HOW OUR JOURNEY BEGAN...
In the fall of 2011, Co-Founders Brian Wysong and Jeb Matulich were serving as high school teachers at Liberty High School in Frisco, Texas. Brian was the Marketing and Independent Studies & Mentorship teacher while Jeb taught Art.
During a break in the school day, Brian started looking through Jeb's sketchbook while sitting in the art classroom. Brian was in awe of Jeb's hand drawn designs and immediately started advocating for what he dreamed would be a fun little side hustle. After going back and forth on multiple ideas, they decided that the art would serve best on t-shirts since they both had a passion for art, fashion, music, and Texas culture. Brian and Jeb 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 had a background in marketing from working at a branding and marketing agency before becoming a teacher, and he and his wife Hillary had a successful photography business at the time. Jeb had already dabbled in t-shirt printing with a DIY printer at home, and was the king of side hustles from working estate and garage sales on the weekends to turn items for a profit.
Together, Brian and Jeb took their ideas to Blue Goose Cantina to hash out the details. That is where the name Tumbleweed TexStyles came to be. Both had roots in west Texas (wreck ‘em!) and loved the idea of the Tumbleweed along with the play on TexStyles (textile) and how it represented their passion for Texas styles and culture. The two decided to put the words together, take a celebratory shot, and call it a night. The rest is history.
OUR INITIAL INVESTMENT
Since the goal was to minimize risk, Brian and Jeb opted to start small. They each took out an initial investment from their personal accounts of $350, making the first run a $700 total investment. That $700 bought 120 t-shirts with the first Tumbleweed design, SECEDE, offered in royal and navy.
After only a few months, Brian and Jeb took back their initial investments and continued to reinvest the profits back into the business to make new designs and color options. To this day, Tumbleweed has not invested any additional money from Brian or Jeb’s personal accounts, outside investors, or loans to grow.
PRODUCTION & FULFILLMENT EARLY ON
When Tumbleweed kicked off, all shirts were printed by hand in Denton, Texas. Brian and Jeb took turns driving out to Denton to pick up boxes of product to then fulfill out of their homes, with half of the inventory at Jeb's house and the other half at Brian's. Each order that came in through Etsy would be individually packaged by Brian or Jeb and may have included a dog hair or two. The guys would meet each morning before school to trade out shirts to fully complete each order before taking them to the post office during lunch or after school.
THE CATALYST THAT SPARKED OUR GROWTH
Guerrilla marketing and tactics were key to Tumbleweed’s growth from 2011-2013. Brian and Jeb were very conservative with how they spent money, which led to opting against using paid advertising in those early years. Instead, they focused on relationships and experiential marketing. Brian and Jeb wanted to build a lifestyle behind the brand and put faces to the designs. They utilized email and texting to connect the business to family and friends, and took advantage of being early adopters on all social media platforms, which connected the brand to influencers and celebrities.
Brian and Jeb became friends with Daniel Vaughn, also known as The BBQ Snob and Barbecue Editor for Texas Monthly Magazine. This allowed them to develop relationships with pitmasters across the state like Aaron Franklin of Franklin BBQ. The two connected with Chet Garner from The Daytripper, who wore Tumbleweed shirts on his TV show and in Texas Highways Magazine. Tumbleweed continued to gain support from Baron Batch (former Texas Tech Red Raider and Pittsburgh Steelers 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 Texas Humor (lead by Jay B Sauceda). These were just a few of the instrumental influencers that helped sparked the growth of Tumbleweed.
Over time, Brian and Jeb began having opportunities to sell shirts and tell the Tumbleweed story at festivals across Texas, including Untapped Festival, Marfa Farmers Market, Frisco Arts in the Square, Frisco Merry Main Street, Celina Cinco de Mayo, and McKinney Trade Days, along with a partnership with Haus of Growlers to pop up shop at The State Fair of Texas, Grapevine Grapefest and other beer festivals across Texas.
This is when Brian and Jeb realized that the most fulfilling part of the job was meeting good people, building quality relationships, and seeing so many people love wearing their art.