Issa Sawabini is making his case for the power of skateboard nation. Take me out to the ballgame, yeah, sure, but consider that there are thirteen million skateboarders in the United States. That's two million more skateboarders than baseball players.
Sawabini and his colleagues at the Vermont-based Fuse (he is one of three owners), have established themselves among the nation's go-to agencies for reaching the youth market (ages 12 to 35) with special expertise in the action sports world — skateboarding, snowboarding, surfing, wakeboarding, motocross, BMX, freeskiing.
"The people at Fuse have an ability to communicate with this younger audience because we live and breathe everything that they do," Sawabini says. "We may be getting older, but I don't think anyone here will ever give up their passion for snowboarding or skateboarding or whatever it might be."
A recreation management major in the Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources, Sawabini imagined his career before he lived it when he wrote a business plan in Dave Kaufman's entrepreneurship class where he envisioned "an agency that would help companies connect with snowboarding and mountain biking and do these things correctly — because I, as a consumer, was seeing them all stumble over themselves and do some really terrible marketing."
Fuse was a much smaller business when Sawabini started an unpaid internship the day after his UVM graduation. Over the course of the past ten years, that unpaid internship has evolved into a partnership in the firm, which has grown to a staff of 45 in Burlington and a small New York City office.
Road trip: Sawabini spent three weeks on the road last summer doing immersion research on the lives of teenagers.
Club founder: While at UVM, Sawabini was involved in Student Association Concerts and founded UVM's mountain bike club, activities that he credits for introducing him to event planning and rallying a group around sports.
40 Under 40 award: Sawabini was recently included in Sports Business Journal's annual "40 Under 40 Awards," a list of the most influential young executives in the sporting world.