Who is Aaron Kyro, and why should you care?
Well, to answer the former we’ll have to take you on a journey to San Francisco via a childhood in Montana, chasing the trail of a professional skateboarder in the making and the pursuit of his dreams of hitting the big time. To answer the latter, you need only to travel to your local Smyths Toys Superstore.
Because Aaron Kyro is the talent behind the Braille Skateboarding brand; one that has emerged from the sea of YouTube content creators to rise through the ranks of global popularity and land on the toy shelves of one of the UK and Europe’s most preeminent toy retailers, with its popular line of Braille Fingerboards and accessories.
New to the UK this year, Braille Skateboarding has been met with a warm reception from fans not only country-wide, but across the globe. Projections made by the skate brand deduce that – should things continue at the pace of growth it’s been enjoying over the past year or two – Braille Skateboarding will have shipped around one million fingerboards to retailers by the end of 2020.
That’s not too shabby for a brand that only launched onto the toy scene in July this year. According to the firm, fans have already been ‘going wild for the toys,’ a range that not only comprises fingerboards and skate ramps, but mystery surprise sets and accessories, too, propelling the franchise to international fame.
With 5.24 million subscribers to the Braille Skateboarding YouTube channel and its Skate Everything series of videos – a series that sees Kyro and pals not only create skateboards out of the most bizarre materials they can lay their hands on (seriously, we’ve watched him craft a board’s grip tape out of Gummy Bears), but skate them on camera, too – Kyro is injecting something new into the skateboarding scene, and bringing it into the modern era of social media, virtual engagement and of course, merchandising.
Now, to answer the next question, ToyNews takes the (virtual) journey to San Francisco to catch up with Kyro and learn more about the plans for the Braille Skateboarding brand.
Hello Aaron, thanks for talking all things skateboarding with us today. Could you kick things off by talking to us about the Braille Skateboarding story? Where did this all start for you and what’s the journey been like to where you guys are now?
It’s really every skater’s dream. I grew up in Montana where I learned how to skateboard. Graduated high school and moved to San Francisco to pursue professional skateboarding. After getting kicked off my main sponsor due to budget cuts my career dreams were all but crushed. I dumped all of my footage onto YouTube where skateboard footage would go to die in 2006 and the video went viral. I realized the power of social media and the ability to reach lots of people, so I started making tutorial videos and teaching people how to skateboard and we grew from there.
When did you guys realise you wanted to break into the toy space with the Braille Skateboarding brand name? What has that process been like for you? What’s it now like to see Braille Skateboarding toys lining shelves not just in the US but internationally?
With our background in teaching people how to skateboard our goal is to make Skateboarding the largest sport in the world. This is a big goal and of course requires us to reach out to a lot of people in any way we can. So when the idea of creating toys came up it seemed like a perfect fit. The process has been amazing really, it’s so fun to create the different boards. Seeing our boards on shelves in this capacity is literally unreal. I could have never imagined things getting to this level. It’s really amazing.
What do you think is the strength of the Braille Skateboarding brand? Why does it translate so well to toys like it has so far? Why does the brand resonate with its audience in the way it does?
Braille is not just entertainment, but we teach skills that can translate into many different parts of life. If you go through all of the physical and mental barriers to learning a skateboard trick it gives you a great deal of confidence. I love helping people learn and grow through skateboarding, and I think when you do learn a new skill that sticks with you more than just a funny video. So that connection to the audience, I think, makes the brand resonate well.
We have seen the national and international interest in skateboarding surge as a result of the world’s covid-19 response and lockdown measures. Is this something that resonates with you guys? Have you seen increased fan engagement, increased brand engagement?
With the goal of teaching the world how to skateboard when the world all but shut down a lot of people took me up on that goal and started their journey learning. So yes, I think skateboarding helped a lot of people get through the pandemic.
I hope it’s going to continue to get a lot of people into skating. In order to grow a sport you need new people starting. I think that skateboarding is a healthy activity people can do that helps them during times like this and it’s perfect.
Braille Skateboarding has its own virtual element, in which we offer tutorials across the online platform. Virtual is so perfect because it allows us to safely reach a lot of people and help them learn. I think virtual will play a huge roll in the future of skating not only from people learning but also sharing experiences and making friends from literally all over the world.
That’s what amazing about our virtual skateboarding community – you can learn to kick flip at the same time as your new friend from Australia and share your experiences online.
Home shot videos, community, growing from the grass roots level – skateboarding has arguably always been very close to the ‘social media’ concept, so the idea that Braille has found such success through it seems only right. How do you decide where next to go with the brand?
My decisions are all based around how I can best achieve the overall goal. Reaching new people and getting them into skateboarding is the main piece to that goal. I think this helps the whole skateboard industry as well as individual people’s lives who have gained so many things from skateboarding.
What are the wider plans for the Braille Skateboarding brand? What product areas would you like to see it move into, and how will you ensure it keeps the Braille ethos at its heart?
Creating a global grass roots movement to grow skateboarding at a much faster pace. This includes online as well as in person lessons, but at the heart of it is creating a community that helps each other learn and supports each other in that learning process despite any and all differences.
I would like to see Braille move into any area that could help us grow and build that community. Any product that could help people learn in any way would be great, or any product that puts people’s attention on skateboarding as something they might do in the future, like toys for example, are great.
Keeping the Braille ethos at the heart requires constant work and constant reminders all the time. I can get so busy making fun videos that even I can forget the larger purpose of it all, so the constant reminders of what we are doing and communicating that to my team and beyond is so important.
I love to dream of the larger picture and all the cool impacts we could create with skateboarding all over the world, so just keeping those dreams alive and making sure we keep them at the heart of all the projects keeps it there.
Thank you Aaron, anything you’d like to shout about right now?
Well, I like to sk8…