Industry Insights | Ft. Jared Hicks 2

Jared Hicks is a co-founder of Backyard Designs and he joins for this edition of Industry Insights.

In this edition of Industry Insights we talk to Backyard Designs co-founder Jared Hicks about growing up with a dad who coached stick and ball sports, how they discovered dirt bikes, racing Supercross, and a chance meeting that would lead to Backyard Designs.

For the full interview, check out the Vital MX podcast right here. If you're interested in the condensed written version, scroll down just a bit further.


Jamie Guida – Vital MX: Good to talk to you, Jared. How's it going?

Jared Hicks: I'm doing good. Stoked to be on here. 

Vital MX: Give us your background so we can get to know you a bit better.

Jared: I was born in Mobile, Alabama, and there wasn't much moto going on. It's mostly college football, fishing, hunting, and that type of thing. I tried the football and basketball thing because my dad was into those sports and coached them. I was terrible at those sports, and being the coach's son was difficult. I hated it because I was one of the worst guys on the team. At nine, I was introduced to dirt bikes when my uncle and cousin got motorcycles. There was a trend that my dad and I would get into what they were into and vice versa. So, we got bikes because they did. My first bike was a '98 XR70, and I was hooked from the first day. It was the coolest thing I'd ever done, and I would just rip laps around this field by my grandma's house. We ended up buying it later on and moving there. We built a little track on the property. I remember like it was yesterday having a big crash the first time I rode the bike and how I couldn't wait to get up and get back on. As a parent, you kind of know if your kid is into it or not by how they react to the first crash.

Jared Hicks

Vital MX: I find the dynamic between the coach and the coach's son interesting when the son is not great at sports. Was your dad cool with you finding a passion in moto? Or did he think it was dumb? 

Jared: It was cool for me because my dad coached football, baseball, and basketball for twenty years and was very involved in the community. He was athletic and good at all that. I couldn't dribble a basketball to save my life. When we got into dirt bikes, he knew nothing about it. I didn't even know Supercross existed until 2000. We were introduced to riding by going to this local dirt pit, and there would be 100-200 people there on any given weekend. My mom would make me go to church on Sunday, and I would chomp at the bit to get to the dirt pit. I was scared I was going to miss out on something. I watched these guys do gnarly wall jumps and was obsessed with jumping. To this day, I enjoy jumping more than anything. The people at the pit told us about a race over at West Florida Motocross Park. My dad talked to everyone, and they invited us. My dad gave me a lot of communication and networking skills that helped me with my job. So, we went to the race, which was all new to me. I thought it was the coolest thing ever. The same people said, "We're going to Supercross in New Orleans." That was a whole different level. I didn't know what Loretta Lynn's was or anything. After my first race, we were hooked. My dad was into trail riding, but I was into the racing. At my first race, I think I got third out of five, but I got a trophy and thought, "This is it." 

Vital MX: I love that your dad rode with you and didn't make you feel inferior because it wasn't a stick and ball. I always wondered if there is tension when the coach's son isn't good at those sports.

Jared: There was in the stick and ball world. We didn't have the best relationship until motorcycles came into our lives. Once they did, almost every weekend, my dad and I would go ride, and it gave us something to bond over. My dad was never pushy. If anything, when I started getting better, some of the jumps I was doing made him worried. He also announced football games and eventually got into announcing motocross races. It was cool for me. It's crazy looking back on how we got into it, knowing nothing, to discovering Loretta Lynn's and me wanting to go. I went to the first qualifier and got worked. Those kids were gnarly. I started chasing that goal and finally made it. Then, I wanted to race Supercross because I was obsessed with it. I liked watching the guys and the atmosphere in the stadium. Like any other kid, I wanted that to be my job. I finally got my Supercross license, which I was over the moon about. I remember in my first year before I made a night show, I was 41st in the two previous rounds, and there was no worse feeling. I finally made my first night show in St. Louis, which was special. It was one of the only ones my dad came to. 

Jared Hicks

Vital MX: Did you believe you could make a living at it?

Jared: When I got my first check from the AMA, I thought, "This isn't going to work." It was a $130. It was $200 for the entry. With that and some 87-octane gas, you're over your budget. I think I approached it differently than others. I knew it wouldn't work from the first check, but I wanted to find a job in the industry. I figured there was no better way than racing and being at the races. I made about 50% of the night shows, but I wouldn't train. I was there to network. I was stoked if I made the night show, but I didn't care about making the Main. I couldn't do 20 laps anyway. I knew my place and used the privateer years to network and meet people. 

Vital MX: What's the inception of Backyard Graphics?

Jared: When I was 15 or 16, I learned about the industry in California; to me, it was like Narnia. It was a special place where all the dirt bike stuff was, and I wanted to come out here so bad. Travis Fant from Dirt Bike Magazine and I had met years before in Pensacola, Florida, at a local track when I was 14 and he was around 16. He and I linked up when I went to Vegas for the East/West Shootout, and he told me he was living in California. I went home and realized I'd have to race a 450 to afford to stay in the series because you could get $965 to make the night show. Fant had said I could come out, stay with him, and race the West Coast rounds, so I came out. I wanted to go to all the free-ride spots. I went to Reche Canyon with Fant and one of our buddies. Philipp Klakow, the main guy who runs Backyard Designs, and his cousin Sebastian were over from Germany racing Supercross as a privateer and were riding where we were. There was a big jump that I think (Mike) Metzger had gotten hurt on, and I went over to Philipp and said, "You can follow me over if you want" because I could tell they wanted to do it. So, I towed him over, and then we rode together and had a good time. Later, we parked near each other at the Supercross races, kept running into each other, and became friends. After Supercross, Philipp says, "I want to come do some nationals this Summer." I said, "No worries. You can stay with me." From then on, I was kind of his home base when coming to America to race. He set me up to race in the German Supercross after the nationals. It became the thing we did every year. I remember being in Germany in the freezing cold, and it was so expensive. We said, "We need to figure out how to make money to afford to race. We were painting helmets in his garage; it was 20 degrees out, and they were coming out terribly. That wasn't working. I then came back to the States, and Philipp said, "I'm starting to make stickers." He had bought a used printer. It was nothing crazy, but just a small operation. He asked if I wanted to come over in the Summer and we could do it together. I could do it in the U.S., and he would do it in Europe. So, I go to Germany and we're learning it together. He was always a few steps ahead of me and would show me things. I had a townhouse in Riverside, California, and bought a Roland printer and a little laminator on a fold-out camping table in my living room. That's where Backyard Designs started.

Jared Hicks

Vital MX: How does word of mouth get out to allow the company to grow?

Jared: It's about who you know and, more importantly, who knows you. Fant had gotten a job at Hi-Torque, and I got into the test riding because he was filming. He got my foot in the door with Dirt Bike Magazine which I've been testing with for about 12-13 years. They had our product in the magazine within two or three months of starting it. Knowing those people helped us get credibility faster than if I'd been running it out of my house in Alabama. A good friend of mine, Sean Lipanovich, started running the graphics, too. I had met a lot of people when I was racing and was friends with everyone. Fant was running our stuff, and knowing the right people boosted us. We saved enough money to invest in sponsoring some stuff, and around 2019, it took off when we paid Josh Hansen to run our stuff. That took us to another level of credibility. We got Josh Grant not long after that. We got in with Swap Moto, RV (Ryan Villopoto), and other heavy hitters. It was all in a six-month time period. That's what allowed us to push forward.

Jared Hicks

Vital MX: What do you believe sets Backyard Designs apart?

Jared: Philipp is passionate about the brand and is constantly trying to improve it. His drive for the business, paired with my networking, marketing, and media relations, set us apart. We get our own material made. It took us seven years to develop, but we have the best material. I'd put it up against any other one. Removing the graphics leaves no glue on the plastic, which is the best thing for me. Anyone who's ever taken graphics off and there's a layer of glue, that sucks. Also, we have a configurator that allows you to see what you're working on. You don't have to wait for a proof. Once you approve the order, they'll be at your door in two or three days. We cut out the middleman and all the back-and-forth waiting on proofs. We put a lot of the money we make back into the website, and we're working on a new site that will be at the next level. We want people to feel they are part of something and be the brand for everyone. 



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