Building Bridges and Ramps: One Keen Entrepreneur

In the heart of many bustling cities, you’ll find skateparks, school yards, and parking lots packed with kids, teenagers, and adults alike, all searching for an outlet to release their energy and creativity. The skateboarding community is a tight-knit group with a shared passion for pushing boundaries and experimenting. And, at the center of Cory Keen’s skateboarding experience is creativity.

As a skateboarding-crazed teenager, Cory and his friends would scrap together any materials they could find to create ramps, rails, boxes, or quarter pipes. Through skating, they honed their resourcefulness. It’s this spirit of innovation that led Cory to start a company focused on helping the skate community — Keen Ramps.

Where Cory’s journey began

Cory Keen’s journey began at an early age. Growing up in nearby Bellflower, California, he discovered his passion for skateboarding at the age of 10. From that point on, he spent countless hours sharpening his skills and pushing himself to learn new skating tricks and techniques. But that wasn’t his only interest. Even as a child, Cory had a natural talent for building and creating things with his hands.

In fact, his love of building started long before he ever stepped on a skateboard. His dad owned a vending machine company and had a workshop set up in their garage. Cory spent hours helping his dad build and repair the machines and learned the basics of woodworking and construction along the way. He credits his dad with introducing him to tools at an early age and providing him with the opportunity to “run with any idea [he] ever had.”

Cory’s twin fascinations with building and skateboarding converged during his early adulthood. After completing a Master’s Degree in City and Regional Planning, he went on to work at a transportation planning firm. After getting laid off from that firm in 2011, he decided to diverge from the career path his higher education led to and instead pursued a career in something he was passionate about (skateboarding).

Initially, Cory considered starting a skateboard instruction school focused on educating the next generation. Unfortunately, he realized another local company had taken much of the market and he didn’t want to step on the toes of someone he respected (Adam from Skate Dogs), who was already providing a great service. Instead, he wanted to combine what he did best: skateboarding and innovation.

Cory wanted to  “create opportunities to excite kids who are learning and progressing in their own driveways, backyards, and neighborhood streets.” And by building skateboard ramps, he could fulfill that.

Keen Ramps started because of Cory’s passion for the skateboarding community. He credits skateboarding for who he is today. It’s how he met all of his lifelong friends, where he discovered his tastes in music and fashion (from skate videos and magazines), and where he learned to get back up even when you fail at trying something hundreds of times. And, it’s how he met his wife.

At first, Cory ran the company alone out of his garage, building, and selling ramps. But as demand grew, he brought on other skaters to help with the building and testing process, ensuring that each ramp was up to his high standards. Those values remain at the core of Keen Ramps — it’s a company designed by skaters, for skaters.

Impact on the skateboarding community

Cory’s goal has always been to create high-quality skating equipment that brings joy to like-minded skateboarders. By understanding what the community and subculture want, he’s able to fulfill his commitment to leaving a positive impact on the sport. With his innovation, he’s fostered an environment where skaters can focus on what they do best: push the boundaries of their limitations and explore their creativity.

What sets the skate community apart from other sports and hobbies is the DIY aspect. Skateboarders have always been resourceful, using whatever materials they can find to build ramps, rails, and other obstacles to skate on. This mindset is ingrained in the skate community and is part of what makes it so unique.

Given this fact, Cory has made sure to supply free resources and how-to videos on YouTube and social media on how to build a majority of Keen Ramps for those who might not have the budget for Keen products or for those with building experience and/or the knowledge of using tools.

This may seem counterintuitive to a ramp company’s business model but Cory would rather be the one sharing the information on how folks can safely and properly build things on their own instead of hoarding that information in hopes more people buy Keen Ramps’ products.

As the sport grows and gains more mainstream attention, there’s a fear that it will lose this DIY spirit and become overly commercialized. However, one of Cory’s missions is to keep the innovative aspect of skateboarding alive. It’s part of the beauty of skateboarding.

He feels there will always be a subset of “core” skateboarding no matter how big it gets and one of Keen Ramps’ missions is to stay attractive and accessible to all facets of skateboarding enthusiasts. “Skateboarding is all about inclusivity, no one should ever feel intimidated to express themselves on the board and progress. Keen Ramps makes the learning process as easy as possible for someone starting out to learn tricks in the comfort of their own home.”

As the skating community continues to evolve and grow, it’s clear that Cory Keen will remain a driving force behind its progress. And while the sport may have changed over the years, the fundamental values have remained unchanged.

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