Now is the Time. Memphis is the Place.

Where Skate & Art Collide: MadAir Decks

Photo: MadAir Decks

Featured photo: MadAir Decks

We sat down with Memphian and MadAir Decks owner Madison Harrison to talk about how she draws inspiration from Memphis’ booming creative scene and what she’s learned from starting her own hand painted longboard business.

Photo: MadAir Decks

MadAir team L to R: Alya Bandealy, Amber George, Madison Harrison, Jake Barrett. Photo: MadAir Decks

Choose901: What made you want to create MadAir Decks?

Madison Harrison: I have a huge radius of influence around me that led me to wanting to start my own business. My father owns his own, very successful tree business, Harrison Tree Service; I gained a ton of experience in sales, marketing and management from Vector/Cutco; one of my best friends, Micah Givens, owns his own streetwear brand, Sputnik Clothing, from which I learned a ton about screen printing and design; and my best friends Rachel Kaplan and Simone Brasher own their own local tie-dye business, (901)derful Tie-Dye. I love the idea of creating something special that derives straight from my hometown and having people so close to you that are working hard for their ideas to come alive is extremely inspiring.

Over the last couple of years a group of friends and I fell in love with skating, specifically longboarding. For about a year I was without a car, so those wheels were my source of transportation. It became something I was very passionate about; there’s just something about cruising around Memphis and taking on long, steep hills, that you can’t beat – especially when you’re doing it with your close friends. It’s addicting. So, very randomly, I was thinking about what it would be like to have my own skate company, specifically starting here in Memphis.

Photo: MadAir Decks

Photo: MadAir Decks

I work at Babalu in Overton Square, where I met and work with some of the most talented local artists that I know personally – all University of Memphis and Memphis College of Art students and alumni. I was thinking about their incredible artwork, and what I learned about their networking process, and how difficult it can be sometimes to make a living off artwork, when it finally came to me – I wanted my skate company to exclusively promote local artists and their artwork. For each deck to be hand-designed and unique so that there isn’t two of the same deck. I wanted to create a fun and different experience for the artists to not just earn a profit for their work, but to gain more acknowledgement in their community through being a part of MadAir art events and projects. And lastly, I wanted to bring something unique to Memphis for the community to really enjoy experiencing. And so, one of my partners Amber George, helped my idea come alive and then with the addition of our other two partners Jake Barrett and Alya Bandealy – the four of us created something really significant, and we are exemplifying my saying, “hand made is the best made.”

C901: How is the Memphis creative and art scene coming together to work on this project?

MH: This part of things is truly amazing. The amount of talented, driven young people we interact with is by far the most inspiring aspect for me. We have a team that holds talent in all different sides – art, business, financial, clothing design, marketing, sales, networking. And then we have the groups of local artists we work with that have their own individual artistic styles and specialties. With all of these people working hard on their roles in our project, we have created something that shows a great amount of potential and already accomplished more than I could have imagined over a year and a half ago. 

C901: What do you feel MadAir Decks brings to Memphis?


Photo: Madison Harrison

MH: I believe that MadAir brings a very unique type of skate business to Memphis that, in hopes, will influence locals to explore the small, but growing, skate and art cultures we have here. Our events provide a welcoming and fun environment for people to enjoy. Not only do we have incredible skate decks designed by local artists for sell and show, but we have a line-up of local musicians performing, local small businesses set up as vendors, an open bar, and a food truck for each event. We emphasize all things Memphis and strive to give Memphians a taste of what can come from a vast amount of young ambition working together.

C901: What advice would you give to other Memphians who aspire to open their own business?


Photo: Madison Harrison

MH: First off, you have to find something that you are truly passionate about. Something that you wholeheartedly believe in, something you would indulge in if it weren’t your own and something that you can see yourself enjoying for quite possibly the rest of your life. Once you find that, really delve completely into it – investing your time into it daily, research and learning more about it, figure out what you can do today to get your project to the next level. Long-term goals are great, and necessary, but what you do today, right now is what really matters. If it fits your project, find a team of people you trust, enjoy being around and are just as interested in your idea as you are. Find people who are talented in aspects of your project that you lack in. For example, one of my partners, Amber George, is an incredible artist – the rest of us are not – so she plays the role of our in-house artist. She takes our group’s ideas and puts them into beautiful designs – she designed our logo, t-shirts, stickers, etc. as well as her own MadAir Decks. 

Starting your own business is a long and tedious process – always keep a positive, open mind when things don’t go the way you expected, otherwise you will, time and time again, be disappointed. Remind yourself why you started and fight for that. And finally, never ever compare your process, your ideas, your accomplishments, your flaws, or your financial success to anyone else’s. All of those things are unique to you and could never be compared fairly – so maintain focus on the sole person you can control, yourself.

MadAir Decks next exhibition will be held December 10th at Memphis Slim House. Tickets include admission into the exhibit, live performances, an open bar for those 21 and up, and access to vendors and food trucks. Join the event page for updates.

Follow MadAir Decks on Facebook for updates.

Meet the artists behind MadAir Decks here.

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