Brisbane Writers Festival - Hayden Cox of Haydenshapes
With the Brisbane Writers Festival approaching (6th-9th September), we spoke with one of the featured guests, Hayden Cox, founder and creator of Haydenshapes, inventor of the patented Carbon Fibre board technology Future-Flex. Between learning about his business and just him as a person, we talked about books we are reading as well as possible TED Talks one day and what he is looking forward to most at his first Writers Festival.
TCI: Firstly, I would like to touch base on you and your business. You started this brand when you were only 15, so I must ask, what made you want to start a brand like this at such a young age? How did that start?
Hayden Cox: The idea was that I wanted to make a surfboard, and I really enjoyed the first board that I built on work experience, I did the work experience on my Easter school holidays so it was a voluntary thing not to relate it to school purely because I was a passionate surfer and loved to surf, and I really enjoyed building things and I’ve always looked at the surfboard as a product. Looking back at that age, I know I really looked at different surfboards and always thought “Oh wow, I wonder how they do that?”. I was really intrigued because I did woodwork and metalwork at school so I was curious if I could build one myself and I would love to learn how to build one. I started selling boards and coding my website during school lunch at the age of 16. The brand then grew and developed board by board. It became a business when I started selling boards (now selling to 70 countries).
TCI: I have also read that you collaborated with big names like Alexander Wang and Audi. When they approached you to collaborate, was it at a point like this that you realised your brand had really blown up into something more?
Hayden Cox: I realised I had a unique brand and something unique when I designed the Future-Flex technology, which is the technology that we launched in 2007, which is what we are known for (the parabolic carbon fibre frame surfboard). That really set us aside because it is a patented innovation in surf and it really was something quite unique and different. It gave us a better experience when riding a wave. We built on that uniqueness and part of the brand and business, and that kind of opened up different opportunities because people recognised that we have something different when approaching and being approached. It was applying that same level of thinking creativity to different projects with Alexander Wang or Audi that sort of made the projects that they are. But in saying that, it isn’t like I can sit back now and wait for people to approach me or that people want to come and work with me, I am still reaching out to people that I want to work with and still want to be challenged and to learn something new.
TCI: I also read that you were recently approached by Westpac Bank to design their wearable tap-and-pay technology…
Hayden Cox: Yes! That was an interesting one when I got the email. I guess I was really excited to have the opportunity to be the first Australian designer to innovate and design accessories that you can tap and pay with, and one that you would want to wear and that you can fit in with your daily style. It is about to launch in the end of September/beginning of October so it has been about year that we have been working on this project and it was just announced yesterday in the Financial Review. So it was pretty cool to have been asked by Westpac to change the way Australians can tap and pay in their everyday life. That was a real pinch yourself moment when given that opportunity.
TCI: Yeah I bet! Moving onto your book, when did you start the book and what gave you the idea to start a book?
Hayden Cox: The idea came up on mine and Danielle’s honeymoon to write a book, as you do on your honeymoon, you sit down on the last day and come up with ideas like that. We just got married and had time in Tahiti. We had brought a lot of books with us on the trip and I think I have read more books on that trip than I have in the last decade. But I guess it is being a young person and starting a brand and being in business, and I have been in business for 21 years now, the best thing for me has been listening to stories and have a relatable sense to that story and the person I am talking with. I thought I would put down some of that journey about being in business and being someone with different ideas and challenges and lessons that I have learned along the way.
It has been out for 2 years, so it has been really cool to see people read it and reach out and even have a few people tell me “Hey, I quit my job and I am starting a business, it has been an idea I have had for a long time thank you so much”. And even having my friends and family read this book, my mum even saying “Oh, jeez, I didn’t know it was kind of like that for you”, so I guess that not even my friends or family understood some of the experiences that I had or the tough points of being a business. I think that it is important for people to understand how you may navigate those, or how often that those difficult times occur when you are in business. Essentially, highlights get put out the most and even in life in general, you tend to mask a lot of those tough days when you go and see your family, you don’t talk about it as much. So it was goo to write about how I tackled each of those tough points and tried turn them around into positive points.
TCI: Are you wanting to give that insight to both the good and bad points to starting a business?
Hayden Cox: More, just being in business in general. From my point of view, I guess it is a first hand take on two decades of building a brand and the technology from the ground up. And that is the highs, lows and the lessons.
TCI: Talking about how no one knew the tough issues that you were going through, did you have any apprehension to sharing that in your book?
Hayden Cox: No not at all, it was good fun. It definitely helped remind me where I am at now and not to be complacent. It also reminds me to be hungry still for any opportunity that comes along. That is a really important thing because as soon as you become complacent with where you are at, you’re not really setting yourself out to lead and to change an industry, you become relaxed in this little world and cycle of moving forward. So it was definitely a good reminder to put down all those moments and that journey of what I have been through.
TCI: Is there anything you are looking forward to most about the Brisbane Writers Festival?
Hayden Cox: I am really looking forward to just having a chat to people as I have never been to a writers festival so that is going to be something new for myself to witness and experience, you never know who you are going to meet at any event, so hopefully I get to meet some interesting people and have some good chats.
TCI: While we are on the subjects of books and your book, what books have you read to get inspiration?
Hayden Cox: A couple of business books. One or two which were from my wife that I read. But there were a couple I read on the honeymoon. Online Gravity was an interesting one that I read. There was another book called mind power, I read that one in 2008, which is a powerful and interesting book to read. So those are the 2 most standout books I have read so far.
I am actually reading a book at the moment that I got in Greece, it is called Talking to my Daughter About the Economy (Yanis Varoufakis), which is perfect as I have a one year old daughter and an interest in the economy. So far, I am only one chapter in, so it is quite interesting.
TCI: Awesome! Sounds like a good read for sure. Well thank you so much for taking the time with me. I am looking forward to the Brisbane Writers Festival and hearing even more about your book.
Hayden Cox: Thank you so much! Looking forward to seeing everyone there.
You can catch Hayden Cox at the Brisbane Writers Festival, where he will be making his appearance on the 8th of September.