16 Sep Canadian BMX Company History: Ted Efthymiadis & Seshin Bikes (2001 to 2008)
When I got to thinking about the history of Canadian BMX hardware brands, two names immediately popped into my head: MacNeil and Seshin. I reached out to Ted Efthymiadis, the visionary and jack-of-all-trades powerhouse behind Seshin Bikes from Halifax, Nova Scotia. While Seshin only existed for a relatively short while (2001-2008), it put some household names on the map, as well as went on to show that if you have the passion and drive to make your dreams a reality, nothing will get in your way. Without further ado, meet Ted and Seshin Bikes.
Hey Ted! Thanks for taking the time to do this. Let’s start with the “eureka” moment for Seshin. What was the spark that started it all?
When I was 17, I had recently graduated from high school and was working a job at Subway that I absolutely hated. This created a spark in me to do something I loved as a career. My father laughed at me when I told him of my plan, and that was the fuel that I needed to help me move forward. The desire to prove another person wrong can be a powerful motivator.
Whoa! So how old were you when you got on the phone with a Taiwanese manufacturer? Did you ever travel over there for R&D or quality control purposes?
I was 18 or 19 when I started working with Taiwan. I never traveled to Asia because I found an excellent agent in Taiwan named Calvin. He visited the factories for me, helped to get better manufacturing prices, etc. His company did an incredible job!
Do you have any kind of a manufacturing background? Or were you just a kid with a dream that dove into the deep end?
I have no drafting experience. I let the engineers in Taiwan do that part. I just knew what I wanted to do and went after my dream. Don’t let the HOW stop you. I was a trained welder and machinist because my father forced me to go to college. He wanted me to have a Plan B if Seshin didn’t work out. Now that I’m a father, I respect his views more than I did in those days. However, I dropped out of my last year in welding because Seshin was doing so well.
What was the first product you put out?
We started with trucker hats and t-shirts that we had printed in Canada at the time, and then moved into hardgoods in year two or three.
What drove your decision to do production overseas?
We did not make hardgoods in Canada because of the expense. I met a businessman in 2001 who did a lot of importing and exporting, mainly to China. He convinced me to start looking into Taiwan. I would have loved to make our products in North America, but the financials just did not work. We always wanted to be an inexpensive brand, and without Taiwan that dream would have never been realized.
What was the product you were most proud of?
The Shithawk V1 was the best frame we ever made. I still to this date enjoy it more than any other product. It was just flawless. It’s a timeless frame. The frame was sold in 2005 or 2006 I believe. Still today, you could see one on a shelf at a bike shop and assume it’s a current product.
That frame is quite timeless. I would put it up there with the Fit S3 Aitken. How did you go about its design? Any team input into it?
We always talked to riders around the world to get their ideas. At the time, I was very active on BikeGuide.org. Our team riders also helped, and I had the final say. That frame just came together perfectly. I went over the drawings and tweaked things for months before giving the factory the final okay.
The one and only Shithawk V1.
Speaking of riders, Seshin sponsored a who’s who of Canadian BMX royalty over the years. What superpowers enabled you to spot so much talent across the country?
We had an incredible team over the years. I met Drew at a BMX contest in New Brunswick that I was MCing. He was really good. I want to say he was 13 years old at the time. I had an extra frame with me. I approached him after the contest and got him hooked up. Greg Flag was a ripper. Andrew Gobbo, the best dude in BMX. Steven Moxley, tech machine. Most of our team was Canadian. We had a guy from Montreal, “Le Freak” who helped find a few of the riders, but like most small companies, I did almost every job in the business.
Were you in charge of photo and video production too? Or were you working with someone else on that?
Photography and videography were things that I learned pretty early on. My passion started after taking a class in high school. I did much of the photo/video work, magazine ads, etc. But I can’t take all the credit; we had plenty of photographers and filmers helping out over the years. Thanks guys!
This product shot brought to you by a low budget and Ted’s ingenuity.
A timeless Canadian classic, the Seshin Shithawk V2. One of the best frames of the “mid-school” era.
When would you say the brand was at its peak? What signified that peak to you?
We ended on our high. In 2007-2008, things were gaining a lot of steam and we had a good network of distribution in some key countries.
Which countries? Where did you see most interest/best sales?
Singapore, Australia, and Russia. I covered Canada and the USA.
Do you feel any of your ideas or designs resonated within the BMX industry?
There is no way that I had that much of an impact on the BMX industry. We produced great products at a reasonable price, but innovation was never something we aimed for. Lowering the price point of BMX products in Canada was what we wanted to achieve.
Weren’t you one of the first to offer direct-to-consumer purchasing?
Yes, that’s correct. I just didn’t see any point in selling to shops if I could sell directly and keep the cost down. That decision made it very difficult for me when I opened my own BMX shop years later. Hahaha. I had to beg for distribution. We were also one of the first BMX brands to put videos on the Internet; this was before Vimeo and YouTube.
A Shithawk V2 magazine print ad featuring Matt Walser.
At what point did the motivation to keep the dream alive start to dwindle? What was the straw that broke the camel’s back?
I decided to close the business because I needed a change in my life. At the time I blamed it on new regulations that Obama had ushered in, but the truth is that I was burning out and needed a change. I know, burned out? Don’t be so dramatic. I had Seshin and my BMX shop/mailorder. I was also writing for magazines and riding 4 hours a day. I grew tired of being consumed by BMX. Too much of a good thing I guess.
What US regulations are you referencing here?
The US regulations were put in place to prevent the importation of toys from China. Essentially, they were worried that some manufacturers of kids toys were using lead paint to save money. Anything related to BMX at the time was considered a kids toy. So our industry needed to have third party companies inspect our products before they entered the USA. This was time consuming and costly. I could have easily overcome the issues. I had great people in China, but I used the new regulations to get out of the industry. I was young, what can I say?
What was the name of your shop? Did it close at the same time Seshin ceased operations, or did you keep it going for awhile?
My shop was called Noble BMX. We opened in 2003 and closed in 2007. I closed the shop before closing Seshin. Retail was proving to be draining for me. The shop was doing great. It was full of riders every day. I just didn’t like being stuck in the shop all day.
Ted at Halifax’s Commons Skatepark
I hear that. At some point it starts to feel like a job and takes away from the fun of it all. Do you still ride to this day?
I ride about 3 times a week now. I’m 37 and married. I have kids, more businesses, and 3 dogs. So riding time can be limited.
What’s your advice or warning to anyone hoping to succeed in starting a Canadian BMX hardware company?
It’s exponentially easier to start a business in 2021 than it was 20 years ago. If you want it, start saving some money and make it happen. You can do it; just don’t overthink it.
What are some of the hurdles you feel aren’t present nowadays that you had to overcome back then?
Starting a website was a lot of work in 2001. I HTML coded my own websites for most of the Seshin years. Online payments were not common in 2001. I remember having to pay my website hosting company $1000 for bandwidth because one of our videos went semi-viral. Back in those days, you had to pay to allow people to watch your videos. It was insane.
Do you have any standout regrets or things you wished had done differently while the company was operational?
Not a thing. I made a lot of mistakes, but I was young and didn’t know any better. Life is about learning, and much of that learning comes from missteps.
Is there a chance of a comeback?
A comeback? I’ve been thinking about a comeback in the last year, but it would be a very different company if it did happen. I’m at a different stage in my life right now and my motivations are very different. If Seshin did come back, it would be an even smaller brand that would make old-school and mid school reproduction frames for old dudes like me who are not price sensitive. Mainly chrome plated machines with all the new technology. Classics with a modern twist.
Would you try and team up with the ever-growing number of bespoke frame builders in North America for this? Or take it overseas again?
I think the only option would be to use USA manufacturers because the minimum order in Taiwan is typically 100 frames. I would have to make some calls and see what’s feasible. But again, this is just a small dream for the future.
With that said, what are you currently riding? What would your dream build be in terms of features/geometry/parts?
Haro has been killing it with the Lineage bikes since 2016. I have four bikes right now, but the one I ride most is my 2019 Haro Master. I ride skateparks almost exclusively. A 20.75″ TT has always been my preferred length. Anything with some chrome has a place in my heart. My next few builds will be chrome machines for sure. I’m looking to buy a Seshin Liger and Seshin Heshin if anyone has anything they want to sell.
The 2003 Seshin Liger in all its beauty.
Dirt, park, street, or flatland: pick one! Or are you an equal opportunity destroyer/appreciator?
Park has always been my true love, but I enjoy all of the disciplines.
How does the scene of today compare to when you were younger?
I’ll never forget the first time I showed up at my local skatepark back in the 90’s. The scene was incredibly small, but very tight-knit. The locals were all very welcoming. These days, I’ll see 5 new kids at the park and none of them will bother to say hi. I make an effort most days, but it’s just not the same as it used to be. Back then my entire city had 5 BMXers; it was like a brotherhood.
Too true. Social media has taken away a lot of the need for face-to-face interaction. Do you have a crew of guys you ride with?
It’s funny, I don’t ride with anyone anymore unless I see people I know at the park. I ride a lot with my best friend who’s a skater. I resonate most with the older, 40+ crowd these days. These are guys I’ve been riding with for 20 years. But I’m always nice to everyone.
Do you pay attention to the current happenings in BMX at all? Are there any riders or companies that you find yourself paying particular attention to?
I keep tabs on the industry and have been enjoying the content from Our BMX. Their interview with the founder of S&M, Chris Moeller came live last night and I watched the entire thing. I gravitate more to the older guys. My favorite rider right now is Erik Elstran. I love his style and technical ability.
You are a dog behaviour adjuster now. How did you get into that and how is it going?
I got my first dog in 2003, Phoenix. He was a shelter dog who needed a lot of help. The trainer that I used at the time was terrible, and there were very few trainers in Nova Scotia. So I decided to get some training myself and fill that void. It’s going extremely well. It’s been 12 years now and I still love it. I’ve traveled the world doing seminars, written 7 books, and helped many people and dogs. I’m very blessed to have such a fulfilling career. Again, follow your passion, seek great mentors, and work hard.
We should wrap this up. Thank you for enlightening me on an incredible piece of Canadian BMX history!
Thanks to anyone who bought Seshin products, and thanks to my team riders who were incredibly supportive.
Click here for more articles on the history of Canadian BMX companies.