What led you to start your own business?
I’ve always been passionate about product design and the outdoors. When I noticed the emergence of fixed-gear bicycles and got my own first fixie, it was still totally underground, and I wanted to introduce the everyday rider to this amazing way of riding.
ELY ALEXANDER KHAKSHOURI, 27
Westridge Outdoors, a Vernon-based outdoor sports gear and apparel firm
Where did you get the startup money?
I put some money aside and leveraged credit cards and any other debt I could get my hands on.
What’s been the biggest challenge so far?
Dealing with the seasonality of the cycling and water sports industries. Last year, we launched Traverse, our snow sports line, and it helped us stay busy and produce fall-winter cash flow.
What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned?
When I was younger, I thought I could do it all on my own. I quickly learned the importance of having good people. Our business has really flourished from carefully putting together the amazing team we have today.
How many hours a day do you put in?
Typically, I put in 10-12 hours each day, except when I’m in China – all bets are off with the time difference. I’m pretty much around the clock when I’m there, waking up at 2 or 3 a.m. and working with our L.A. headquarters until I have meetings with our manufacturing partners.
Has your youth led to any awkward situations, such as when you supervise employees who are older than you?
I really enjoy working with employees who are older than I am. They bring a ton of experience to the table. If there’s respect on both sides, there’s no problem.
Would you start another company?
Absolutely. I’ve started four brands that are all doing well and growing under the Westridge Outdoors name. I never started this company with the intent to sell, but if that day ever comes, I’d be excited to start this process over having learned so much.
Could you ever work for someone else?
Having had my own business since I was 19, that would be hard. I really enjoy being involved in every aspect of our business. The proverbial stars would have to align in a perfect situation.
What do you do to unwind?
Nothing unwinds me more than cooking a fine dinner after a long day. My wife and I take a cooking class in every country we visit.
— Henry Meier
For reprint and licensing requests for this article, CLICK HERE.