Nat Disston found his passion for surfing at an early age. At the age of 4, Nat and his cousin made pretend surfboards out of cardboard. Although he unsuccessfully rode carpet waves in his living room, creating cardboard surfboards was an early sign that his passion would soon come out through his work.
Years later, Nat took a backpacking trip in Costa Rica. He met a surfboard designer who created custom boards by whittling. When Nat got back from the trip, he bought a blank piece of wood and $100 worth of hand tools. After three unsuccessful attempts, he finally was able to create a fully-functional board. His craft improved, and his passion grew as he created boards over the next few years for his personal collection. This hobby turned into something greater after a family member asked Nat for a custom surfboard. Shortly after, he started receiving additional requests for boards. It took a total of six years from the start of his hobby to the launch of his business – VoyVoy.
Surfboards to a surfer are about much more than just riding a wave. Their boards represent their personal style. They are a work of art, and it was the art that drew Nat into the craft. “It was the art that lit my entrepreneurial fire. Making surf boards led me to my passion.” Nat’s progression from an artist to an entrepreneur took years, but the seed planted in his youth has grown into more than just surfboards.
VoyVoy as a surfboard brand pivoted into a clothing company after Nat started college. Asked why he stopped creating surfboards in college, Nat replied, “I was in college, and it’s hard to make a surfboard in a college dorm room.”
Nat’s personal style didn’t match what was being provided by the mainstream clothing labels. “I always straddled the lines of style and had a desire to make a clothing company that met my inner desire and upbringing.” Based on his personal wants and needs from apparel, Nat started working on men’s shirt designs for the casual traveler.
The first shirt launched by VoyVoy was the pocket square T-shirt with a welt pocket, which is an inverted pocket similar to those you would normally find in a pair of pants. The pockets don’t sag outwards and allow the wearer to carry a phone, keys, or a flask without looking awkward.
With a small initial line of t-shirts, Nat and a friend spent the summer selling his shirts at different locations and events. The shirts sold out, which proved that he was on to something special. The next step was to launch an additional expanded line of shirts and get them out to people across the world.
Kicking it Into High Gear
Fashion and apparel products have been among some of the most successful Kickstarter projects to date. A VoyVoy Kickstarter campaign landed the company $23,677 of an $8,000 goal and helped gain 361 new customers. This campaign pre-sold the entire line of new t-shirts before being released. A month after the Kickstarter campaign, the new VoyVoy website was launched, and they gained an international fan base; selling shirts in 25 different countries. Nat said that the ride hasn’t slowed down since the successful campaign.
“Follow what you’re passionate about: pick one thing and really focus on it. Something you truly love and you’re going to know better than anyone else.”
While his day-to-day focus is on his clothing brand, surfboards are still a passion for Nat. He is currently looking for a space in New York to continue his hobby while bringing his passion to the apparel industry. Riding a wave of passion towards the surfing life has given Nat Disston his entrepreneurial spark and brought VoyVoy to life.
– “Since eCommerce is becoming more and more prevalent, you don’t need to have tons of customers in one area. You can have a few customers all over the world. This is opening doors for many more niche brands.”
– “It’s easy to sell something you’re passionate about.”
– Biggest mistake as an entrepreneur: “Losing focus.” “A lot of companies lose sight of what they’re good at and lose focus by trying to diversify too quickly.”
– Most important factor to success: “I think it’s the ability to stay focused long-term.”
– VoyVoy strives to be the “go to place for guys’ T-shirts.”
– How many hours a week do you work on VoyVoy? “Seventy or so hours a week.” He finds time to step away on the weekends and unplugs, but works twelve hour days Monday – Friday.
– How much sleep do you get a night? Six to seven hours.
– What’s the worst business idea you’ve ever had? “The only idea that I’ve had that I executed on is this one. I probably wouldn’t launch a surfboard business full-time these days.”
– If you could not be an entrepreneur, what would you be? “I was really close to going to architecture school.”
– If you could add one entrepreneur in the world to Voy Voy, who would it be and why? “I would say Nick Woodman, founder of GoPro. I’ve been a huge fan of his for years.”
Listen to the full interview here: