When Stevie Williams picked up a skateboard, many doubted he would become an international success. No sooner, than his 18th birthday, he set out to prove them wrong. The fearless teen hitchhiked from Philadelphia to San Francisco with a goal of becoming a sponsored skateboarder. His wheels took him from the streets to fame as one of the most influential skateboarders. Recently, Williams launched Asphalt Clothing Company, a line representing the spoils of taking calculated risks.
“It was something different I wanted to express for myself at this point in my career. So Asphalt Yacht club is a mentality. It’s a mentality of going to the streets to the yacht,” Williams explains. “The yacht symbolizes success. The mentality is going from the streets to yachts or going from nothing to something. It’s about having a road or destination and moving forward to get somewhere. So it could be Asphalt Gin Club or Asphalt Mansion Club. Start from the Asphalt, which is from the streets and going to win.”
It seemed unlikely for a kid from Philly to make it in the skate world, but that is exactly why Williams was determined to succeed. When he took up skateboarding at age 12, the sport was associated with being young, white and reckless i.e. the “The Lords of Dogtown,” but as a kid Williams knew he possessed a gift and left Philly with the objective of capitalizing on his talent.
“There really is no color line to skateboarding. I wanted to be a skater and no one believed me that I could do it and I was really good at it,” Stevie recalls. “I wanted to prove to everybody that I was a really good skateboarder and I wound up being one of the best and the most successful African-American skateboarders.”
It didn’t take long for skateboard fans in San Francisco to recognize Williams had something special, because, after being in California no more than a year he turned pro at age 19. He went on to start his own skateboard company DGK (Dirty Ghetto Kids) at the age of 22. Then, at 24 years old, the popular skater landed a deal with Reebok where he designed RBK-DGK, a collection including DGK skate shoes and clothing. Williams was the first ever professional skater to be sponsored by Reebok. He also lended his gift for design to the creation of the “Flipside” Air Jordan Skate sneaker by Nike.
“At around 21-22, I learned business. In this industry I was able to kind of monetize my image and capitalize off of my ideas. It was about understanding good business and how business works," Stevie explains. “It’s what I focused on in my 20’s and now I can put into practice what I learned.”
At 33 years old, Williams has achieved success that reaches far beyond ollies and aerials. The entrepreneur opened L&K Skate Shop in 2006 in Oceanside, California and in 2008 he opened Sk8tique, a skate boutique, in Atlanta, Ga., In 2011, Williams opened Da Playground a skating facility in Atlanta, Ga., to provide a park for the DGK team skaters. The team took home the title of best team at the 15th Annual Transworld SKATEboarding Awards. Stevie's string of accomplishments comes from the same drive it took to create a life for himself despite his circumstance. As a role model to younger skaters, he wants to inspire the same tenacity in his fans, many of whom come from urban jungles much like West Philly.
“Everyone knows I have street story. I was a street skateboarder. It’s not just Black kids, its Asian kids, Puerto Rican kids and all inner city kids. One thing I tell them is it will keep you out of trouble. You may not make it to be me or Jay Z, if you rap, but one thing is guaranteed if you’re selling drugs you’re going to go to jail or something bad is going to happen,” he explains “ It's easier for kids to learn newer things like fashion, skateboarding, management, or photography. A lot of different things come from being a cooler kid these days. I don’t knock anybody for keeping it real, but when it comes to the new youth they are getting into cooler things and at the end of the day it’s keeping them out of trouble.”
Now a vet in the skating world, Williams looks back at his decision to leave Philly and gives skateboarding credit for most of his major accomplishments. He even goes as far to say the sport rescued him from what may have been an otherwise tragic fate.
“Skateboarding saved my life, my family’s life, my kids’ life and makes everyone around me happy when I do my job. I love doing my job by providing for my family, traveling and being who I am.”
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