Creating the Uniform of Youth

Mid-Market Company of the Week: Skullcandy

There’s big money in the action sports industry. A subset of sports overall, when it comes to sports that young people 13-25 years-old want to learn, action sports, or primarily skateboarding, surfing, and snowboarding are among the most popular. Throw in gamers, those who get their get their adrenaline fix while never leaving the couch, and you’re looking at significant swath of young people both domestically and abroad. No matter what sport they participate in or where they live, these athletes have one thing in common, the need for gear. Skullcandy leverages off this collision of sport, culture and apparel by creating must-have audio gear that’s become an unofficial uniform of youth.

Headquartered in Park City, Utah, Skullcandy has emerged as a global leader in performance audio and gaming headphones. The company markets and sells its products and accessories throughout the United States and, impressively, in more than 70 countries throughout the world. At the helm of Skullcandy is 38-year old Hoby Darling, who was hired away from Nike in 2013. “I was attracted to the company because of the significant market opportunity that I believe exists for Skullcandy, both within the headphone category as well as adjacent consumer electronic categories,” says Darling. “Skullcandy has tremendous brand recognition and a large and loyal consumer base. The pieces are in place to succeed.”

Darling’s goal is to create a marketing juggernaut along the lines of Nike’s most famous shoe, Air Jordans. Darling sees Skullcandy’s growth potential coming from emerging technologies. “I firmly believe that the headphone and overall audio category is on the verge of a multi-year product innovation cycle,” says Darling. “This will be fueled by advancements in consumer-relevant audio and communication technology that will change the way everyone listens to music and communicates with fans and family, from the hard-core audiophile to the casual listener.”
Skullcandy’s results are impressive. Net sales for calendar year 2012 grew 28% to $297.7 million.

Darling is focusing on strategic partnerships to enhance Skullcandy’s revenue stream. These include supermodel Kate Upton, Toshiba (which will sell a line of Skullcandy themed laptops in China) and The Berrics (the most trafficked website in skateboarding). These partnerships dovetail with Darling’s management style, “My business philosophy is to edit and amplify,” he says. “Edit out areas of your business where you aren’t strongest and amplify what you do best. Do less, and do it bigger and better.”

Source: The Wall Street Journal / An Ironman Who Wasn’t Fit Enough / December 30, 2013
Source: Utah CEOs / Hoby Darling
Source: Utah Business / Hoby Darling: Amplifying What Skullcandy Does Best / July 9, 2013

Hoby Darling / CEO / Skullcandy

Size: 335 Employees
Location: Park City, UT
Goal: Helping his associates grow. Darling loves when people create and when they exceed even their own expectations. “It’s satisfying to watch people do things they never thought possible.”
Fact: Skullcandy is a relatively young company, founded in 2003.
Unique: Darling, a triathlete, participates in (and often leads) Skullcandy’s weekly team workout. When Mr. Darling joined the company in 2013, he started offering 6:30 a.m. boot-camp-style workouts at a space the company rents next to its offices. The sessions consist of push-ups, sit-ups, jumping exercises, polymetrics and sprints.