Ever wonder if people really do start a business almost accidentally – turning a hobby into a full time job? They do, and this #SmallBizBigIdea story is about just that:
I’d like to say that I what I first noticed about Drew Johnson was his palpable, positive energy or smile (both deserve a mention) but I can’t, and to be honest, that is Drew’s fault. Because the minute you cross paths with this “upcycling” entrepreneur, you’ll be mesmerized by the tech-inspired accessories (tie, rings, cufflinks) he’ll no doubt be wearing, all from his Denver-based company, TechWears where he serves as Founder and Chief Executive Upcycler.
Drew’s Small Biz Big Idea story is one of a Director of Business Developments at a recycling center turned Upcycling entrepreneur. The story of a man who loved wearing ties that stood out – they’re part of his signature look and have been for years. Now when you have a creative man with a deep love of all things recycling working around it all day long, one thing is going to lead to another, and well, you’ll find out more below..,And let’s discuss Upcycling – I’m hooked! Here’s the gist: Upcycling is taking an item that is no longer needed or wanted and giving it new life as something that is either useful or creative. Circuit-boards turned into jewelry and ties? Check!
Now get to know Drew, find out how he turned his idea – and love of innovative neckwear – into his full time job!
Let’s talk about your “a ha” moment: when did it come to you and what inspired it?
TechWears is a story of embracing the unexpected and running with it. It really began with my collection of quirky ties. I love to rebel against the dress code, so when it came to dressing for a business event I always evaluated if I could get away with wearing a wooden tie, leather tie, or one of my hand painted silk ties. Once I was working in the tech recycling field I knew that I needed a circuit board tie so I went to look online and it simply didn’t exist. When I got out the dremel tool and made one it was an instant hit! I was asked to display it in an art gallery, although it was not for sale because I wanted to keep wearing it. When I went to pick it up, someone had made a generous offer and I decided it was for sale after all. Of course, I had to make another one to replace it and the rest is history.
How much time passed between idea, and when you actually went into business?
It was about 2 years from the time I made my first tie until I started the business. I had a great job that I thought I would spend many years working at. But as I began to get comfortable with my career I started to wonder if I was thinking big enough. I was in a unique position of having a low expense lifestyle (no kids, no debt) so I decided to take the leap of faith and go all in. It’s been two years as a licensed business now, and what a ride it has been! It is incredible what is possible when you give everything you got to developing an idea.
What has been the most challenging part of your business?
Content creation continues to be a huge challenge for me. Great product photos, writing optimized product descriptions, blog posts, and engaging on social media takes a lot of time. It is tough to create the time for it when I have intense production demands. However, I’ve been working hard behind the scenes to alleviate this challenge and am looking forward to rolling out a new product line that won’t be as demanding of my time.
What’s the biggest high of entrepreneurship for you?
Entrepreneurship is like the most intense roller coaster ride ever. The ups, downs, and loop-de-loops are not for the faint of heart! Of course, my favorite moments are being carted up the steep assent, taking in the beautiful “big picture” views and knowing your only being pulled up the hill because of your success in planning. Then there is that blissful moment at the summit just before you drop into the unknown. The twists and turns can be gut wrenching! Sometimes you have to hold on for dear life, and sometimes it’s better to let go and put your arms up and scream with joyful terror.
Give us a golden nugget: What’s one of your “Power Tools” in your brand building toolbox that you would recommend to other business owners?
The more that you can align your business with a purpose the stronger your brand will be. The World needs a lot of help right now and consumers are eager to spend money in ways that make their dollars go further. Maybe you can employ a disenfranchised population for production, maybe you are planting a tree for every product you sell, maybe you are using materials made with recycled content. Spend some time brain storming how your brand can provide more value through a social or environmental deliverable. Of course, the easiest thing is to donate a portion of your proceeds to a charity. Heck, even Amazon offers this now through their smile.amazon program because it is good for business.
What would you say to aspiring – and fellow – small business owners out there who are working hard to turn their ideas, passions, and purpose into a business?
Know when to listen to your customers and when to politely ignore their advice. For example, many people have asked me to make circuit board clocks. Although I could have made some sales, it would divert my attention from developing the World’s finest collection of wearable circuit board accessories and jewelry. The more you can define your niche and narrow your focus, the further you can take it. Think of it like snorkeling: it is fun to see all the pretty fish and coral near the surface, but you’ll only find a treasure chest if you dive deep.
Get Circuit Board Chic: To learn more about Drew and shop his wares visit them online at TechWears.com. When you go there, be sure you pop over to the About section, where you’ll discover a photo of Drew hanging out in college inside of…a recycling bin. This man was truly meant to do this!
Get Social with TechWears: Hanging out “behind the scenes” even digitally with this business is something you’ll want to do as well. Find Drew’s social handles below – and be sure to check in with him regularly on InstaStory where he often takes viewers into his design and creation process and other business adventures.
Are you a small biz owner, entrepreneur, or expert? Join Drew and hundreds of other entrepreneurs like him in a private Facebook community where you can continue to inspire, motivate, share biz tips and strategies and connect with each other. Click here to connect with us and join in!
Want to submit your own business (or a friends) to the Small Biz Big Idea series? Email us at Support@SabinaKnows.com