Meet the Man Who Invented YOLO
South Walton, Florida, is a place full of stories — such as the inspiring one of Jeff Archer, CEO and founder of YOLO Board + Beach and YOLO Board + Bike. We spoke with this local entrepreneur about how he discovered our unique beach neighborhoods, why South Walton is the perfect destination for outdoor and fitness enthusiasts, and how his vision for the “You Only Live Once” lifestyle was born.
“I guess I could start by saying I’m a perpetual entrepreneur,” Jeff says. “I’ve always figured that if I have to work, I might as well work for myself.”
This is true. After his third year in college, Jeff started working for himself immediately. His friend had recently won the Mr. America bodybuilding contest and moved to California to pursue an apparel production career. He invited Jeff to come with him for the ride. Jeff packed his bags, headed across the country from his home in Louisiana and started sketching out ideas for a bodybuilding and fitness apparel company.
“That first company was my real college education,” he says. “Not only did I learn how to manufacture a product, but I also learned how to run a business and build a brand.”
Five years later, the clothing company had taken off and the line had expanded to include all types of fitness apparel. Jeff and his team had hired more than 100 employees and were shipping fitness clothes to thousands of gyms across 45 different countries — and Jeff hadn’t even turned 30 years old yet.
At a certain point, though, it was time to move back home. Jeff and his wife headed back to Louisiana and started renovating historic homes and commercial properties in and around New Orleans. As Jeff saw new young homeowners coming into the Northshore area, he realized the location was lacking a neighborhood bar.
So, as an entrepreneur, he seized upon the opportunity. Jeff opened Columbia Street Tap Room & Grill, which had an extensive draft and craft beer selection — something that could be considered ahead of its time in 1996. Not only did Jeff ensure that the bar drew in customers through its wide selection of beers, but he also hosted events and live music at the bar to establish it as a popular neighborhood gathering spot.
“Opening and running the bar was where I learned about building a community through a brand. My previous experience had been more about building products, whereas the bar was more about connecting with people,” he says.
After only a few years, another opportunity presented itself to Jeff. One of the bar’s most frequent lunch customers happened to be an architect who specialized in Eastern design and décor. Before he knew it, Jeff was on a plane to Indonesia, on a mission to start an exotic wood furniture company with his new business partner.
“I just fell in love with Indonesia, its natural beauty and the craftsmanship of the people who live there. I just knew I had to do something there,” he says.
Over the next few years, Jeff traveled back and forth between Louisiana and Indonesia, shipping thousands of pieces of handcrafted furniture from his 10,000-square foot Indonesian factory across the ocean. He sold most of the pieces to interior designers and decorators in Louisiana.
As the furniture business grew, Jeff expanded his sales network beyond state borders and across the Southeast — including South Walton. He started selling to designers in Rosemary Beach, WaterColor and Seaside.
“During one trip I came down here and camped in Grayton Beach State Park. And at that point I called my wife and said, ‘We’ve got to move here.’ The natural beauty was just overwhelming to me. So we sold everything in New Orleans and moved into an apartment here in 2001,” he says. “People there thought we were absolutely crazy.”
In South Walton, the stunning natural environment inspired Jeff to start something new. As the interior design industry slowed alongside the real estate crisis of 2007, Jeff discovered paddleboarding and started discussing a new business idea with his friend and company co-founder Tom Losee, who shared Jeff’s passion for fitness and the outdoors.
“We threw a bunch of names around, and YOLO came up. It just resonated with us as a phrase that describes how it feels to glide across glassy water, and feel completely centered in the moment.”
In 2007, YOLO Board was born. Today, the company is a key part of the South Walton community, and allows both new and experienced paddleboarders to explore the area in one of the most unique ways.
“Becoming part of the South Walton community has been an honor,” Jeff says. Not only does Jeff enjoy helping others discover paddleboarding, but he lives the lifestyle he promotes, too — this fitness enthusiast bikes, hikes and paddleboards along South Walton’s trails and lakes almost daily. And through efforts like supporting Special Olympics athletes and hosting monthly community paddleboard races, YOLO has become an integral part of the South Walton community.
Furthermore, the company has finally allowed Jeff, as a perpetual entrepreneur, to combine three of his passions — product development, fitness and community building — into a single venture.
“We’re at an explosive point for the brand,” he says. “There are really no boundaries with YOLO Board, and that’s one thing I love about it,” he says. “We’ve got a lot of big things lined up for the brand and I’m excited to see where it goes.”
Stay tuned to see what’s next in Jeff’s exciting story.