Jeb Matulich and Brian Wysong launched Tumbleweed TexStyles in 2012, designing apparel for men, women, and kids, along with home décor that celebrates Texans’ love of music, the outdoors, BBQ, wine, and of course beer. Matulich, the artist, has called many parts of Texas home. He fell in love with drawing and painting in his youth, attended Texas Tech University, and planted his roots in Frisco as a high school art teacher. Wysong, the business developer, grew up as part of a military family in Fort Worth and left Texas Tech University with a degree in marketing. He moved from directing marketing in a non-profit and marketing agency to teaching high school marketing in Frisco.
In order to get to know the minds behind Tumbleweed TexStyles, I asked Matulich and Wysong a few questions about the brand, their inspiration and vision for the future…
Can you give me some more details about how you guys met, and what led to the decision to start a company together?
BW: Jeb and I both teach at Liberty High School in Frisco, Texas. One day I saw him sketching designs and asked him about his art background and what he might think about putting them on T-shirts.
As we got to talking, we discovered we both have a passion for Texas music, art, design, food and fashion, and we got the idea to start a small side business. We came up with the name, Tumbleweed TexStyles, and each invested $350 for a total of $700 to make our first round of T-shirts to sell. We launched the business in 2012.
JM: The first shirt I designed was “Texas Towns,” which is still our most popular shirt today. It features many of the Texas towns I grew up in and have visited in my travels, written out by hand to make up the state of Texas. We printed 120 shirts in that first run and sold out in about six weeks. We knew we were on to something and that the people of this great state love to show their Texas pride.
BW: When we sold enough to make our money back, we reinvested it into the business and continued to develop new designs as the demand grew. We now have more than 80 hand-drawn designs and multiple T-shirt and tank options as well as home décor and glassware.
How did the idea to start a fashion/lifestyle brand originate?
BW: We knew how much we love all things that Texas is known for, like the great outdoors, awesome music, wine and beer and some of the best BBQ in the country. It seemed a no-brainer to develop a lifestyle company around the very things Texans love about their state. If there’s one thing you can say about Texans, they’re proud of their state and like to show it. We knew we could put a fun spin on that and offer products that showcase Texas love.
JM: It really started with that Texas Towns shirt, and as the brand awareness grew, we grew with it by offering our custom-designed artwork on apparel for the whole family, home décor and glassware. We began developing partnerships with other local businesses to put our designs on beer growlers, mason jars, beer pints, wine glasses, home décor – it just exploded.
BW: Our first recognition came when Texas Monthly BBQ editor Daniel Vaughn wore a T-shirt we custom designed for him to wear during his “Prophets of Smoked Meat” book tour with Anthony Bourdain. It was basically the Texas Towns T-shirt reworked to include all the cities Daniel has visited for BBQ, and Jeb worked in the title of the book as well. That was really a highlight for us seeing that shirt come to life. And since then we’ve seen our shirts on other influential Texans like Aaron Franklin, Chet Garner, Josh Abbott, Lee Ann Womack and Tamron Hall.
After being featured on MSNBC’s News Nation with Tamron Hall this past February, we’ve been lucky enough for Tamron to wear our shirts numerous times. We recently designed a custom T-shirt for her this past summer when she was grand marshal in her hometown parade in Luling, Texas.
Why is it import for you to keep many of the creative and manufacturing processes local to Texas?
JM: We’re a Texas brand through and through. We’re both from Texas and actually both attended Texas Tech University as well, even though we didn’t meet until we were teaching. We love supporting local businesses and want to keep as much of our production within Texas.
BW: Our brand is derived from our Texas roots and inspired by our experiences and relationships built in Texas. We love to support local businesses and artisans. For that reason, we make every effort to produce and manufacture our products in Texas and within the U.S.
Can you give some details about the parts of manufacturing that take place in Texas?
BW: Our product line is made up of apparel, drinkware, home décor and accessories. Our apparel, glassware and accessories are designed and printed in Texas. The copper Moscow Mule mug was produced by a company based in Denver and features Jeb’s DeZavala Star design.
JM: Our home décor products are manufactured, designed and printed in Texas. The reclaimed wood wall art is a partnership with Hemlock & Heather based out of Austin. I design the layout for the woodwork pieces and Hemlock & Heather manufactures it using old wood pieces collected from Central Texas. Each piece is hand crafted and one of a kind.
Jeb, how has your history in Texas shaped your art and the product designs? Your bio on the site states you enjoy thrift stores and estate sales, is there anything in particular you look for to gain inspiration?
JM: I draw inspiration from my travels in Texas, things I see, and things our fans and followers tell me they’d like to see us design. Yes, I definitely find a lot of inspiration at thrift stores and estate sales. I love old Texas maps, Lone Star Beer, Pearl Beer, and Shiner Beer memorabilia. I’m addicted to hunting down old Southwest Conference items, train schedules, western art, sports programs, and basically any vintage Texana. I use a lot of these items to get ideas for my designs. I may pick up a color scheme or font I like in some old ephemera I pick up.
What are some future plans for the business? Any new products you have lined up? Plans to expand beyond Texas, enter new markets, or move more manufacturing processes to Texas?
BW: Since launching, we’ve sold over 100,000 units, more than doubling our sales each year, and for 2015 we have seen an even greater increase. So, the demand is definitely there for our products and we couldn’t be more ecstatic that Texas has truly embraced our brand the way that it has, along with those Texans (or Texas fans) who live afar, considering we’ve sold in about 20 different countries through our website. We continue to launch new products regularly, including a new fall line we just rolled out that includes sports-themed gear for football, basketball and baseball fanatics.
JM: We are definitely looking to expand and we’ve already started to field inquiries from people in other states that want to incorporate some of our ideas in their designs.
BW: Often, we have people from other states coming to us asking if we can create designs for their stores and boutiques. The word has gotten out that our brand and Jeb’s unique artistic ability has seen a crazy amount of success. People want to have that same influence in their states. Right now, we do have retailers selling our products outside of our state lines. We may be interested in expanding our product line to begin to hit some of those other markets on the wholesale level.
What do your students think of their teachers owning Tumbleweed TexStyles? Jeb, do your students get involved with any of the art for products? Brian, have you been able to use some real world marketing insight, gained from Tumbleweed TexStyles, in the classroom?
JM: The students think it’s a pretty neat deal. I rarely bring it up or discuss it with my classes. We’ve been featured in our school broadcast a few times and we see tons of students wearing the tees on a daily basis, so that has been gratifying to know we have that kind of school support.
BW: Jeb and I did not promote our business at the school when we first started. Teachers started wearing our shirts because they would hear about them on Facebook and other social media channels. Eventually, our students found out and seemed to really be excited about it. They thought it was cool that influential Texas musicians and people from all around the state were supporting our brand by wearing our T-shirts. As a business teacher, my students often ask questions pertaining to how we got started and what our secrets to success are. I use this opportunity as a teachable moment to share our stories as to how we got to where we are today.
Tumbleweed TexStyles is the product of two entrepreneurs doing what they love, coming together with complimentary skills and creating a brand proud of Texas and the state’s heritage. Find Tumbleweed TexStyles today either online or in Austin retailers like Leighelena, Mockingbird Domestics, and The Gypsy Wagon.