How I got on Shark Tank and landed Richard Branson as my investor at age 11

My name is Carson Kropfl. I’m the inventor of the Locker Board skateboard. I invented Locker Board when I was 11-years-old. I had just started middle school and wanted a skateboard that would fit inside my backpack and locker. None of my skateboards would fit, so I made one that would. It turns out, I invented the first non-folding, skateboard on the market that can fit inside a backpack.

Be yourself

My love for surfing and not wanting to do chores is what inspired me to start my business. My parents told me that if I wanted to take surf lessons and compete, I needed to do chores to pay for them. I hate chores, so I asked them, if I could make and sell my Locker Boards instead.

This wasn’t the first time that my love for surfing and the ocean inspired me. When I was seven, I invented my first product, Streetubez. Streetubez allows kids to feel as though they are surfing in the street by using the wind to create a giant, blue sail into a “wave” that skateboarders skate under so they feel as though they are surfing in the ocean and getting tubed. This is where my story begins.

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Seize the moment

When I was nine years old I went on a family vacation and met a Shark Tank producer in the elevator of our hotel. My Dad saw the Shark Tank logo on his sweat shirt and started asking questions. The man, Max Swedlow, told us he was one of the producers for the show. I grabbed my Mom’s phone, cornered Max, and showed him pictures of my Streetubez product.

He was nice enough to give my parents his contact information even though he said Streetubez was not a good fit for the show at the time. That made me want to work harder. If you don’t seize the moment, it may never be given to you again.

Solve a problem

Fast forward to middle school. I wanted a skateboard that fit in my backpack and locker. Unfortunately, none of my skateboards would fit, so I decided to make one that could. It was a simple idea, that solved a problem.

When kids buy new skateboard decks, they leave their old decks behind. I asked my local skate shop, Republik of Kalifornia, if they would donate these old decks to me. I reshaped these into Locker Board decks and sold them for $20 at school.

That’s when I learned that over 13 million skateboard decks are thrown away each year in the US. I realized I needed to make people aware of this problem and rescue these decks from landfills. 

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Ask for help

I skated into the office of our local newspaper, the Sun Post News, and asked their writer, Fred Swegles, to share my story. His article was turned into a lesson plan on an educational website, Newsela.com. Kids, teachers, and parents started contacting me from all over the country asking for Locker Boards.

I needed more skateboard decks. I instant messaged Vans, and Steve Van Doren responded and set up a recycling program for me at two of their skateparks.

I met the co-founder of Wahoo’s Fish Taco, Wing Lam. I asked him for help. He started inviting me to events and advising me.

Then, I was invited to Nike corporate headquarters with a group called Independentyouth.org. I made a connection with the Sustainable Lead, Noah Murphy-Reinhertz, at Nike’s Space Kitchen. I asked if he would teach me how to grow my company and keep it sustainable.

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Keeping up with orders became overwhelming. I reached out to Max at Shark Tank, told him what was happening and that I needed an investor.

A few months later, I got a chance to pitch my idea for Locker Board to Shark Tank. I asked for $60,000 for 15 percent equity, and ended up accepting $65,000 for a 20 percent stake. Sir Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group, outbid Mark Cuban and Robert Herjavec. Richard told me that the reason he invested was because I reminded him of himself!

Thanks to my partnership with Richard, I have been able to hire a manufacturer and keep Locker Board sustainable. Locker Board donates $1 from each board sold to the Tony Hawk Foundation, which develops public skateboard parks in low-income communities across the country. I want to help other kids to shred hard, dream hard and work hard.

If you would like me to speak at an event email me at carsonkropfl@lockerboard.net To buy a Locker Board Skateboard go to Lockerboard.net

This is a guest blog and may not represent the views of Virgin.com. Please see virgin.com/terms for more details. 

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