You could argue it was serendipity that put into motion what would become known as Uncommon Covers, a small business based in New Braunfels, TX, roughly 30 miles northeast of San Antonio. But there’s no denying the moxie behind the couple trying to keep things cool in South Texas.
Uncommon Covers founders/husband-wife duo BJ Johnston and Jenny Walker have been creating custom drinkwear ― proudly doing their part to keep beer lovers and coffee addicts happy ― for nearly four years now. But as you'll find out in our Q&A with Jenny Walker, their journey into the business world was not something they had originally planned.
We recently had the opportunity to catch up with Jenny Walker via e-mail to learn more about her craft, her thoughts about starting your own business in Texas, and what goals her and her husband have planned for Uncommon Covers.
BarbacoApparel (BA): How did Uncommon Covers get started and why?
Jenny Walker (JW): A few years ago, BJ brought several used koozies and asked me to sew them together to make a koozie big enough for a 24 ounce beer. I reluctantly agreed and gave it a whirl. While it wasn't the most beautiful makeshift koozie, it worked! I also created one for a 16 ounce can that same day. Every time he used one of the koozies, people commented that we should sell them.
BA: So how long have you been doing your craft?
JW: I've been sewing most of my life. I'm extremely fortunate to have a mother and grandmother who both sew beautifully. They are amazing quilters and seamstresses. When I began working with neoprene and industrial sewing machines, they both offered (and still offer) advice and guidance.
BA: For someone who doesn’t live that koozie life, what are they missing out on?
JW: If you live within 200 miles of the Gulf Coast or any other humid location, you need condensation coverage in your life. Uncommon Covers provides both drink coverage and a way to showcase your style and sass.
BA: Speaking of which, everyone needs the "Dorothy in the Streets Blanche in the Sheets” koozie in his or her life. How do you decide which designs to pursue?
JW: For the record, I can't take credit for Blanche. I saw that phrase online and created a one-off koozie for my sister-in-law. She loves The Golden Girls. But when other people saw it, they wanted one too! I keep a working list of phrases and design ideas. It's always evolving. When an idea becomes finalized, I start the design process and test it on the neoprene. BJ has tested more pink koozies than I'm sure he cares to admit.
BA: Which other designs have been favorites with your customers?
JW: The Bad Words drinkwear has sold really well even without a listing in the online shop. People love curse words on their koozie. The more unique and subversive something is, the better.
BA: And what about your personal favorite?
JW: My daily-use drinkwear is my cup sleeve. I have a smoothie every morning, so I use the sleeve for the cold cup. I also swing by On The Grind here in New Braunfels a couple of mornings a week, and I use it on the hot coffee cup as well. I actually made the Bad Words 12 ounce Regular for myself, because I really do love bad words!
BA: Are there any new products in the works that you can tell us about?
JW: We are experimenting with new methods of layering fabric onto neoprene so we can offer a more diverse and stylish product line. We will have a few of these styles available at the Boerne Handmade Market next month.
BA: What valuable experiences have you learned as a business owner?
JW: Being able to make your own business decisions is the most gratifying and terrifying experience. I've learned the reason people use the phrase, "It's just business." Sometimes it really is just business; and when things don't work out, it's best to learn from that situation and continue to move forward. Also, there is a place for everyone. The harder and longer you work, the easier it will be to find that place.
BA: What advice would you give someone wanting to start his or her own business?
JW: If you have an idea for a business and it is something you're passionate about, there is absolutely no reason to not put that idea into action. There are relatively low barriers to starting a business in Texas. If you surround yourself with the right people, moving forward is the only way to go.
BA: Where do you see Uncommon Covers in the next couple of years?
JW: One of my main goals for building a business is to create local jobs. I would like to create (at a minimum) several part-time jobs within the next few years. I also want to inspire others to use their hands to create.
BA: And, I have to ask, but what’s your favorite taco or local restaurant?
JW: Herbert's in New Braunfels has my go-to taco and favorite everything Tex Mex.
Visit Uncommon Covers at the Boerne Handmade Market on October 29 (9 a.m. – 4 p.m.) to snag your very own koozies, or visit their website. For all the latest designs, be sure to follow Uncommon Covers on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Snapchat at @uncommoncovers. And if you don't find what you're looking for, shoot them an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Need some tips to help you up your koozie game? Check out Seven Koozie Habits of Highly Effective Koozie Users on the Uncommon Covers blog!