Catching Up With Rich Taylor
By Jordan Powell
Behind any business, big or small, there’s a tale on how it got started. For Rich Taylor, owner of EKS Brand Goggles, his story began when another one was about to finish. “I spent several years working for Suzuki as a tester and I helped them develop a lot of their bikes. But as my career was coming to an end with them, all I could think about was, ‘What am I going to do now?’” The question that Taylor came face to face with is a question that a lot of us ask ourselves at least once in our lives. The uncertainty of the unknown can be a frightful one, but the journey to figure it out can be just as rewarding. “My dad ran Smith Goggles for about 20 years,” said Taylor “so, I kind of had a little bit of history in the goggle world from that.” Willy Musgrave from MTA suggested that if Rich were to make his own goggle, he would distribute it. So, with that thought in mind, Taylor immediately went to work, and started laying out the groundwork for one of the next top goggle companies. A few months later, Rich was working on a mold for his very first goggle, and EKS Brand had officially been born.
Essentially, did you start EKS Brand Goggles because you weren’t really pumped on other goggles?
You know, every goggle is good, and they all have certain characteristics that are better than others. I would never say that one goggle isn’t any good. There’s always a face that the goggle will fit, and there’s always someone that will like that goggle, too. For me, there were certain things that I really, really wanted. One of the things that I for sure knew that I wanted was airflow. I raced many years as a pro, and that was always one of the biggest issues for me. Next, I wanted an anti-fog lens with great tear off posts. However, the biggest thing I wanted was a sweat foam that would work right out of the box. I didn’t want the people who wore my goggles to have to modify them. So, straight out of the box, our sweat foam is unbelievable. It works really, really well. I promise that it will work better than a lot of the sweat foams out there. Moving along to the frame, our goggle is a lot more pliable than most out there, and it fits a greater range of faces.
How long did that whole design process take?
It probably took about a good year. We had to get all of our molds dialed in, but once that happened, things started to move. When I had the first batch done, I had some of my friends that were top pros try them out. Unfortunately, I probably can’t name them because a lot of them were under contract with other goggle companies. So, I got everyone’s feedback, and that helped us develop our goggle. With that said, this goggle came from a lot of testing. I mean, a lot of testing! It’s not just some goggle that we made and threw it out to the public and said, “Here you go! This is the best goggle ever!” No. It wasn’t that way at all because I had race professionally for so long that I didn’t want my name on some horrible product. So, there was definitely a ton of testing and work that went into this goggle.
So, what year did you officially start?
We first started testing in 2007, and we started to finally sell our goggle by the end of ’08.
Did you start in motocross first?
Yes, absolutely. Motocross was the main focus. However, both of my boys race BMX, and we’re actually really strong in the BMX scene. Unfortunately, those guys don’t wear goggles too often [laughs]. We also have a pretty big background in the ski racing industry. I grew up in Sun Valley, Idaho, and we’re dabbling around in that industry. That’s a real tough one to get your feet into, for sure.
Now, was it hard for you to get your feet into the motocross industry? I mean, there are a lot of goggle companies that seem like they’re already pretty established in that market. Is it a competitive market?
Absolutely. It’s kind of funny because I thought that my background as a professional racer combined with the help from my dad was going to make this a piece of cake. Boy, was I wrong [laughs]. It’s super competitive, and it’s been a huge learning process. I’m learning stuff everyday and I’m doing my best just to try and make this work. We’re really fortunate, though, because TransWorld MX and other magazines have helped us out a ton.
In your first year, who were some of the riders you sponsored?
Right off the bat, we had the Butler Brother’s team with Kyle Cunningham and Matt Boni. Boni actually won a Supercross that year. It’s actually kind of funny because there are goggle companies out there that have been involved with racing for 30 years, and they still haven’t had a Supercross win. So, that was really cool. Mike Alessi had been our guy for a long time. Overseas, Steven Frossard finished second in the World Championships. Evengy Bobryshev and Rui Goncalves were also some top 10 guys, too, in the Grand Prix. Then there’s also Zach Osborne who will be the main American guy over there. He’s one of the top guys, and it’s just cool to have the American over there running our goggle. So, we have a red, white, and blue one for him. We’ve been real fortunate to have those top guys running our goggle.
In the four or five years that you’ve been doing this, has it been a dream come true?
No [laughs]. It’s great because this is the sport that I know. I know the industry, I grew up in it, and I was a racer. It’s not like I’m going to go lay carpet for a living because I have no idea how to lay carpet. This is what I do, and this is what I love.