"I try to use the success of my business to mentor the youth.." Story told by Andy Po
Owner of Homebase610
Andy tell us about yourself?
My name is Andrew Po, I am going on 40 this year and I have been the owner of Homebase610, a local skateboard shop in Southside Bethlehem since 2002.
My story starts in San Diego, California surrounded by skateboarding culture. “Why did you move to Pennsylvania?” is a commonly asked question after people hear that. The company my father worked for was bought out by a bigger company on the east coast so we ended up moving when they offered him a position in 1997. It wasn’t a welcome change but in retrospect, the move altered the trajectory of my life in ways I could have never imagined.
What inspired you to become an entrepreneur?
I started my junior year of high school with no friends but I had my skateboard. Unlike my school in California, no one brought skateboards to school. There might have been five other skateboards in the entire school. In San Diego everyone "skated." It was part of mainstream culture- it was accepted. Back then in Bethlehem, skateboarders were still stereotyped as "delinquents" and "outcasts" so for the kids who stuck with it, a deeper passion for skateboarding was bred. Seeing that kind of commitment was new to me so I began filming our time on and off our skateboards. Documenting skateboarding took over my life in the late-90’s and my teenage self had no clue I was building life-long friendships.
I’d soon travel the world & those years would be the catalyst to start a business.
What challenges did you face in becoming an entrepreneur and how did you overcome them?
When you dedicate yourself to any kind of project, passion or a person in this life, you're going to face struggles. No matter how much planning we do or experience we may have, there will be days life just don't go our way. This past last year has been the epitome of that. 2020 presented us with challenges no one could have imagined facing in all aspects of life. But these are also struggles we have little control over and I have had to learn that it's a waste of time to invest energy into what I can not control. As a small business, we face small challenges we can not control on a daily basis.
Like when someone buys their skateboard from a corporate online website but they come into the shop expecting us to assemble it for them free of charge. People have the right to make their own decisions and the choice we have to make is how we react to it: Kick them out of the store and lose a customer forever or serve them with a smile and gain a new customer. Now as an entrepreneur with almost two decades of experience, I have accepted my biggest challenge is myself. More specifically, my ability or inability to be a strong leader to my team. It's been a lot more productive to invest the energy into becoming the type of leader who can maintain the right perspective as the business faces financial, staff-related, creative & customer challenges.
The patience required to stop myself from reacting emotionally when a staff member makes a mistake takes discipline. If I can put aside my ego and put my trust in them, it helps the staff become truly empowered. Leading a team to their full potential benefits the entire business but it has pushed me to think beyond sales as the only metric for success. 2020 taught me the importance of empathy. Making sure paychecks clear is essential but it isn't enough. Thinking if our people fulfilled on a personal level in their roles and if their mental health also being considered must be a priority too.
I need to face the challenge of becoming a better leader daily because I have to continue to grow the business so it can provide more than jobs for our people- it has to provide careers. We hire people who are 16-25, they are in their prime. These are formative years where a person is figuring out what they will do for the rest of their lives. I've only recently begun to understand that for someone to give me any of those years is an incredible responsibility for me. If they are going to give me that time, what am I going to give them? What will they walk away from their time at Homebase610 or 2nd Base Vintage that will prepare them for the rest of their lives?
"If they are going to give me that time
what am I going to give them..? "
How can you make an impact in the community as you continue to grow as an entrepreneur? And why is this important to you ?
One of the most important programs we run is Completing Christmas. This annual holiday event was inspired by the generosity of a long time customer, Brian Froustet in 2011. He wanted to pay for 2 complete skateboards as gifts but asked us to find the local skaters to give them to. Christmas at its core is thinking of the needs of others over yourself so we asked our community to nominate skaters they felt would benefit from the gifts. Nine years later we have had the opportunity to give out hundreds of skateboards to local skaters-in-need thanks to the generosity of customers who donate to the program. We work with the administration in some of the most under-served schools in the Lehigh Valley to use the skateboards as incentives for the kids to get their grades and attendance up. In spite of all that went on in 2020, we were still able to gather donations to give 50 kids brand new skateboards. We are always so grateful for the support our community shows us and our initiatives.
Visit Homebase610 in Bethlehem,PA