SKATE // 01 SEP 2022
In the early days of their marriage Sarah Cameron and her husband Roger, didn’t unwind from their daily 9-5s by crashing on the couch. Instead, Cameron was over her hot stovetop, melting pot after pot of wax for their wax company, Magical Go-Go. Started in 2003, the duo acquired an A-list of sponsored athletes in the company’s early years of existence. “The Magical Go-Go team was incredible. It was a magical group of guys. And then I asked myself, where are all the girls? That’s when POM POM was born,” she smiled. Duplicating the processes used to create skate and snowboard wax for Magical Go-Go, Cameron wanted a company that put females first and thus created a new wax company called POM POM. “It was just really fun because wax was the product we could do ourselves. My husband was Creative Director at LEGO for almost 20 years and had the graphic design background, so designing the graphics and packaging was super fun, along with adding fun scents. [Plus,] there was a loophole. No females were sponsored by a wax company. So, we got some of the best female snowboarders and surfers in the world on the team.”
Intrigued by skateboarding since childhood, Cameron picked up her first board, complete with a Back to Future deck, at a tag sale in the late 80s. “Nobody I knew skateboarded, no girls I knew skateboarded,” recalled Cameron. “I was so excited. I remember just pushing around. We lived on a busier road so my friend and I took turns [riding] at 11:00 at night when there wasn’t much traffic, pushing down the road on that skateboard.”
She continued to skateboard through high school, hanging out with a group of guy friends who also skated. However, Cameron never joined, instead opting to sit and watch. Though, when no one else was around, she practiced her ollie in an empty parking lot. “I never really felt welcome to the sport,” she explained. “It was probably more on me than them, but when you’re the only girl you just naturally feel insecure and intimidated. There was a skate shop that opened up as I got older, but I never felt comfortable going into those shops because there were always just guys in there hanging out. You felt like all eyes were on you the moment you went in the store. [There was] never a welcoming feeling that I got with the sport.”
Still Cameron carried the sport with her through college, where she ended up studying Philosophy at Mount Holyoke, an all women’s school. “I never intended to go to an all girls school either. I actually was totally against it. But, it’s definitely a different environment and has a level of comfort that you naturally get when you’re in that environment. It builds up your confidence and then you can take [that confidence and] incorporate everywhere.”
Continuing her education at the University of Connecticut School of Law, Cameron was the first summer legal intern at LEGO Systems, where she connected with her now husband, Roger. However, working in the office together wasn’t the first time Roger and Cameron had met. In fact, Roger had been one of the skaters Cameron hung out with in high school, and the two were engaged four months after reconnecting. The duo worked together on a variety of personal projects, finding the harmony between their skill sets. “My entrepreneurial spirit matched with his graphic design background and our creative energy just bounced off each other. I have tons of ideas and we just work really well together,” smiled Cameron.
So, it was no shock that when Roger brought home the idea of making their own skate wax, it turned into something more. Starting as a passion project, POM POM spent its first few years focused on the creation of snowboard, skate and surf wax since it was a product that could be made easily in their home. Still, Cameron always dreamed of producing her own skateboards.
Riding out a couple of rough seasons in the snowboarding industry, Cameron balanced raising kids and working with running POM POM to the best of her ability in-house. Finally, in 2015, a manufacturer reached out to Cameron with a proposal to develop skateboards for POM POM.
“We had the light up wheels and a really fun size board that we designed,” explained Cameron. “We sold those to different skate, surf and snowboard retailers. Nordstrom took them and different online retailers. But, the partner that we had wasn’t set up with the sales and distribution. So, that made it really difficult because it’s just my husband and myself doing this, and we can only do so much.”
Eventually when their partner decided they wanted to focus more on their own brand, the two companies parted ways. So, when a new investor contacted Cameron with an interest in bringing back POM POM skateboards, she was thrilled. “We were like, okay, let’s do it,” grinned Cameron. “But this time it’s all on us, the manufacturing and the sales and distribution. We are owning the entire process now, which is great. It’s exciting, it’s slightly overwhelming, but at the same time, the products, the boards, all of that, are really, really awesome. We’re super excited and very happy with the quality which is the first priority. It’s not worth putting products out there unless we believe in the quality 100%.”
Even as plans have changed over the years, the core goal of POM POM Skateboards has never left Cameron’s sight. “Our mission is really encouraging everyone to get out there,” she explained. “We are a co-ed team, and that’s intentional, but we [have a] majority of girls. We’re flipping the typical scenario where it’s mostly guys on a team and then you throw in your one or two girls. We’re doing the opposite. So we have a majority of girls and have a couple of boys on the team to show that girls can lead a co-ed team. It’s important to show guys supporting girls.”
Mindful of their positioning as a brand targeted towards girls from day one, it was key to Cameron and her husband to avoid the strategy followed by most companies when marketing to girls which is, as Cameron summarized, to “pink it and shrink it”. This meant that the initial color palette for the skateboards moved away from pink and focused instead on being playful.
“One thing that has always bothered me is when you have a brand that is deemed to be for girls and they go to the lowest common denominator,” said Cameron. “So often the focus will be on the physicality of the female body instead of focusing on the amazing skills and talents they have. In the end it only undermines the real power women have.”
Switching the narrative from objectification to empowerment, Cameron hopes to provide young girls a compelling alternative to team sports. “I’m a huge proponent of all of the health benefits, not only physical health benefits, but the mental health benefits that come from just being outdoors and also from individual sports as opposed to just team sports. Of course there are benefits from team sports, but at a certain point, the average girl stops playing team sports at age 13, which is horrible. It’s infuriating because the one thing that is so great for kids is to be outside and active. It kills me because there are so many kids who want to participate in sports, but they’re cut from the team. We’re talking about middle schoolers! Individual sports are a way to instill confidence, creativity, grit and so many other benefits that are taken from kids when they don’t make a sports team or aren’t interested in traditional team sports.”
“I think it’s all the more [important] to really support individual sports because individual sports are those sports that you can bring forward throughout life. So, mountain biking, that’s another thing I do. Gravel riding, running, surfing, snowboarding,” listed Cameron laughing. “Skateboarding obviously is huge and skateboarding is probably one of the least expensive sports to enter into, depending on how much you have for a budget. You can do it in your driveway. Not everyone has a skatepark. We have team riders who are so inspiring and they’ll just learn tricks in their concrete basement or in the driveway outside. Part of what makes skateboarding so awesome is the creative aspect of it. It can be whatever you want it to be.”
“I wish that we could give every kid a skateboard. I get so much joy out of just giving a kid a skateboard and seeing them push for the first time. It’s awesome to witness and just see their face light up–you can tell they are hooked. That’s really what it’s about.”
Looking forward, POM POM Skateboards is looking to release additional deck sizes as well as a carver board Cameron is particularly excited about. “For anyone who snowboards or surfs. It’s an amazing board.” With a team of talented riders, Cameron is excited to see the next generation of POM POM boards hitting the streets. From longboards to cruisers to complete boards ready for the park, there is a board for every style of rider.
The company is a labor of love for the founding duo with each step forward feeling like a victory as Cameron explained, “It’s interesting because it’s been a journey and we didn’t start this to be a business. It was born out of passion. When you have something that’s born out of passion, as opposed to a business plan, you’re not going to have a lot of things figured out. We’ve been figuring a lot out along the way—including having two kids. Once you become parents, your kids are your number one priority. Ensuring you have health insurance and can pay the mortgage kept Roger at LEGO, with the added bonus of lots of LEGO bricks at home. We worked on our own company in the after hours. We’ve always done the most and the best we could do with our resources and have always maximized each and every hour in the day.”
In her time running POM POM Skateboards, Cameron has learned how to pivot. Whether it be rough winters of shops shutting down, surplus of stock nationwide, or even balancing being a parent while running a company, Cameron and her husband have pushed forward together claiming their own success.
“You [need to] be willing to take chances,” said Cameron, further explaining her lessons learnt while running POM POM Skateboards. “You also have to be passionate about what your mission is. Figure out what success means to you, so that you can recognize it and appreciate it once you achieve it–no matter how small it may seem. Be open to criticism and different ideas. Work with someone who has different skills than you have. Be prepared for a roller coaster ride and learn how to manage the ups and downs, because they are inevitable. Learn to pivot. Expect failure and learn from it. It’s an exhausting and exhilarating ride and even after all these years, I feel like we are just getting started and that keeps me psyched.”