Small town outlook helps Ephraim native rise to top in BMX world, other ventures
EPHRAIM—Growing up in Ephraim, Kenny Sanders’s life revolved around riding his BMX bike, mowing lawns and working at his dad’s furniture store, Christiansen Furniture, to earn money for bike parts.
“BMX consumed me so that I would ride probably a good six, seven hours a day,” Sanders said. He wanted to go pro.
Now, years later, Sanders lives in Los Angeles, and he hasn’t stopped going since his days riding around the streets and working at the furniture store.
He has become not only a professional BMX athlete but also a well-known entrepreneur and philanthropist (not to mention the time he was rumored to be dating Taylor Swift).
He moved to Salt Lake City immediately after graduating high school early at age 17, and after 10 years in Salt Lake, he moved to LA.
Having found BMX success and started two successful companies, a band, and a YouTube lifestyle channel, Sanders is onto his next trick: an online school for BMX skills called BMX University, which is set to launch this month.
For a monthly fee, subscribers to BMX University will have access to tutorial videos of Sanders and other pros teaching BMX tricks and skills. He thought an online school would reach farther than coaching BMX to individual kids.
“It’s going to be myself teaching kids all around the world how to do basic BMX tricks,” he said.
BMX University has already been featured by the Huffington Post and on KSL.com. Sanders, who has been known to give his own BMX bikes to younger riders who face challenges in life, will use a portion of the proceeds from BMX University to buy complete BMX for kids who wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford them.
“It’s a win-win situation, because I’m giving these kids the bikes, but also I’m purchasing the bikes from BMX companies, which gives back to the BMX industry,” Sanders said.
He said he has always been motivated to help young riders, especially those who might have difficult home lives or other challenges.
“When a lot of kids are riding BMX it’s their happy place,” Sanders said. “It helps them forget everything that’s going on in their lives. … I know that I’m able to get a bike faster and easier than they would be able to.”
BMX University is most recent in a long list of Sanders’s endeavors. When he moved to LA, he was looking for opportunities to start his own businesses, which stemmed from an entrepreneurial mindset he said he gained watching his father and grandfather run Christiansen Furniture.
His first company was NotSocks, which sells shoe inserts “for people who don’t like to wear socks, so you can go sockless without ruining your shoes,” he said.
Next up was a clothing brand called TTM Lifestyle (the acronym stood for “Things That Matter.”) Sanders sold TTM Lifestyle in 2015 to Taylor McKinney, a star on MTV’s “Teen Mom.”
Sanders’s is also in a band called Sonder Saloon, which plays mainly acoustic music and has a song Sanders wrote about Ephraim called “Childhood.” While the band has had 1.5 million plays on their collective songs in the last year, Sanders calls it a side project.
In 2016, he and his girlfriend Crystalrose Guerra, a professional figure skater, started a YouTube channel called ckLA, which chronicles their lives as professional athletes and entrepreneurs.
“It’s basically a YouTube channel based on our lives because we don’t really work the average nine-to-five jobs,” Sander said.
How does he manage all his projects and still find time to start more? He said he works seven days a week and will spend a couple of hours a day on one project before moving on to another.
“Sometimes I get kind of stressed out, but for the most part I really love the way my life is going,” he said. “Everything that I’m doing is stuff that I want to be doing anyway. So sometimes it doesn’t actually feel like I’m working, which is cool. It just feels more like I’m just living.”
He attributes some of his ability to juggle so many demands to having grown up in a slow-paced, small town.
“It’s helped me to have a really relaxed mindset,” he said about his childhood in Sanpete. “I was so used to that small-town vibe for so many years that I just kind of carried that with me into the city.”
He said when he does get overwhelmed he will go to the Malibu mountains outside of Los Angeles to stay grounded. When he comes to Utah to visit, he sees family in Salt Lake but spends as much time as he can in Ephraim.
“It’s one of my favorite places,” he said. “It’s slow moving. I don’t hear cars honking every second.”
He also likes the reminder of where his desire to build and create businesses and projects originated.
“Growing up around my dad and his entrepreneurial mindset and us running Christiansen Furniture has really shaped my mindset to come out here and do things on my own and just try to learn everything I possibly can.”