By Mike Garrison
BEHIND THE SCENES: KENDALL BENNETTIt wasnít that long ago when all shopping had to take place by either actually visiting a store, or mail-order catalogs. As the internet boom swept the planet and online shopping became more and more popular, the online r/c hobby giant AMainHobbies.com was born. A Main Hobbies is known industry-wide as one of the largest online hobby shops, taking pride in their huge inventory, low prices, and customer support. A Main Hobbies even has a pro team of drivers including Matt Gosch, Chad Bradley, and Marty Korn. The question everyone wants to know is who is behind it all?
The answer is our LiveRC Behind the Scenes special guest Kendall Bennett!
LRC: Kendall thanks for taking some time out with us today! Tell us a little bit about how you got started in the hobby?
I was actively involved in R/C airplanes when I was 10 years old, and flew regularly during the early 80ís. I was not very good, and crashed a lot, but it was fun. I got my first R/C car in 1985, but there was nowhere to race in Australia back then so I did not stick with it. It wasnít until I came to the USA in December 1995 and found the local hobby shop that I got back into planes, and then eventually into cars. Around 1998-99 I found the local racetrack and started racing, and by 2000 I was actively racing. Probably addicted!
LRC: What was your first r/c car?
That was the Mugen Bulldog 4WD electric buggy back in about 1985. The next car I got was an RC10GT in about 1996, and then after that an RC10T3 around 1998-99.
LRC: What inspired the idea for A Main Hobbies?
I was actually looking to change direction with my software company and wanted to write e-Commerce software and sell it to other companies. So my wife and I started A Main Hobbies on the side as an incubator project for my software company. What better way to learn to write eCommerce software, than to run a real business on it? Needless to say, A Main Hobbies grew rapidly, the software company is gone and we donít sell the software we built to run the business! The rest is history.
LRC: How many years had you been racing when you opened up shop, and tell us about the first few years in business?
I was actively racing since about 2000. I think my first "The Dirt" Nitro Challenge was probably in 2001, and I got spanked. I ended up in the G main in the sportsman class, and did not bump. We started the business in May 2004, and I had raced every Nitro Challenge race since 2001, along with as many other races as I could attend including a few Nationals (once again probably in the G main). So I had been racing probably a good 4+ years when we opened.
The first few years in business were interesting because we had to get a commercial/retail building to get accounts with the major distributors, so we did that. The business grew extremely fast in the early years, and we quickly moved from my garage to a 3500 square foot building within 6 months, then to a 9000 square foot warehouse less than 2 years later, and finally to our current 50,000 square foot facility in August 2008.
LRC: Did you have any idea of what an industry giant it would become?
Initially no. The focus at that time was on the software company, but within about a year I had a really good idea that this business was going somewhere. About the time we moved into the 9000 square foot warehouse is when I got paid exclusively by A Main Hobbies, and then I knew we were in it for the long haul and could keep growing the business.
LRC: Besides the online store, A Main Hobbies also has a team of pro drivers. Tell us a little about that?
Yes, we have a team of pro drivers. In fact, we also have a team of pro helicopter pilots and a few airplane pilots. Part of the responsibility of the team is to attend events and spread the word about the business, and show potential customers that we sell everything they need to compete and win races or events. Our top drivers and pilots only race or fly with products we sell, so customers who meet them can know they can get anything they use from us.
LRC: In your racing prime, were you a team driver for any of the major companies?
Yes. Initially I was accepted onto the 50% race team for Mugen Seiki, and I thank Kris Moore for letting me on the team. Once we had started the business racing on a 50% team did not make much sense, and I was grateful that Richard Saxton took me under his wing and got me onto the 100% Thunder Tiger race team when the S3 buggy was coming out. I had a lot of fun and learned a ton racing with Richard on the TTR race team, along with helping them with the design of the ST-1 truck, since I was doing a lot of monster truck racing at the time.
LRC: Do you still travel to a lot of the races with the A Main team?
Yes, I try to hit the major events with the team. I just had back surgery a few months ago, so my racing has been cut short this year, but I am expecting I will be racing a lot more next year when I am fully recovered.
LRC: What classes do you personally race?
My personal favorite classes are 1/8 scale nitro buggy and 1/8 scale nitro truck. Since we started our indoor 1/10 scale electric track, I have done a lot of 1/10 scale short course and 1/10 scale buggy racing as well. Both 2WD and 4WD short course racing are my favorites on the indoor track.
LRC: A Main Hobbies is made up of dozens of employees, would you say that most of them are active in the hobby in some way?
We have almost 70 employees, but I think these days maybe only 30% of them actively race. In the early days just about everyone raced, but after we had hired all the racers in the local area we started hiring people who are not necessarily into racing or flying. Some of them have no interest when they come to work for us and eventually get into it, but not all of them get involved.
LRC: A Main offers some of their own signature brands such as ProTek R/C, tell us a little about those.
Yes, we have a line of accessory products under the ProTek R/C brand that we developed. The core concept with the ProTek R/C brand is to sell quality products for a reasonable price backed up by our commitment to excellent customer service.
LRC: Out of the thousands of products that A Main Hobbies offers, what is your personal favorite and why?
There are too many to pick from! Personally I love micro helicopters and airplanes as I can fly them anywhere I want, and I have a whole fleet of those. But when it comes to cars, you can ask me in a monthís time and I will have a new favorite; right now I love my SC10 short course truck, but I am going to start racing the Losi TEN-SCTE 4WD truck soon.
LRC: You spend 24/7 during the week and some weekends in r/c, what do you do to get away from it all and relax for a bit?
Watch TV! I honestly spend so much time either racing or working that I donít get a whole lot of time for anything else. It helps that racing is enjoyable for me, so that is my relaxation as well. Other than that, I like to hang out and play with my daughter.
LRC: Last but not least, what are some future plans for A Main Hobbies?
We have a lot planned; I could tell you, but Iíd have to kill you!
LRC: Thank you again Kendall for taking some time with us today, and we look forward to shopping with you soon!