Enthusiasm for the sport of wakeboarding prompted Doug and Danny Elder to start a business that has its finger on the pulse of Regina’s youth culture. The brothers run Off Axis Boardshop Ltd., a rapidly growing store which sells skateboards, snowboards, wakeboards and accessories. Real innovators, they also organize lifestyle events that attract big-name sponsors and young people in the thousands. Doug, 33, and Danny, 27, have won BDC’s Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award for Saskatchewan and will be honoured tonight at a ceremony in Vancouver, British Columbia.

With an innate understanding of what clients between the ages of 15 and 24 trust, Doug and Danny have established themselves as leaders in youth marketing, attracting an increasing number of corporate sponsors to their events. “We started doing the events to promote the lifestyle we were marketing in our store,” explains Danny. “As the events got bigger, companies such as telecoms, banks and auto dealerships decided they wanted to get involved to market to the same demographic we were targeting.” Off Axis is known for its Summer Invasion and Jibfest events which feature wakeboarding, skateboarding and snowboarding, but also motocross, music and ‘vendor villages’ where patrons, numbering well over 10,000, can shop for all kinds of youth-oriented items.

Jumping in

Doug was working in the financial services field in 2000 when he and Danny took up the relatively new sport of wakeboarding. When they started giving wakeboarding lessons, people asked them where they could buy gear. That led to the idea of opening a store catering to wakeboarders. “We were passionate about this new sport,” says Doug. “I decided to take a chance and try something different. The idea expanded and we decided to be a full-service one-stop shop for skateboarding, snowboarding and wakeboarding.”

From the very beginning, the business was a family affair. Their father and sister helped out wherever they could as Doug and Danny got the store off the ground. The store has doubled in size and quadrupled in sales and number of employees since those early days. Doug handles the business side of things while Danny contributes on the marketing and people side. “Doug and I are opposites,” says Danny, “but our ability to come together and meet in the middle is our biggest strength. That is what has helped us to get to where we are today.”

Rather than using traditional methods to advertise their business, the Elder brothers rely on ‘guerrilla’ marketing. “We give people stickers and t-shirts, go out and talk to kids one on one,” says Danny. “We tell them about the store; they put our stickers on their boards and suddenly they’re all talking about it.”

Off Axis supports local athletes and earmarks a percentage of revenues from its events for charity. “It’s our way of showing that what is important to our clients is important to us too,” says Doug.

“Doug and Danny understand their target market. They’ve used innovative methods to promote their business and earn the respect and patronage of a young demographic,” says BDC President and CEO Jean-René Halde.

“Our ability to reach out to youth and do things in line with pop culture in a way that comes across as legitimate and real is what makes Off Axis and Doug and Danny Elder who we are,” sums up Doug.