How do you turn a quippy Twitter account into a thriving online retailer? Well, you’d have to ask Jay B. Sauceda, the mastermind behind Texas Humor.
His Twitter account @TexasHumor praises and satirizes Texas on a near hourly basis for more than 360,000 followers. Here are a few recent gems Sauceda put out for his social media audience:
- If it were socially acceptable to bathe in queso I would. #notashamed
- The only way they’re getting my Blue Bell is by prying it from my cold dead sticky vanilla covered fingers. #LysteriaHysteria #BlueBell
- Texas Tip: Don’t stand behind a coughing cow.
- Call me crazy, but I prefer drinkin’ most things out of a Mason jar.
The account is tied to the Texas Humor Store which sells Texas-themed tee shirts and other apparel. Nowadays, Sauceda and his crew scramble to ship shirts as fast as people order them, but it didn’t start out that way.
After graduating from the University of Texas in 2007, Sauceda went into political advertising but ended up hating the politics of it all. During his time at UT, he had done some internships in corporate advertising and photography, so he dove into commercial work and tried to get his photography business off the ground.
But again, he wanted to do something else. The nature of creative freelance businesses is you only get paid when people ask you to do something. “Even as my client list grew and my income grew and the security of the business grew, the cyclical nature of only making money when people are calling you to do stuff made me want to find something else to do when I wasn’t busy. I had some friends who were working in the Internet property world. They had a couple of humor-based and content-based Websites, and they were doing really well with that …. Basically, I started the Twitter account out of that inspiration.”
Sauceda started tweeting and quickly moved to monetize the account. “We were making money doing sponsored links, but it all felt really cheesy…. It didn’t fit with the brand, and followers weren’t clicking,” he said. “They could tell what was clearly an ad.” The money wasn’t worth the hassle of putting up things people didn’t want to see, so the account went dormant for about a year. The photography business was still doing well, so he went back to that.
Then came the call that would change Sauceda’s business model.
A representative from River City Sportswear said they had a client much like Sauceda who was making tons of money selling products. This other company started with 72 shirts they bought off the street and became a $2.5 million company. The Texas Humor brand looked well-positioned for the same path. Sauceda came up with their Ain’t Texas design and posted it on Instagram, saying shirts might be coming. People went nuts for it.
At the time, investing in an inventory of tee shirts wasn’t feasible, so Sauceda went through an online company that hosted designs customers could then apply to tee shirts on demand. But Sauceda wasn’t happy with the Website design nor the quality of the shirts. Sales were great for a few days, but they quickly fell off. The experience was disappointing, but Sauceda still felt like he had a market he could reach, so after a conversation with his wife, he decided to make a go of it in the tee shirt business in November 2013.
He ordered about 150 shirts, stored them in his home office and set up the online presence. They sold out in about a day. He quickly called River City to ask how fast they could print shirts. Sauceda has been trying to keep up with demand ever since. He had to expand his square footage into his garage and eventually to the south Austin warehouse his inventory occupies today.
The long-term goal is to expand Texas Humor into a lifestyle brand. “Graphic tee shirts are the vehicle, but lifestyle brand is the destination,” he said. “I’m really into western culture. I used to have a horse, and I’d like to have a horse again. For me, I really do like dressing western. I wear Wrangler shirts, Wrangler jeans and boots pretty much every day and cowboy hat most days. It’s not always practical to dress like that, and a lot of what’s out there is, in my opinion, way too cowboy or way too dolled up. I really like western shirts, but when I go to some of the stores, the majority of the western shirts that are out there mixtures of western and the Affliction brand.”
Sauceda believes there are plenty of others out there like him who want quality western wear that doesn’t make you look like a farm boy fresh off the tractor, or an extra bro in the background of some random country music video. They’ve already mastered solid laughs and great designs. How Texas Humor will grow from here is anyone’s guess, but you can be sure they’ll be staying true to the spirit of the Lone Star state.