Over the years, Oriol ‘Oli’ Benet has been bestowed with many titles: Pro skater, DJ, company owner, tour guide, product developer and agony aunt – to name a few. One thing that can never be said about the man is that he is lazy. The Barcelona-based blader-turned-businessman has promoted rollerblading through various platforms including a hugely popular clothing brand, numerous television appearances and his tireless work with the various companies that fall under The Conference umbrella. It is safe to say that he is one of the hardest working men in the rollerblading industry, and that is no mean feat, so we decided to find out how he got involved in the business side of blading and what exactly that involves.

Wheel Scene: How did you get into rollerblading and what year was that?
Oli Benet: I got my first skates when I was eight years old – some Bauer Turbo quads. My cousin had bought them in a boot sale but they were too big for him, so he sold them to me. Well, he sold them to my parents, as my finances weren’t at their best back then. My first inline skates were Roces LAX when I was about 14, so I guess around 1995.

How did you start working for The Conference?
I was on the Razors team but I really didn’t like the skates. I decided to buy some Deshi skates and quit the Razors team. I emailed Deshi to tell them about myself and my love of their skates, and Mark Korte decided to send me a pair of skates and “watch me”. A few months later, the head of Powerslide was using me to test all the new products. At the time I was in sales for a big import/ export company, making good money and getting a lot of experience in business. When the guys at The Conference realised that I knew what I was doing they decided to offer me a job.

What is your position exactly?
My position has evolved through a number of departments but I consider myself co-aggressive manager with Bauer and JC Rowe, although I also do much of the customer support, proof-reading, texts, organisation of the websites, video intros, Facebook accounts, marketing, fitness and longboard shoots. Call me Mr. Odd Job, I guess!

How long have you been working for The Conference?
It’s been over seven years now. I love it!

What are your tasks on a daily and weekly basis?
I provide daily updates on The Conference, USD, Kizer and Undercover Wheels sites, as well as the Facebook accounts. I answer almost all of the emails from customers to any of the sites, all booking of European and international riders, sponsorship deals, promotion to all media websites, promotion to the public, emails, development of new products and tours. Whatever needs to get done, really.

Since The Powerhouse has opened how have things changed for the brand?
For me it’s been a real headache. We have lost the budget for riders, tours and advertising, and focused a lot of attention on the house. We have got a lot of stuff done for sure; interviews and epic sections, as well as being able to push lesser-known riders. But at the same time it’s like a full-time tour in your own city, which is quite tiresome. Still, it’s a success and it’s still a really exciting project that is churning out quality photos and videos like there is no tomorrow.

What happened to Stygma?
Stygma did really well and I loved it. The problem with clothing in a skate market (notice they have almost all gone) is that if you want to make money you have to get in line with fashion timing and stores, otherwise you’re not going to make a penny. When you have to make so many sizes and so many designs for one clothing line, you almost need a designer or two working full-time. The simple fact is that making hardware is what we are good at and what the designers are there for, and we realised that spending so many hours on T-shirt designs to not have a market for it was taking away valuable time on getting the best looking and performing hardware to customers. Getting into the fashion market needs real commitment, otherwise you are just a skate T-shirt brand and that’s not something a distribution and manufacturing company like The Conference needs to be focusing on when there’s already so much work to do on the hardware side of things.

Do you have any projects that you are working on that you can tell us about?
Get ready for aggressive 2.0. I can leak to you that Powerblading is about to be a lot more real than people expected. We’re putting a lot of faith and investment into the project and it’s about to happen. It’s extremely exciting. Also, we are working on the Xsjado 2.0 and other progressions.

Are there any more new products we can expect this year? Any more pro models?
Lots! Richie Eisler, Don Bambrick, Jeff Stockwell, JC Rowe and Dominic Sagona. We’re holding nothing back this year!

What would you like to see change in the sport/ industry?
Well, that’s a hard question. I guess more European representation at a high level, less hate in general, (it’s ridiculous the amount of haters in this sport) more money so skaters aren’t so bitter and because our pro and am skaters deserve to get paid better. Oh, and Powerblading – of course!

Photo: Kiku Comino



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