I have the privilege of knowing a lot of different people in the endurance industry. One of the newest small businesses is ELEVATION CULTURE, owned by my friend and colleague Eric Chrisman. He designs and makes wooden medals, plaques, and awards for races all across California. Have you won one?
Here is what I recently asked Eric.
-What is your relationship with the running community in Southern California?
I have been in Southern California now for 3 years and the running community here is truly amazing. Before moving here I had already been exposed to several running groups and had taken part in running the Rock N Roll Full and Half marathon, which was like no other race I have been apart of. When working for Road Runner Sports in San Diego for 2 years I was deeply engaged with the runners that I shared the roads and trails with. Helping others by simply choosing the right pair of shoes for their next running goal gave me a huge sense of pride in knowing, maybe, that runner might remember some of the advice I had given them. Since moving to San Diego I had always wanted to become a coach. That first year I had received my US Track & Field Level 1 certification and began my journey in coaching. It brought me to meet a great group, that I still coach for, called Latinas a Correr, started by a fellow co-worker from Road Runner Sports. The group has over 2,000 members and helps inspire young Latin Men and Women to get out and stay active. At the same time I started my own personal run coaching business called Aspire Running where I coach all levels of athletes from youth to adults and all distances. I am fortunate enough to have also met some great people and now currently work with PEAKFINDERS Training System as their run coach.
-How and why did you start Elevation Culture?
It really just fell at my feet. After completing last year's San Diego 100 mile endurance run I wanted a place to display my belt buckle that I received for completing it. So, I came up with a simple drawing of the elevation profile of the race, which I hand drew on pinewood, then attached the buckle to the wood. I posted it on Facebook and had an overwhelming response from runners wanting their own. I thought it would be a simple hobby but was then soon after contacted by a race director, whose races I had done in the past and asked if I thought of doing wooden medals. Not knowing what I was doing work wise I decided to give it a go. Everyone loved them and I was then contacted by other race directors, almost weekly asking for medals and awards for their races. Now I design and create awards and medals for over 60 races just this year.
-What does the name Elevation Culture mean?
I really wanted something that represented who I am and why I continue to push these extremes I seem to constantly crave. One place that always reminds me to do this is reaching the summit of a mountain. Passion is my biggest motivator when it comes to beginning the journey up the mountain, its not necessarily about reaching the top. So, Elevation represents the journey to the top and the summits reached. Culture is a huge part of why I love the sport of trail ultra running. The community is like nothing I have experienced. It’s the only place I know where you can toe the starting line with the pros and cross the finish line, with them still there waiting for the last finisher to come in even though they finished several hours ahead of you.
-What is your favorite award you've created or race that you made awards for?
I design all of the awards and try to make them as unique to the environment and culture of the race. Race directors are always willing to allow me to tweak or create something new knowing my goal is to provide an experience for the runners and future runners. These last couple of months I came up with an idea to continue that experience with a custom podium for the winners of the race to stand on at the end while receiving their medals. It was another idea that I had never done before so it was quit a challenge. I designed the first one for my buddy's trail race series in Northern California. I had gone up there to attend the race and present the podium and awards. Everyone was so excited to get on the podium. I was amazed that runners were getting on the podium after the race and taking photos, even if they didn’t place.
-What are your long-term goals for the company?
The business has grown very quickly in the past 6 months. I now have to think about next year and that my current 60 races could very well double. I guess it’s now time to get into the big leagues and start hiring employees and creating business practices to accommodate those races and future races. This year I have taken on quit a few large road races including a large marathon in Northern California. I want to continue designing for road races and give race directors something different and new. I would love, next year, to get the opportunity to create medals for the Ragnar Run Series, which would be amazing!
-Besides running, what else do you like to do in your spare time?
Haha! Running is like another full time job when it comes to training for ultras. So it’s hard to fit other things in, but I still play and coach soccer. Soccer was my first love and will always be something that I enjoy. Spending time adventuring with my beautiful girlfriend Miranda is something I always make time for and appreciate those memories.
-Any advice for people that want to start a business in the endurance industry?
"Live your brand" is something that I use to help me stay focused. The endurance industry is quickly growing across many different platforms and it seems like everyone is trying to get a piece. That may sound a bit frightening at first, but one thing I have done from the beginning is try and tackle the fear and know that if it scares me it’s a good sign that I am on the right path. Take every challenge and every opportunity and just give it a try. Lastly, be creative, be unique, and be yourself.
I want to thank Eric for everything he does in the running community. Check out his website at www.elevationculture.com to see some of the amazing wood medals he's created. Find a race in your area that he's designed for and get out there and win one!!!!