In the fall of 2011, We, (Co-Founders Brian Wysong and Jeb Matulich) were serving as high school teachers at Liberty High School in Frisco ISD. Brian was the Marketing and Independent Studies & Mentorship teacher while Jeb was the Art teacher.
During a break, Brian started looking through Jeb's sketchbook while sitting in Jeb's art classroom. Brian was in awe of Jeb's hand drawn designs and immediately advocated to start a fun little side hustle. After going back and forth on multiple ideas, we decided that the art would serve best on t-shirts since we both had a passion for art, fashion, music, and the Texas culture. We believed that there would be no better way to showcase the art than at concert venues, local bars, sporting events and even for people to casually represent at work.
Brian and his wife, Hillary had a very successful photography business at the time and his background was in marketing as he served at a branding and marketing agency before becoming a teacher.
Jeb had already dabbled in t-shirt printing as he owned a do it yourself printer at his house. Jeb also was the king of the side hustle as he worked estate and garage sales on the weekends to turn items for a profit.
We took our ideas to Blue Goose Cantina in Frisco to hash out the details. That is where the name, Tumbleweed TexStyles came to be. Both had roots in west Texas and loved the idea of the Tumbleweed. Also, both really liked the play on TexStyles (textile) and how it represented their passion for Texas Styles aka Texas culture. So we decided to just put the words together and call it a night. We took a celebratory shot and the rest was history.
Since our goal was to minimize risk, we (Co-Founders, Brian and Jeb) opted to start small. We took out an initial investment from our personal checking of $350 making the total first run an investment of $700. This bought us 120 unisex t-shirts with our first SECEDE design coming in either royal or navy.
After only a few months, we took back our initial investment of $350 each and just continued to reinvest the profits to make available new designs and color options. To this day, we have not invested any additional money from our personal account, outside investors nor loans to grow.
When we kicked off, all shirts were printed in Denton, TX by hand. Jeb and Brian would take turns driving out to Denton to pick up boxes of product to then fulfill out of the house. Half of the inventory was at Jeb's and the other half at Brians. Each order that came in through ETSY would be individually packaged by Brian or Jeb and then personalized with a stamp. The two would meet each morning before school to trade out shirts to fully complete each order and then they would take to the post office during lunch or after school.
Guerrilla marketing and tactics was key to our growth from 2011-2013. We were very conservative in how we spent our money. So, we opted to not do paid advertising.
Instead, we focused on relationships and experiential marketing. We wanted to build a lifestyle behind our brand and put a face to the design. We utilized email and texting to connect the business to our family and friends. We then took advantage of being an early adopter on all social media platforms to connect our brand to influencers and celebrities.
Very early on, we had the rare opportunity of gaining support from a few influencers. We became friends with Daniel Vaughn aka the BBQ Snob and Barbecue Editor for Texas Monthly Magazine. This allowed us to develop relationships with pitmasters across the state including Aaron Franklin of Franklin BBQ. We also partnered up with Chet Garner from The Daytripper who wore our shirts on his TV show and in the Texas Highways Magazine. We also gained support from Baron Batch, former Texas Tech Red Raider and Pittsburgh Steeler's running back, Kliff Kingsbury, former player and coach at Texas Tech University and current Head Coach of the Arizona Cardinals, Zane Williams, Texas Country Artist and Songwriter, Josh Abbott Band, Texas Country Artist, and then social media handle, Texas Humor lead by Jay B Sauceda.
These were just a few of the instrumental influencers that helped sparked the growth of our brand.
We also had the wonderful opportunity to sell our shirts and tell our story at festivals across Texas including The Untapped Festival, Marfa Farmers Market, Frisco Arts in the Square, Frisco Merry Main Street, Celina Cinco de Mayo and McKinney Trade Days. We also partnered with Haus of Growlers to pop up shop at The State Fair of Texas, Grapevine Grapefest and various beer festivals across Texas.
This is when we realized that the most fulfilling part of our job was meeting good people, building quality relationships and seeing so many people love wearing our art.