted to have a team of ten dudes that rode the same, dressed the same, and acted the same, to me, that’s just not the vision. I wanted to have a group of individuals and personalities, but the trick is I always wanted them to get along and like each other and respect one and other. They don’t have to be best friends, but I want them to be able to look across the table and say, “that guy’s totally different than me, but I am proud to be on the same team as him because that guy is a badass.” When you’re dealing with like a 14-year old Dustin Craven, it’s a different mindset. He used to drive Dan Brisse nuts. We used to be on trips and Craven would drive Brisse crazy, just poking him and poking him, but now they’re super homies. I was just asking Craven the other day about who he wanted to go on the premiere tour with, and he looks at me and says, “I want Brisse.” That was like a proud dad moment for me.” <Podcast 27:20>
M – If you could leave us with the one most valuable piece of advice, that has perhaps been shared with you, what would that be?
“I guess a real reflection that entrepreneurship is something that anybody can do. When we started Capita, I didn’t know what I was doing. I was 26 years old, I quit my job and bought a house in the same month. I think the key is that you’re gonna find roadblocks, but you just have to get over them. Simple as that. I think entrepreneurship, or business on any level, is really very simple. There’s two things: you’ve got to be able to identify an opportunity, and you’ve got to be able to follow through and execute on that idea. That’s it.
There are so many people that can’t see an opportunity right in front of their face, and there are other people who see the opportunity, but for whatever reason they can’t pull the trigger. I think the movers and shakers, the entrepreneurs and doers in this world can see the opportunity. They might not know how to execute, but they figure it out and just do it.” <Podcast 31:20>
Wise words from a wise man. For more from Blue Montgomery, listen to the full podcast to hear about Capita’s push into women’s snowboarding, the benefits of owning your own snowboard manufacturer, and a few other nuggets. Head to capitasnowboarding.com for more info on Defenders of Awesome 2, to see the latest snowboards, and be sure to come out to the Seattle premiere, Saturday September 27 at the Neptune Theater.