An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis
Perfection is another form of fear — I’ve always been a perfectionist, which I’ve found, comes with insecurity. When something goes wrong, I’m hard on myself and attribute it to not giving my all. I’m working on striking a balance between maintaining quality and standards in what I do and pushing forward to be the best in the business, while also recognizing when that pursuit of perfection manifests itself as fear of failure.
As a part of our series about business leaders who are shaking things up in their industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Bear Walker.
Bear Walker is Founder and CEO of Bear Walker Industries — an internationally renowned skateboard design and manufacturing company specializing in hand-crafted and carved wood skateboards that are inspired by art and pop culture. Combining his expertise in woodworking with a passion for skateboarding, pop culture, and art, Walker creates one-of-a-kind designs all while driving the overall vision of Bear Walker Industries.
Walker’s experience in woodworking started at a young age, helping his father build houses. Later realizing his passion for design and riding, Walker created his first skateboard design as part of a senior project at Clemson University, and set out to push the boundaries of design and functionality.
Recognizing a gap in the market, Walker launched Bear Walker in 2017, grounded in authentic skate traditions, but customized with art and pop-culture references unique only to his work. Now, the brand is on a mission to create truly skateable, high quality works of art through boards that are meticulously crafted and feature a patented carved-out grip that took five years to perfect.
Functional and collectible, Walker’s attention to detail and innovative designs quickly caught the attention of brands and celebrities. Today, Walker partners with brands ranging from Marvel and Pokemon to the NBA and more, designing customized limited-edition collections that appeal to skaters, collectors, and more.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?
I graduated from Clemson University in 2011 with a degree in graphic design. This was right after the market crash, so I struggled to find a job that I enjoyed and matched up with what I was passionate about — skate, art, design, and woodworking. For a while, I bounced around from job to job, until I discovered how to carve out designs in skateboards to create friction for board grips. At first, I just made boards for myself, but eventually, I was getting questions from friends and even strangers asking where I got the boards and wanting to buy one. This was the inspiration behind Bear Walker Industries. Fast forward ten years, and I’ve turned that original design into a patented gripping surface that we’re not only using on our boards but also licensing out, establishing us as an industry innovator. We currently create custom boards for consumers and celebrities and release limited-edition skateboard collections with some of the world’s biggest brands, including Pokémon, Marvel, and the NBA. The boards are Made in America, and I strive every day to create an innovative work environment that people are excited to be part of.
Can you tell our readers what it is about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?
We’re pushing the boundaries of what a skateboard can be by fusing art and design in a new way and creating a new style of grip. We’ve made a uniquely innovative product, to the degree that when I initially entered the market, I received pushback from traditional shops and the skate community because what I was doing had never been done before. This forced me to create my own sales channels and eventually, I went fully direct-to-consumer. Doing this allowed us to position Bear Walker products as premium and one-of-a-kind collectibles, making the uniqueness a selling point.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
When I was building my first shop, I had limited resources. One day, I was using a nail gun that didn’t have a safety on it and nailed my fingers together. While it wasn’t funny at the time, it definitely taught me that there needed to be processes and procedures in place, and that’s something I’ve really focused on as of late.
We all need a little help along the journey. Who have been some of your mentors? Can you share a story about how they made an impact?
My father has been my biggest personal mentor, and Daniel Arsham has been my biggest professional inspiration. My father started from nothing and built a business from the ground up making custom homes. He was always committed to doing things correctly and never compromised, even if it meant a task would be more difficult or expensive. He always stuck to his values, and he’s one of the best people I know. Moreover, Daniel is my favorite artist, and I recognize myself in him. He creates disruptive art through collaborations and high-end collectibles, similar to what I do. Whenever I’m stuck on a decision of which path to take, I like to look at his journey and business and use it as a guiding light.
In today’s parlance, being disruptive is usually a positive adjective. But is disrupting always good? When do we say the converse, that a system or structure has ‘withstood the test of time’? Can you articulate to our readers when disrupting an industry is positive, and when disrupting an industry is ‘not so positive’? Can you share some examples of what you mean?
As an artist creating something new, you’re always the first to market with your design, so you’re regarded as an industry expert and disruptor in what you’re creating. That feeling is a great motivator and gives you a sense of pride in what you’re doing. However, there is an inherent negative when you are new to something. You have to prove yourself and prove to others that the product you are creating is unique, and is better than the old way of doing things.
Can you share five of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.
- If it was easy, everyone would do it — What I’ve learned over the years of running a business is that there will always be extreme highs and extreme lows. It’s important to focus on the highs of a business and all of the great things we accomplish, and not let the road bumps or bad days ruin those highs. It’s all about managing the stress that comes with trying to grow a business and not allowing those extreme factors to affect you. At the end of the day, that’s the nature of running a business, and if the low lows didn’t come with it, there would be a lot more people doing what I’m doing.
- Perfection is another form of fear — I’ve always been a perfectionist, which I’ve found, comes with insecurity. When something goes wrong, I’m hard on myself and attribute it to not giving my all. I’m working on striking a balance between maintaining quality and standards in what I do and pushing forward to be the best in the business, while also recognizing when that pursuit of perfection manifests itself as fear of failure.
- Comfort is the enemy of progress — When I first started Bear Walker Industries, I never imagined it would be where it is today. It’s a strange feeling to surpass your goals, and it’s easy to become complacent with the success because you feel as if you’ve accomplished what you set out to do. When that happens, you need to get out of your comfort zone again and set new goals, so you are always working to be better.
We are sure you aren’t done. How are you going to shake things up next?
Honestly, I feel like I’m just getting started. As a company, we have recently established a reputation in the industry, which has given us the opportunity to continue to push the boundaries on a lot of our ideas and innovation. I want to expand from just selling skateboards and collectibles, to having apparel and being known as a lifestyle brand. I want to continue to be seen as an industry leader and have the opportunity to speak to other entrepreneurs and encourage them to pursue their dreams. More recently, I have become interested in NFTs and the Metaverse, and am brainstorming ways Bear Walker Industries can uniquely fit into that market. Overall, we want to continue to make cool shit and be the best at it.
Do you have a book, podcast, or talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Can you share a story with us? Can you explain why it was so resonant with you?
As a designer, I am constantly working to try and push myself and the boundaries of the industry. When I do have free time, I prefer to use it as a reset and turn off my brain. One of my favorite things to do is play video games with my nephew. This gives me the ability to recharge and set myself up for further success.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
I suffer from anxiety, and as the CEO and Founder of a growing company, it seems like there is always a career-ending emergency or a fire to put out, or what my partner and I like to call a “near-death experience” for the company. When these instances arise, I think about my favorite mantra, “you may not know the answer, but you’re smart enough to figure it out.” Over the years, I’ve overcome challenges that didn’t seem “survivable.” Those experiences have proven to me that I do have the answers, and to always keep pushing forward no matter what.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I would like to inspire others to take their passions and build something tangible. I think a lot of the time, life gets in the way and sometimes our passions can fall to the wayside. When you’re passionate about a project or idea and are willing to struggle for five or ten years to build something you love at the end of the day, then do it. My business was not born overnight. I started this journey back in 2011 and have worked really hard to build Bear Walker Industries to what it is today. Looking back on everything, even the previously mentioned “near death experiences,” I’m glad I never gave up. It’s worth it.
How can our readers follow you online?
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!
Meet The Disruptors: Bear Walker On The Five Things You Need To Shake Up Your Industry was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.