Tower is a direct to consumer paddle board and beach lifestyle brand based in Southern California. They eat, drink, and sleep the beach lifestyle and have a vision for the future of beach lifestyle products.
Tower focuses on the beach lifestyle niche, and champions work/life balance with the 5-hour workday that they invented. They were funded by billionaire Mark Cuban on ABC’s Shark Tank, and today they remain one of the most successful investments in the history of the show.
Being a direct to consumer brand allows us the freedom to do two things very well. First, we can afford to produce a superior product and sell it at nearly half the cost. Second, if you have a question, you talk directly to us. The people behind the brand, who designed the product, who do the product testing, who know almost everything there is to know about the product. Combined, that makes us hard to beat.
Tower Paddle Boards makes living the beach lifestyle more accessible. Tower is well-known within the US (and at an exponentially growing pace worldwide) as a direct to consumer paddle board brand that empowers people to live better by producing great paddle boards and accessories, and then selling them direct to consumers at about half the price of traditional retailers.
Founded in 2010 and funded by billionaire Mark Cuban, Tower Paddle Boards is one of the biggest success stories in the history of ABC’s Shark Tank. In 2014, with a staff of just 5 people, Tower generated revenues of $5M and was named the fastest growing private company in San Diego by the San Diego Business Journal.
A year later Tower was ranked #239 on the INC 500 list of America’s fastest growing companies. In 2016 Tower was named to Internet Retailer’s 2016 “Hot 100” list of the world’s most innovative e-retailers.
Tower minimizes their customer acquisition costs so they can deliver paddle boards and accessories to consumers at the lowest prices possible.
How? They leverage their search-optimized eCommerce properties, their growing Tower Life Magazine audience, their brand experience store in San Diego, and their direct-to-consumer business model.
“The Tower business model is not constrained by the 3-layer legacy surf shop distribution model that 95% of the SUP retail and SUP wholesale market is tied to,” the brand writes on the Tower Paddle Boards home page. “Untethered, we market and sell direct.”
Today, Tower has extended their direct to consumer beach lifestyle product line to include products like surfboards, skateboards, wood sunglasses, and bikes. They promote the beach lifestyle with their Tower Life magazine and social media, and the symbol of their tribe is the iconic lifeguard tower.
Tower inspires people to work less and enjoy their lives more by championing their “Five Hour Workday” mentality. The staff works a five-hour workday during the four-month summer season, and founder Stephan Aarstol even authored a book about it called “The Five Hour Workday.” The bestselling book would go to influence tens of millions of people worldwide.
Below is an interview with Stephan Aarstol, the Founder & CEO of Tower Paddle Boards, who sat down to chat with NoMiddleman.com in early 2019.
In the interview, Aarstol covers it all: pivoting into new industries, finding factories, blazing new paths in retail, competing with Amazon, expanding product lines, and delivering industry-leading value to customers through a middleman-free, direct-to-consumer business model.
We’ve linked each segment of the interview below, so you can click the segment title and go straight to that topic if you’d like. Enjoy!
In this segment, we dive into where it all began for Tower Paddle Boards. We cover Aarstol’s background in online marketing, and how he pivoted away from his poker chip company to pursue his hunch that paddle boards would soon be mainstream. Read more >>
Segment 2: The Shark Tank Effect At Tower Paddle Boards
When Shark Tank came calling, Aarstol answered, and Tower Paddle Boards took off like a rocket ship. But it almost didn’t happen—Aarstol froze on stage, delivering what he calls “the worst pitch in Shark Tank history.” Learn how he crashed, recovered, and landed a deal with Mark Cuban. Read more >>
How did Aarstol figure out how to cut out the middlemen and deliver Tower Paddle Boards direct to consumer, for half of the retail price? In this segment, Aarstol explains how he overcame the price-fixing of the industry’s dominant players to bring consumers lower prices, higher quality, and better service. Read more >>
Segment 4: How Tower Paddle Boards Sourced Factories
When building a direct to consumer business, finding a dependable factory is a competitive advantage, Aarstol says. In this segment he reveals his best tools and tips in sourcing factories: how to find the best ones, how to avoid the scams, and why anti-competitive behaviors are a sign of bigger problems. Read more >>
Segment 5: The Retail Equation At Tower Paddle Boards
“We never want to be that company that just pads our direct-to-consumer margins so we can accommodate retail partners that are taking a 50% cut,” Aarstol explains. In this segment, you’ll learn how Tower Paddle Boards uses their core principles to evaluate retail opportunities. Read more >>
Segment 6: Tower Paddle Boards on Amazon
For direct to consumer brands, Amazon is the elephant in the room. In this segment, Aarstol explains how Amazon has become expensive for consumers and crowded for brands—and why he believes Amazon is merely an online convenience store, carrying the high markups of offline retail middlemen. Read more >>
Amazon was good for direct to consumer businesses—until it wasn’t. In this segment, you’ll see the astronomical sales numbers Aarstol enjoyed in the early days, but also the growing challenges: disconnected customer service, increased return rates, and increased fees. Read more >>
Is it time for direct to consumer brands to leave Amazon? How will they survive if so? In this segment, Aarstol explains the two consumer behaviors that he believes will not change in the future, and why that’s good news for brands like Tower—helping them survive without Amazon. Read more >>
Segment 9: On The Horizon At Tower Paddle Boards
What’s next for Tower Paddle Boards? In this segment, Aarstol reveals his perspective on the ideal balance between pricing and quality, and how keeping expenses low (and advertising minimal) impacts Tower’s ability to expand into popular products with exceptional value for consumers. Read more >>
By living the beach lifestyle themselves, Aarstol’s team has insights into new products and quality design. “If a company out of New York is creating beach lifestyle products, they really don’t understand the market as well as we do,” Aarstol says. “Our brand has this authenticity, because we’re making products that we know.” Read more >>
Tower Paddle Boards went in two unique directions, when it comes to delivering value. Product development is focused on what the consumer needs (not what it costs), and team productivity is fueled by Aarstol’s revolutionary idea to live more by working less—with a five-hour workday. Learn the secrets behind Tower’s popular products and productive culture. Read more >>
In this segment, you’ll learn how Tower Paddle Boards is taking the beach lifestyle experience to an entirely new level with the launch of Tower Beach Club in San Diego. Whether you’re a fan of Tower, or a direct to consumer brand exec, you’ll want to read the innovative retail plans and fun experience ahead for Tower customers and visitors. Read more >>
Segment 13: Connecting with Tower Paddle Boards
As we wrap up the interview, we provide links and information on connecting with your favorite Tower brands—from paddle boards to sunglasses to electric bikes—as well as how to reach out to Tower Founder & CEO, Stephan Aarstol. Read more >>
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