Some of our members are seasoned product developers. But some are newly minted entrepreneurs. And in this case they’re still in college – Northeastern, to be exact.
Meet Leonardo (Leo) Moronta and Cameron Kunde of Cruz Control Skate Co. What have they invented? A suspension and braking system for longboards. It’s a brand new technology, for which they’ve just filed for a provisional patent.
The duo – both seniors – met at Northeastern where Leo is majoring in Entrepreneurship and New Venture Management, while Cameron focused on Marketing and Entrepreneurship. They had a chance to do a semester-long project class in San Francisco where they met Make.Work.Space.’s Mark Christiansen.
Mark gave them the answer to their needs: a place to fabricate their prototypes, iron out the kinks, and complete their design. The rest, you might say, is history.
We caught up with Leo (LM) and Cameron (CK) to learn more.
What’s the name from? (LM) It was originally like a play on words like with cruise control in cars, but spelled as Cruz as a tip of the hat to one of our favorite places, Santa Cruz.
Did you just come up with the project while you were in the Bay Area? That’s pretty impressive. (LM) No, it’s a project we’ve been working on in a couple of years!
So tell me about the brake. (LM) The idea was a longboard brake that runs underneath the board. It’s basically a suspension and braking system for long boards. The idea is to give the rider a lot more control, whether they’re performing stunts or just commuting to work.
It started with the idea of a longboard brake, something that could clip in under the board and let you control your speed by leaning back on the tail. The idea was to give the rider more control when they wanted, and still be able to kick it around. In designing the brake we had built the suspension system so that it could be used to activate the brake. It was originally going to be a retrofit kit to your board, but once we doubled down on the suspension this past semester we knew we were on to something a lot bigger. The whole board is suspended, so its the smoothest ride on the planet, and its super responsive so it turns and carves more like a surfboard.
Where were you in the product development process prior to becoming members of Make.Work.Space? [CK] We had 3D printed a handful of models, but never got to manufacturing anything. But at Make.Work.Space, we were able to fully prototype V1 of the product and ready it for manufacturing. We also did a great deal of testing there, and got through the alpha testing phase.
We’d originally been looking for third party fabricators. During our semester in San Francisco, we met with a good many mentors, and they helped us to search out different manufacturing opportunities.
Tell me about your market: I know anyone with a longboard could use it, but where are you really focusing? (CM) Overall, we’re focused on the cruzer - commuter, which is the upper end of the sidewalk surfer and the on the lower end, the commuter.
What’s your business model and go-to-market plan? (CK) We’ll start by going direct to consumer (DTC) working off of a Kickstarter campaign we’ll kick off this Spring. Then we’ll be tarting production, and fulfilling in the fall.
Then, once we’re able to figure out our operations for a year, we’ll expand to board sports shops, soft launching with hometown shops.
And your production plan? (LM) T We’ll be setting up shop in Ojai over the summer, and the current plan is to start fulfilling orders this fall.
We were able to set up a full supply chain in Southern California. We’ll need to source skateboard parts from a national distributor, and the metal piece (that we prototyped at MWS) we’re manufacturing will be coming out of Ventura. One company will source cut, bend and deburr the steel, while another will do heat treating.
And marketing? (LM) We’re taking a pretty organic community approach. We’ll be doing community based outreach with groups and meet ups, people skating around. This obviously will help us create some great content (including video) ready to go when we launch.
Early this spring, we’ll be running a beta test we’re calling Cruz 50. To build some buzz, we’ll be giving away complete skateboards to influencers, community groups, etc.
The big launch will be later this spring, running till summer.
Neither of you is an industrial designer or engineer, are you? How did you learn enough skills to design something as complex as a suspension and braking system? (CK) We actually have a third cofounder who’s a Mechanical Engineer. The design thinking comes from him. He was able to get into metal shops, and with him, we got a run through as to what the manufacturing process would be.
And how did you work at Make.Work.Space? It was a great experience going way beyond the prototyping capability. Mark worked with worked with us and gave us lots of pointers, while Lindsay helped us out not just in the shop, but with identifying and vetting manufacturers.
Make.Work.Space gave us our first real work space. Were able to bend and sand blast our first round of Boosts, the suspension spring plate. It was there that we routered and assemble our first complete skateboards. We even used the 3D printers to print new models of our brake design. One of the best things about Make.Work.Space is just the creative environment. Having all the tools you need and the space to build really let us turn ideas into products. Everyone there was so helpful, we couldn't thank them enough for everything they’ve done!
Good luck, guys!