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How Shaun White Translated Olympic Success Into A Thriving Business

Defying gravity and making history, Shaun White is the greatest snowboarder of all time. After winning three Olympic gold medals and 15 golds at the X Games, he’s taking on a new challenge: entrepreneurship.

In 2022, Shaun launched WHITESPACE, a premium line of snowboarding gear and apparel made for life on and off the mountain. In conversation with Shopify, Shaun shares his journey of building a brand, and how he translated a professional sports career into a successful business.

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Assembling a well-rounded team

Shaun’s first order of business was to build out his team with design and operational talent. While he pours his expertise into testing snowboards and gear, he leans on trusted friends and family to bring his visions to life. 

Among those people is Shaun’s brother—one of his biggest supporters. “He is weighing in on [the brand] all the time. And then I’m like, Why don’t you just design it? And so he became my in-house designer,” says Shaun.

Shaun White wearing a black and white jacket along with the limited edition WHITESPACE x Shopify beanie while holding a snowboard from WHITESPACE.
Shaun White is translating his success in snowboarding into thoughtfully designed products for his brand WHITESPACE. Mike Dawsey

When hiring a chief operating officer, Shaun looked no further than longtime friend Miles Nathan, someone with a wealth of business development and snowboarding knowledge. “We used to be little buddies that met at a snowboard contest when I was about eight years old, and he’s running behind the scenes for [WHITESPACE],” says Shaun. 

Finding complementary talent has allowed Shaun to build a small but mighty team. “I think a lot of people would assume that there’s this huge financial backer, giant marketing team, and all this stuff,” says Shaun. “It’s three or four of us, and we’re scrappy. We’re getting it done.” 

Leaning into partnerships with established brands 

Shaun is passionate about bringing Olympic-quality snowboards to consumers. “If you’re going to get this board, this is something that I’ve ridden on myself and you know that it’s going to perform the way you want it to,” says Shaun, who personally tests all the brand’s products. 

While Shaun is an expert in snowboarding, he seeks out partnerships to help fill the gaps, including teaming up with Backcountry to craft apparel for WHITESPACE. “Backcountry just made the most sense, because they’re tried and tested in the industry. They have respect. They also have the customer service,” says Shaun.

A black and a bright neon green beanie from the limited edition WHITESPACE and Shopify collaboration.
The WHITESPACE team is building its DTC business on Shopify and have released limited edition beanies to celebrate the partnership. Mike Dawsey

In an effort to expand WHITESPACE’s direct-to-consumer channel, the team built their online store on Shopify. “You have some of the biggest brands in the world using the platform,” says Shaun. “We want to be in the same space as those others.” 

In celebration of the partnership between WHITESPACE and Shopify, the brand released a line of limited edition beanies, sold on Shopify Supply, a store selling products for ecommerce business owners. 

Focusing on brand storytelling 

What sets WHITESPACE apart from its competitors, according to Shaun? The brand’s story. “I have a whole story about the board. I developed this. I competed on it. And this board is what you’re getting at the store,” he says.

To better tell that story, WHITESPACE’s online storefront is home to multimedia content, including videos of tricks and runs completed by Shaun himself. “People are excited and want to see what we’re doing and what’s different,” he says. And that excitement has translated to sales. 

These are just some of the insights Shaun’s shared from his business journey. To hear more of Shaun’s insights from building WHITESPACE, listen to the full interview on Shopify Masters.

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This originally appeared on Shopify and is made available here for wider discovery.
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