Marketing 50

DC Shoes

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Ken Block, 37, president and co-founder of DC Shoes, was just another broke skateboarder less than 10 years ago when he began sketching logos and silkscreening T-shirts.

Today the company Mr. Block started with skateboarding pal Damon Way boasts more than $100 million in annual sales of skateboarding and action sports shoes, apparel, and accessories. Messrs. Way and Block borrowed $10,000 each from their parents to start DC Shoes. Now Mr. Block oversees a 40-person in-house ad unit. And he's no longer broke; surfwear powerhouse Quiksilver acquired DC this year in a deal worth $87 million.

Visuals are everything in the fashion-conscious skateboarding world, and Mr. Block still keeps DC focused on its target audience of teenage males 13 to 18 years old.

"We operate in a very cynical and cultish industry where the look and feel have to be exactly right," he says. DC Shoes promotes itself with ads in skateboarding magazines, homegrown items like last year's skateboarding DVD "The DC Video" and sponsorships of athletes in key action sports.

Mr. Block vows the Quiksilver deal will have no effect on DC's independence . "Now we have better stuff in the back office, so we can focus even more on innovation," he says.

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