“Microsoft is an avenue for us to make revenue. I think it’s going to help us get out there,” the 34-year-old Harmon says. “But I think what’s going to make it for us that helps us is our direct sales and changing the way we deliver our product.”
How Sentury got to where it is today is more indirect. About 10 years ago, Harmon, who earned a biology degree at Dominican, was sharing a four-bedroom house near campus with a couple other Dominican grads: Sean Harmon (no relation) and Mike Adams. With Sean’s expertise in art, Mike’s marketing background and Ben’s technical know-how, they started building snowboards in the shed.
Their boards somehow caught the eye of the owner of Ravenswood Winery, who asked them to build him three boards. The next order was for 50. The next order was for 300.
“We didn’t really know where it was going to go. It was a hobby, a labor-of-love kind of thing."
“If you’re motivated you’re going to find someone in the area who’s going to help you get started,” Harmon says.
Sean Harmon and Adams eventually gravitated toward other careers, but Ben took the snowboard business to Reno and incorporated it under the name “Slouch.” Six years ago, the company, which has grown to seven full-time employees, changed its name to Sentury Snowboards.
“It was a little more marketable, more modernization of the company,” Harmon says. “We decided to go with a more mainstream name.”
Sentury couldn’t get much more mainstream than teaming with Microsoft, which has a licensing office in Reno. One of its vice presidents spotted a Sentury snowboard and asked Harmon to build him one two years ago. With Bing trying to appeal to a younger audience, Sentury seemed like a natural fit.
What has made Sentury Snowboards a successful production company, Harmon says, is quality control every step of the way. The boards are handcrafted, high-quality and more affordable because Harmon has adopted the NetFlix business model and delivers direct. Sales increased when they shifted to online delivery and used promotion codes, which helped Sentury get sponsored by more than 300 universities that buy boards at wholesale cost.
Essentially, Sentury had been versatile and flexible enough to adapt to trends and demand.
“We’re a kind of niche industry brand right now,” Harmon says. “People in the know, or in our industry, are buying our product … Our customers are basically marketing our boards. “