Ed Lewis, co-founder of Enjoy Handplanes, explains how he learned to juggle his ideas, turning them into opportunities for his multiple businesses endeavors. In order to manage his creative mind, he finds that having fun and keeping a balance are the key ingredients to ‘Making It’ at doing the things that he loves.
Tell us a little bit about how you started Enjoy Handplanes.
Well, we sort of just stumbled onto it really. I was running a blog called The Leucadia Project at the time and Kipp (Denlsow) and I were hanging out watching our kids together a couple days a week so we could take turns surfing. (Dads, learn the term Play Date. It is mom code for having fun with friends while your kids entertain themselves. Don’t be afraid of it; you make friends and have fun!) Kipp was a garage shaper/glasser so after the beach or during blown out days we would go into his garage and play. Kipp was a stay at home dad at the time and I was a freelance designer so these days were sort of our days to have fun with the kids but be big kids ourselves.
One of the projects we did early on was a Grain Waka Fish I had made and together we glassed it and posted everything on the blog. At the time I was starting to really get into the idea of eco friendly surf craft through Grain and from that started to notice all the broken boards around me. At that time I had never heard of a handplane before but one day I had a surprise visit from John Peck and he showed me his handplane Cyrus (Sutton) gave him. It was the first one Cyrus had ever made! He went on and on about it saying it was all he was using. To be honest I listened but really didn’t even understand what it was for! I took a bunch of photos of him with it for the blog and forgot about it.
At the same time that was going on Kipp was asking me to come up with a logo for his boards he was making. I really liked the idea of having a positive message so the word Enjoy came to mind and I designed the logo, showed it to him and we shelved it. Then one day Kipp and I started getting into a discussion about broken surfboards and what to do with the foam and the idea of making a handplane out of old foam came up. I kept thinking that if John (Peck) was that stoked on it, it must be fun. Besides it was small so you could use the foam parts in whole pieces and seemed like a fun project to make one. The next day I started asking around and my friend said I could have her broken board she had been saving for years not wanting to throw it out but not knowing what to do with it. That weekend Kipp locked himself in the garage and he made the first one and just painted the Enjoy on it for fun.
The rest, as they say, is history. I took that first one out on a blown out day, had so much fun that I stopped surfing for three months and just body surfed. I was like a little kid again and was thinking “This is what John was so stoked about!” I was hooked and all my friends took notice at all the fun I was having and they all started wanting one. Then as we posted all the new ones we made on the blog, people from all over the world started asking us for them and we just kept making, selling and the business grew. It was unreal.
It seems as though more and more shapers are making handplanes. How do you manage to keep the stoke going for your products?
I think the trick to it is to have fun, love what you do and share it with others. If you do that then people can’t help but be stoked on what you do. They get drawn to the energy of what you do like a magnet.
What do you strive for in your business?
Have fun, inspire people and do good. If you can do that you’ll be successful.
You aren’t just a one job kind of guy. Tell us about what else you are involved in.
Right now my main focus is Enjoy Handplanes but I just helped start the San Diego Surf Film Festival (www.sandiegosurffilmfestival.com) which was amazing. I still do a lot of freelance design, web mostly but some database work. Then there is my software I make for artists and art collectors called My Art Collection. I also made some wine collection, home brew and home inventory software as well but those never really took off. On top of that I do marketing/business consulting for startups but my favorite client are surf filmmakers. I love surf films so it is so much fun to work with filmmakers and help them be successful. Oh yeah, I run the DailyShaka.com and TheLeucadiaProject.com for fun.
How do you manage to find enough time to dedicate to each of these? Do you have any strategies to keeping yourself organized and moving forward? What keeps you motivated to stay on top of all that you do?
I’m really good at juggling 2 to 3 things at a time. More then that and they all can suffer so I have to be careful. I can’t over commit. My friends who know me call me an idea machine. I just can’t help it, they just come. Most of what I do revolves around that ability. I’ve just learned over the years to make businesses that can benefit from the ideas.
In terms of organization, my mind is sort of a free for all so I group my time working in blocks. In the morning I do computer work, afternoon I shape and sand and all day long I connect with people via email, Facebook, blog and Instagram. To balance it all out, I find time in the water, spend lots of time with my family and have developed a meditation practice to get me centered. What keeps me motivated? I’d have to say desire to see my ideas take form. Nothing gets me more stoked then having an idea and watching it take shape in front of my eyes!
There seems to be a common thread through everything you do from design to web to craftsmanship. Is that something that you have strived for or just the nature of what you do?
I think that everything I do comes from a desire to feel good and share that feeling with others. The sites I build are simple and feel good, the handplanes we make are fun, playful and do good to the environment. I just love making people happy and I guess that just comes out of what I make.
What are some of the keys that you may have found which allow for a successful business in the surf industry?
Inspire, Inspire, Inspire. If you can get up in the morning and your goal is to inspire people then you feel good. If you feel good then you will make good things. If you make good things then people will want to buy them. If people buy them then you can make a living. If you can make a living then you can wake up in the morning and inspire more people. It works for me.