27-Year-Old Who Ditched $200K-A-Year Job To Make Cowboy Boots Says ‘Avoid This Trap’ When Starting A Business
Paul Hedrick had no problem wearing cowboy boots to work with a suit. The look wouldn’t seem odd in a place like Texas, but in New York City, his boots garnered more than a few stares.
Hedrick was working at a consumer private equity firm. With increased responsibility came a higher paycheck and the need for nicer boots.
“I was wearing a pair I had bought for $500-600,” the 27-year-old Texas native recalls, “and I realized that cowboy boots were one of the few industries that didn’t have a brand I really liked or one that focused on quality and online, direct-to-consumer value.” After spending a considerable amount of time researching cowboy boot manufacturing, as well as the business models of companies like Warby Parker and Bonobos. Hedrick’s research uncovered a thriving industry with customers across country, many without access to brick-and-mortar stores that carry quality cowboy boots.
Hedrick seized the opportunity and quit his $200K a year job, traveled to Mexico and jumped — feet first — into cowboy boots.
In October 2015, Hedrick launched Tecovas. He works closely with his selected craftsmen and tannery, even using a custom tanned leather exclusive to Tecovas.
Like most new ventures, Hedrick has been baptized by fire. Wanting to be deeply involved in product development and entire boot-making process, Hedrick spent a year traveling back and forth between Mexico and Austin, Texas.
“There have been lots of surprises, ups, and downs, but I think the one aspect of designing and manufacturing cowboy boots that will never cease to amaze me is how difficult they are to make. The number of materials to choose from, the number of steps in the process – essentially all handmade steps – all of that took a lot of time.”
While the manufacturing end of the boot game often left Hedrick baffled, his business background made the company launch a little easier.
“I wouldn’t have been able to build and run this company without the exposure to business at all of the other places I worked prior to launching Tecovas. I was a management consultant before working for a private equity firm. The entrepreneurial spirit was always deep inside, so when the timing felt right, I jumped. I love being able to exercise my creative muscles. I wanted to be an artist, actually a cartoonist, as a kid, then an architect when I was in high school, so it feels good to be able to create.”
Besides demanding high quality in every pair of Tecovas, Hedrick also wanted the brand to focus on first-time boot buyers.
“We design our boots to be very wearable for first time boot buyers. They’re simple and made of super high-quality, mostly unadorned leather. The Earl (our roper boot), for instance, basically looks like a Chelsea boot when you put your jeans over it. So it’s a great starter boot.”
Advice For Potential Entrepreneurs
“First, I’d probably be a bit hypocritical and say that not everyone should start a business. I’ll say that anyone considering it should be comfortable with the risk involved and ready to sacrifice a lot — both time and money — and willing to take a bet on themselves.”
Hedrick does warn potential business launchers not to get wrapped up in the hype of brand building and avoid a common trap.
“If you’re absolutely sure you need to start a company and scratch that itch, I would really consider the question of whether you should start a bootstrapped, lifestyle business that you can live off of and be really happy with, or if you have an idea that needs to be executed on a larger scale to be successful. There is a lot of buzz lately about billion-dollar startups raising tens of millions of dollars. That’s great but there are millions of business opportunities out there on slightly smaller scale that are ready for the picking for the right entrepreneur. Go out and find them.”
Hedrick’s confident there’s a business idea out there for everyone if they look hard enough.
“In our first two weeks of being open, I think we had three customers email us tell us they had just killed an alligator and wanted us to make boots out of them. We don’t make boots to order, so it was an easy ‘no,’ but there’s a tangential business idea right there.”
Chris Illuminati is a senior editor with BroBible. If you feel your personal story deserves to be told, reach out to him here.