Becca’s lovely combination of human ingredients featuring kindness, warmth, and positivity, in conjunction with her incredible entrepreneurial lens, is one of marvel to witness. Portland is better because of this incredible human!-Michael Knapp
Becca Meierbachtol is no stranger to the challenge of creating a dream job. Her work life is a manifestation of her passions, centered around movement, physicality, and activity. A full-time personal trainer, she also runs Old Ford Skateboards, her growing side business. For Meierbachtol, the path to her passions wasn’t about finding them but cultivating them into a job and career.
As a personal trainer, Meierbachtol started FRESH Performance in 2011, where clients include athletes from the Oregon Ballet, Portland Thorns, and the Portland STAGS. When she’s not there she’s in her shop at Old Ford Skateboards. “I tell people that I own a small business making handmade skateboards which usually causes a reaction of ‘whoa, really!?’” It’s that new creative venture we’re exploring, her second and newest passion project.
Meierbachtol has always loved surfing, skating, and art. Old Ford is the manifestation of these long-held creative pursuits. “I literally had the idea one day that I should make my own skateboard. It then spiraled into an idea of owning a van of some sort where I could travel around and sell skateboards. I saw an old Ford van and loved it. I thought in my head, ‘it would be so cool to have an old Ford. I could name my boards Old Ford Skateboard. I literally started creating boards, made a brand, and then bought a van. People thought I was crazy!“
So how do you know when you’re ready to take the next step and turn your passion project into a job? For Meierbachtol, so much had to do with not being able to stop thinking about her idea. She took the dream she couldn’t stop thinking about and made it real. So can you. Here are a few steps she’s learned along the way:
It truly is rewarding to love the work you do. When you can turn your passion projects and dreams into a job, whether it be a side job, part-time, or full-time. “I truly feel a strong passion for shaping skateboards and having people hop on one and enjoy the ride. I know it might sound silly, but I love waking up knowing that I get to work in the shed and create something that people could enjoy and that I enjoy. I have always really been drawn to the surf and skate culture and I love being involved in it any way I can. I also love reusing materials and creating something new out of the old. To take a plank of wood and shape it into a usable board that can function and ride is so rewarding! I use sand from the Oregon coast as my grip on my boards, which again just incorporates natural substances that already exist. I want people to see the simplicity in my boards and realize that they can shred on a board that is not necessarily a modern, high tech board.” Meierbachtol looked back on her youth and was reminded of three things that she loved then and now: surfing, skateboarding, and art. It’s the things that have always made you happy that are the best places to start looking for work to be passionate about.
Simplicity is a huge drive behind her work. It’s not just about the board, it’s about a lifestyle. Meierbachtol once took a six-month solo trip to South America and remembers writing a piece when she got home:
Maybe it’s not me that needs to reconnect, but the world that needs to disconnect.
“I think there is something to be said for that,” she says, “Old Ford Skateboards takes a retro style and brings it to today’s world. The boards are smooth cruisers, sustainable, fun, and simple.” Her first goal is to make cool skateboards and enjoy the time spent making them. At the core of that goal lies simplicity, enjoying the process from start to finish.
Know your weaknesses
“The biggest challenge I face is the actual business side of things,” says Meierbachtol. “I love the process of making the product, but getting it out there and figuring out how to run a successful business is so hard for me! I am not that connected in terms of social media and websites, etc., so I make something that I think it awesome, but people might not know about it as much as they could.” Meierbachtol pursues the avenues of pushing her product that works for her. You don’t have to know, or want, to do everything. For Meierbachtol, the best business strategy is forging real work connections with friends and customers. It’s all about word of mouth and also running an Instagram account for the business. “I try and take a few photos throughout the day to post to my Instagram account to kind of show what my brand is all about.”
Love and learn from the process
A day at Old Ford is always different, but a cup of coffee in the morning and Carhartt’s is always a must. “I may stain a couple boards and then set them aside to dry while I shape some new ones. I source wood from many different locations so it comes to me in all different shapes and sizes. I always use recycled wood for my boards. So I will usually plane down a few boards to the correct thickness and then get into deciding what shape I want to make. This is the fun part. Each board can be whatever I want it to be. I have been shaping boards that tend to look and ride like old school surf style boards. I appreciate the simplicity of the boards from the 60’s and I love coming up with my own shapes that replicate that era.”
For Meierbachtol, pursuing her passions makes every day a whole lot more fun. No job is a perfect fit until you take ownership of it and make it your own.