How to Break Into the Cycling Industry – Foundry, Whisky Parts Co Brand Manager Jason Grantz
We’ve known Jason ever since he gave us a tour of Cane Creek’s North Carolina factory. Since then, he’s moved on and for a long time, he wouldn’t actually tell us what he was working on other than to say it was cool. We know now he was busy starting up two new brands in QBP’s incubator environment. Here’s how he got there…
BIKERUMOR: Who are you and what are you doing here?
JASON: I’m Jason Grantz and I am proud to be employed by Quality Bicycle Products. Currently, I am Brand Manager for a pair of upstart brands: Whisky Parts Co., and Foundry Cycles. Being a Brand Manager is akin to being a business unit manager, or even an entrepreneur. I am responsible for managing the development of the brands from the ground-up. I manage our investment capital (from QBP) and work with my staff on everything from product development to sales and marketing.
BIKERUMOR: What was your first job or experience in the cycling industry? How did you “break” in?
JASON: How I broke into the cycling industry is a story I love to tell. I’ve always loved cycling, from my Big Wheel, to my first brown Free Spirit banana-seat bike, to that first bmx bike; a blue and yellow Huffy Pro Thunder. While at university I discovered mountain biking. My roommate Carl and I fell in love with the sport and purchased a pair of Univega Alpina series mountain bikes, AMP forks and all, from John and Ron at John Adam’s Cyclery in Erie, Pennsylvania. We were riding all the time, sometimes at the expense of good grades, and wanted to get better. So, we started riding with the guys from Adam’s several times a week. This was before cell phones, so we just had a regular meeting time and whoever was there went. We never exchanged phone numbers in over a year’s time. I don’t recall the specific year, but one day in May, just before the semester ended, I received a call from Ron at Adam’s. I was so perplexed by the call; he never called us before. Turns out, he pulled our number from a sales receipt – he was calling to offer us jobs at the shop. That’s right, Carl nor I ever applied – we rode a lot, they liked us and they wanted us to work with them in the shop. My passion for the sport is how I broke in.
BIKERUMOR: What’s your educational background?
JASON: I have a degree in Broadcast Communications from Edinboro University of Pennsylvania. I grew up in State College, Pennsylvania and graduated from an open campus arts-type high school there. Penn State was an option, but I wanted something different, something smaller. Hence, I chose Edinboro, which is in a small town just south of Erie, Pennsylvania. The communications degree, specifically the promotion aspects of it, has been invaluable throughout my career.
BIKERUMOR: After that first experience/job, what was the path to your current position?
JASON: My path has been a somewhat long and winding one. A path filled with risks and rewards along the way. During my senior year in university I interned at a television station in Buffalo, New York – WGRZ. During this time I was moonlighting at Bert’s Bikes and Fitness, a legendary if not infamous shop in the Buffalo area – 1000 built bikes on the floor of my store alone.
It didn’t take me long to figure out after graduating that I had no passion for the television industry. I found myself questioning my choices and questioning why I was afraid to make a go of it in the cycling business. Truth be told, the money sucked and I wanted a small slice of the American dream. Then I remembered talking to my brothers a few years earlier. We said we’d never follow in our fathers’ footsteps, working a lifetime in a job we didn’t love. So, I followed the lead of both my brothers, who do what they love, and jumped into a cycling career.
I found a home at Bert’s Bikes in Buffalo where I was co-manager of a store. Working for Bert was never easy, he’ll tell you that, but I learned a lot. The experience toughened me up; I learned to be self-motivated and to excel in my position – for myself. Paying attention to the lackluster marketing efforts in the cycling industry (at the time) I knew I had something to offer the industry and my time at retail was coming to a close.
After a couple more years at Bert’s I finally got my break and headed to Los Angeles, California, to work for Price Point Mail Order as their Marketing Manager. I have to thank Donovan for giving me the opportunity; I still had a lot of learning to do. While there I managed the production of their print catalogs, online and print advertisements, assisted in the early development stages of the Sette brand, and managed selection and purchasing of soft goods.
Living in Los Angeles was a grind, for me anyway, and it was time to move on with my career. I took a shot and applied for a purchasing role at Quality Bicycle Products in Bloomington, Minnesota. I knew I was a marketer, but I wanted to get my foot in the door with a world-class organization. Thanks to Mike Lind, Rich Tauer and Steve Flagg, I was given the opportunity to join their team. Little did I know that I was a big-time extrovert walking into an introverted organization. Needless to say, I was a bit of a bull in a china shop my first year. But, my extroverted nature and understanding of brand led me to Jagwire. I was once again in the marketing drivers seat, but this time with a global brand.
Jagwire was an amazing experience for me, and for the brand. We took a lot of chances with the brand, challenged a lot of assumptions and did what many people thought impossible – we turned simple cable products into a successful brand. I was exposed to the OEM side of the cycling industry, I worked with distributors all over the world and I grew to deeply appreciate just how small the cycling industry really is – an industry I love. After 5 years of intense work and tremendous growth at Jagwire I was ready for my next challenge.
I was thrilled when I found a home at Cane Creek, a company with such a rich history in cycling. Heck, they were partners in the development of Rock Shox. The very first Rock Shox were made right there in Fletcher, NC. While still called Dia Compe USA, they brought to market the first feasible bicycle disc brake system. Later they pioneered the threadless headset, which arguably changed the cycling industry. Why wouldn’t I want to work for Cane Creek?
Little did I know, when I accepted a position with Cane Creek, their headset patent was soon set to expire. It just never occurred to me to even ask about it. What came next was a 21-month sprint to reinvigorate and focus the Cane Creek brand. I’ll admit that this is really where I came into my own as a marketer, and as a leader. I am so proud of what we were able to accomplish as a team in such a short amount of time. Then came the opportunity of a lifetime.
Back to Minnesota, back to QBP I went. I’m now a year and change into the development of Foundry Cycles and Whisky Parts Co. My neck is on the line, and I love it!
BIKERUMOR: What’s a normal day for you?
JASON: Wow! Normal… There is no normal for me. It’s simply about managing the chaos of an upstart, even within the walls of QBP. I spend a lot of time looking into the future, plotting the course of both brands and aligning resources to make sure the path forward has as few bumps as possible.
BIKERUMOR: What are the highlights of your job?
JASON: First, I work in the bicycle industry. How cool is that? The cycling industry has taken me to 25 countries around the world. I have friends, real friends in every corner of the globe. And I have a job that lets me create amazing product wrapped-up in a brand that isn’t your everyday.
BIKERUMOR: What could you do without?
JASON: Every job, no matter how much you love it, comes with things you could do without. For me, it’s the hardcore accounting. Soon, I will hire a part-time accountant to confirm what I know intuitively. This is a business after all, and I have investment capital I need to repay.
BIKERUMOR: What advice would you give to someone looking to follow your path today?
JASON: If you read my story, and you read between the lines, it’s obvious that I’ve worked from the bottom up – and I had a degree. I earned my way, never expecting anything to be handed to me. Even now, I don’t expect anything to handed to me. I just repeatedly put myself in a position to have a chance.
So, my advice is to not be afraid to make a go of things in the cycling industry. Be prepared to work hard, harness your passion and focus on the end goal – whatever that may be for you. Maybe you want to be an engineer, or a product manager, or a CEO. Have a vision for yourself and remember that the path is not always straight or even visible at times.
My vision when I started in the business was simply to be someone that mattered, someone who could effect change and add value. I’m still focused on that vision. And I tell myself every single day this simple saying: half of doing anything is simply believing you can.