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Meet Chris Degenaars of Giant Bicycles in Newbury Park

Today we’d like to introduce you to Chris Degenaars.

Thanks for sharing your story with us Chris. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
While most of my friends growing up wanted to be doctors or play professional sports, from a young age, I wanted to be in advertising. As silly as it sounds, I still remember when I was seven or 8-years-old, and I told our family friend that when I was older, I wanted to be the person who decides what goes on the billboards.

Like any kid, I went through a few changes for what I wanted to do when I grew up, but when I was 16-years-old, I joined an event promotions company in Dallas, Texas called City Light Events helping promote hip-hop, rap, and EDM concerts that we would host. Ben Wegmann and Raymond Howard gave me some fantastic opportunities with the company, as well as the clothing company we started, UrbanLights Clothing, which reinforced my passion for storytelling and marketing.

I was always active on social media growing up; in fact, I took a lot of criticism for how active I was. But it was the first time I felt that I had a voice, that I could make a real impact, so I kept at it.

Ms. Bowen, my marketing communications teacher at Plano West Senior High School in 11th grade, told me that this industry was no walk-in-the-park like people think and that it would take a lot of hard work even to get the chance to prove myself. She told me, though, if I put in the work that I could do it. She believed in me, and I do not doubt that she directly changed my entire, I owe her for every bit of success I have had or will ever have.

After graduating from Plano West in 2016, I started working at the local bike shop in McKinney, Texas, Cadence Cyclery, as a sales associate. After begging the managers and the owners for a few weeks, they let me take over the shops’ social media. Eventually, I became the Marketing Manager for all 3 of the locations at the time.

In September of 2016, I received an email from Blake Davis, the founder of Long Drive Agency, a marketing agency in McKinney, offering me a part-time internship for his agency writing blogs. I jumped at the chance, and by the end of 2016, I was offered a full-time position at LDA and dropped out of college to pursue this lifelong dream of mine to be in this industry. I worked at LDA under Blake’s leadership for three years and was able to learn more than I ever could’ve imagined while getting to be part of the growth of the agency.

I also had the opportunity in 2019 to serve on the Board of Directors for the American Advertising Federation Dallas, the Unifying Voice for Advertising, as (unofficially) the youngest board member in the history of the chapter.

In October of 2019, I was offered an opportunity I couldn’t pass up (again), and I packed up my life in Dallas to move to Los Angeles and accept the position as the USA Marketing Specialist for Giant Bicycles, the world’s largest bike manufacturer.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
It’s been far from a smooth road, but I wouldn’t change any of it.

Growing up with an alcoholic dad who liked spending money we didn’t have and a mom who had to work, at times, up to 5 jobs to pay the bills I had to grow up fast, I never really had a childhood. Before I knew it, my parents were getting a divorce, and everything seemed so out of control.

I started working at my church before I could even tie my shoes; volunteering has always been an outlet for me, a way to escape from my life and try to help someone else’s. As soon as I was old enough to get a job, I did and started contributing to help with bills as much as I could.

I’ve battled with depression and suicidal thoughts for as long as I can remember. The person who kept me from taking my own life took his, and I sat at his funeral, knowing that I wasn’t there for him the way he was for me.

Throughout my high school career, I attended more funerals for my friends and classmates than most people will have to attend in their entire life.

My dad passed away in February of 2019, along with all the other battles I was dealing with throughout the year.

I’ve gotten in a lot of trouble of the years, I’ve dealt with a lot of pain and had to sacrifice a lot of things growing up, but I honestly wouldn’t change a single thing. I know a lot of people have overcome much worse situations than I have had to go through, and I’m just grateful to be where I am today.

Please tell us about Giant Bicycles.
I am the USA Marketing Specialist for Giant, Liv, Momentum, and CADEX.

I work on all four brands to create strategies, deliver and execute campaigns across the digital and traditional landscapes; from social media, email, and ambassador marketing efforts to events, retail support, and sports marketing.

Giant Bicycles is the world’s largest bike manufacturer and is the one and only bicycle brand to build bicycles from start to finish. We are a retail-committed company with nearly 1,000 independent bicycle retailers across the U.S. who carry our three brands: Giant, Liv—the only major bicycle brand devoted to female cyclists—and Momentum, a fun, lifestyle, urban mobility brand.

In my opinion, what sets us apart from others is our passion and commitment to the experience. It’s not about just selling the most expensive bike or the bike with the highest margin; it’s about making sure the bike suits the experience the rider wants to have on it. We not only do this through our engineering and design processes at the manufacturing level but all the way to our retailers by ensuring they have the assets and resources to talk about the experience in a meaningful way.

Do you look back particularly fondly on any memories from childhood?
I’d have to say my favorite childhood memory is playing with remote control monster trucks and cars with my dad and our neighbor in the alley on the weekends. It’s a silly little memory, I’m sure I have more significant ones, but this is one that through all the negative memories I have of my dad, I always smile thinking about this one.

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