TALK IT UP TUESDAY: Darren Wimberley
Tuesday, Jun 21, 2016 03:42pm
By Aaron Waldron
Welcome to LiveRC's weekly column, "Talk-It-Up Tuesday!" Here we spend a little time talking with industry icons including racers, manufacturers, team managers, developers, promoters, and everyone in between! Sit back, relax, and go behind the scenes as we interview them all!
FireBrand RC was launched in August of 2010, but I didn’t hear about them until five years later - when the press release for the Stoke-D tuner SUV body showed up in LiveRC’s inbox. Since then, I’ve looked forward to each new FireBrand RC product not only as a complete departure from typical racer culture, but simply to see what the owner, Darren Wimberley, and his team could come up with next. After all, according to our site and social media states, LiveRC’s audience enjoys them too!
With each press release I got to learn a little bit more about Darren and his company’s direction, so a couple of weeks ago I asked him to help put together a Talk It Up Tuesday interview to share his story with LiveRC’s audience.
Aaron Waldron: How old are you, and where are you from?
Darren Wimberley: I’m 44 years old and I was born and raised in Dallas, Texas.
AW: How did you get into RC?
DW: In 1977, I got an electric LaTrax buggy for Christmas. I played with that thing all day, everyday. Even back then, I was painting my bodies after they started to get scratched-up. I'd imagine I was a pit crew guy fixing up my machines. That’s how the addiction began. I've always liked the creativity and imagination my RC builds ignite. I loved the Wild Willy, Stompers, Traxxas, old Tamiya, Associated and so, so many more throughout the years.
I've always liked the escapism of the RC hobby. When I was young, I couldn't always afford a full-sized hot-rod or mud-bogger, but I could afford a 1:10 scale version of one. Then I could mod it to MY style. I still think the same way today.
AW: What is your artistic and creative background?
DW: I've been an artist, of some type, all of my life.
It really all started when I won a school-wide Easter Bunny drawing contest in first grade. After that, my parents enrolled me in every art/drawing/design class they could. I had private drawing lessons throughout elementary school. I excelled at drawing cars, BMX stuff, skater stuff, trucks, girls, monsters - you name it.
I decided to go to the University of North Texas for their widely-renowned art and design program. I majored in Communication Design with minors in Marketing and Journalism. That's when I started getting to know the Mac computer, the Adobe Creative Suite, and many other art and design programs.
After graduating college, I started working as an Art Director for creative shops and ad agencies in Dallas. Then, in the late 90's, I landed a job that would transform me for years to come. I was Creative Director at one of the world's top international hair-care/salon companies. I was the creative director who, with my team of art directors, helped create and develop a product-line called "Bed Head". After that experience I was able to move to other agencies and continued to develop my set of skills. All the while, I was continuing to paint, draw and experiment with many other forms of art. Finally, after 18 years of advertising and design, I achieved the title of Executive Creative Director. Oddly, it was at that point, I had an overwhelming feeling that it was time to do something different with my art, design and marketing skills - something waaay different.
AW: When did you decide to launch FireBrand RC? Was it your first business? Your first time working in the RC industry?
DW: After doing the advertising, design and product-development thing for 18 years, I began getting the itch for more - more experiences, more learning, more sun, and definitely more RC. In 2010, my spare time was spent creating one-of-a-kind RC vehicle wraps and decal sheets for friends and family. It was during that time, I distinctly remember going to my local RC hobby shops looking for decals and other products I thought should be there.
That's when it hit me – all of these experiences over the last 18 years were just preparing me to start THIS business. A business with RC products of all types - products I like and use. So, let's combine a life-long passion for the RC hobby with all that business stuff and see what happens.
AW: Where did the name FireBrand come from?
DW: I raced BMX tracks and skated ramps and street in the 4th through 8th grade. When thinking about the company name, the first word that came to mind was "radical.” When skating, “radical" or “rad" always seemed a fitting word to yell out when someone impressed the crowd with a successful trick or landing. I then typed "radical" into an online thesaurus site. One of the words that came back was "firebrand." After more research, I realized it was a word that describes me and the sum of my philosophies perfectly. It was immediate – FireBrand RC was going to be the name.
And racers think they're the only ones who can fill up a hotel room with stuff!
AW: How many people work behind the scenes at FireBrand RC?
DW: We currently have four employees and five part-time production people. We are hoping to add another artist/designer soon.
AW: How many RC vehicles do you personally own at the moment? Do you have any current favorites?
DW: Wow. I now have well over 25 different types of radio-controlled vehicles: buggies, boats, monster trucks, helis, drones, monster bashers, on-road drifters and carpet racers, truggies, short-course trucks, crawlers, etc.
One of my favorites is my Stampede VXL. On its maiden drive, I hit a light post at full-speed. I remember seeing so many pieces exploding all over the place - broken chassis, smashed shocks, mushed ESC, etc. Not deterred by my epic fail, I rebuilt that Stampede into an absolute mud-bashing monster. Now it’s bigger, badder, stronger and faster than before.
AW: Can you walk us through the process of brainstorming, developing, and finalizing a new product?
DW: We now have over 130 products divided into six categories: Off-Road Bodies, Off-Road Wheels/Tires, On-Road Bodies, On-Road Wheels/Tires, Parts/Accessories/Tools and Multi-fit Decals/Wraps. Each product category is added to on a case-by-case manner. We know there are lots and lots of products our RC friends have been asking for. Ultimately, that's the best form of pure product development you can get: give them what they want.
We create a concept behind each product where applicable. My creative team and I will get together for a brainstorming session and come up with names after a product is designed. That being said, we come up with some awesome concepts during those sessions so some names are definitely saved and sometimes they are the spark that ignites a new product we develop. The SandShark is a perfect example of that: it is a clear body and spoiler we wanted to fit (and be used on) all types of vehicles - off-road, on-road, whatever. We knew a really cool, old-school Baja/Rally-X/Basher beetle body was a must-have. That's when the research began. We discovered what's out there now, what can we make better, and what's missing. We wanted the SandShark multi-fit body and decal sheet to give the RC enthusiast a new way to not only have a trick body, but to also be able to express him or herself while creating something they are proud of - their own, unique piece of RC hobby-art.
AW: What products and company milestones are you most proud of?
DW: I am very happy with the One Tool, the SixFour Body, the Judge Body, the Baller 2.0 Body w/kit, our super-premium 12 and 9mm off-set aluminum drift wheel and tire sets, the off/on-road .50 Cal Rally-X Gymkhana tires and the Komoto-MT, 2.8'' Mud-Bash wheel and tire set.
As far as company milestones go, being invited to the 2015 HobbyTown National Convention was a great day. Because of that Expo, we are now available in HobbyTown retail locations all across the country and beyond! We look forward to attending the 2016 HobbyTown National Convention this year in mid-July.
AW: When you’re not at the office, what are some of your favorite hobbies?
DW: I like to spin my tires in real life too: off-road, on-road or no-road – I'm down. Local mud bogs, street races and non sanctioned drifting. Big radios, big engines and my girl make me smile. I'm an avid video-gamer, skateboarder, artist, geek and lover of music, life and all things positive. I enjoy training my doberman pincer, Axel. You'll also find me-and-mine at concerts, aquariums, art galleries, museums, festivals and sporting events whenever possible.
AW: What’s the best part of working in the RC industry? What about the industry annoys or bothers you?
DW: I'd say the best part of the RC industry is the people we meet going to shows, events and retail locations. Our customers are smart, super-cool and very creative. I love hearing the stories and seeing the pictures and videos of their builds using our products.
Another great part of the RC industry would be that it's an industry where most everyone really seems to love what they do. It's cool to see and experience. From the executives to the start-ups, everyone we deal with seems to be happy because they are working in their hobby, doing what they are passionate about.
Not much annoys me these days...and that's a good thing. If anything, it’s the few in the industry who:
- are not into moving the industry forward
- think parts of the RC hobby are somehow exclusive
- think there's only one way to do something
AW: Who are some of the people that have helped you the most?
DW: My family and friends, my God and my Lady have all been major drivers behind the success of FireBrand RC.
AW: Thanks for the interview! Is there anything else you’d like to add?
DW: My goal is to spread the word and grow this brand. For all the RC enthusiast out there unable to find the style and function they seek at a good value. Decals they can use to make a simple paint job look custom. Great looking wheel and tire sets that are ready to run and top quality bodies, accessories and tools. As we like to say at FireBrand RC…hot products for cool people!