DALLAS — Frisco, Texas, high school teachers Brian Wysong and Jeb Matulich had a simple idea for a side hustle that would put their combined marketing and design skills to work. So each put up $350 to get it launched.
Eight years later, their Tumbleweed TexStyles T-shirt company is bringing in more than $1 million in sales. And they haven’t had to put an additional penny into the Texana-themed business since its launch.
“It’s pretty incredible where we’re at with the business, especially knowing that it started with $700,” Wysong said.
It all began in 2011 at Liberty High School in Frisco, where Wysong taught marketing and Matulich teaches art. They quickly went from acquainted co-workers to best friends and business partners.
Their $700 investment bought them 120 t-shirts with the word “SECEDE” emblazoned across an outline of Texas’ unique shape. It was inspired by a joke made by then-Gov. Rick Perry. After selling a third of that inventory through friends and family, they already had their money back.
This year, the company is on track for $1.3 million in sales, said Wysong, 35. He quit his teaching job in 2018 to devote his full attention to the business.
How did Wysong and Matulich go from being “the t-shirt guys” to owners of a bonafide Texas lifestyle brand?
They built the business through wholesale retailers, promoted it online using social media and relied on one-on-one connections with customers at events, Wysong said. “Literally up until this year, we’ve never really done any paid advertising,” he said.
Tumbleweed TexStyles now has over 200 wholesale retailers – Buckle, Rally House and Tyler’s, to name a few. “We started selling online, but then retailers came to us,” Wysong said.
The company grew in popularity with social media giveaways and other collaborations. Its Instagram following, now over 40,000 strong, got a boost when celebrities like country musicians Lee Ann Womack and Josh Abbott wore its t-shirts.
“We’ve never paid a celebrity an ‘X’ amount of dollars to wear our shirt,” Wysong said.
Instead, the duo offered free merchandise and the celebrities would end up posting photos on Instagram.
Wysong and Matulich also promoted Tumbleweed TexStyles at festivals and events, such as the State Fair of Texas.
“There’s money to be made at those events, and it was a great brand builder,” 47-year-old Matulich said. “We had people that had never seen us before, and then they would go home and Google us and start following us on social media.”
In the spring, Tumbleweed Texstyles will open its first brick-and-mortar location at the upcoming Patios at the Rail building in the heart of downtown Frisco. Wysong said the store will sell exclusive merchandise not available online or in other retailers.
“We kind of felt it was the next natural step for us. We wanted a place that we could call home,” Matulich said.
The Frisco-based brand sells a variety of T-shirts, hats, stickers and gear with designs that express love for Texas. It also has three different T-shirt collections – from its Visit Frisco collection, its self-branded Cannon collection and its latest Christmas collection.
“With every design we have, there (are) inspirations from travels, concerts, food and restaurants, but (Matulich) and our art team really pride themselves on hand drawing,” Wysong said.
T-shirt art is not only designed by Matulich, but also by Wysong’s wife Hillary and designer and photographer Fred Rodriguez.
Bestsellers are the company’s Texas Town T-shirts, which have names of Texas towns that form the shape of Texas, and any merchandise slapped with its Texas Chica logo. “It doesn’t matter what we put that design on, people want it,” Wysong said.
Matulich calls the designs “Texacana” and said they’re inspired by Texas natives’ well-known pride in their state and its culture. Although there are other Texas-pride clothing brands, what makes Tumbleweed TexStyles stand out is that it attracts high-fashion buyers. In September 2013, Indulge magazine styled a model with $600 Lele Rose trousers, $560 oxford shoes and the brand’s $25 Texas Towns t-Shirt.
“A lot of people would say that we were one of the first Texas-pride brands that was fashionable with style and comfort,” Wysong said.
The unisex shirts aren’t just popular in Texas. They have been shipped worldwide, including all 50 states and 12 different countries. Tumbleweed TexStyles can branch out of the state by collaborating with other businesses for custom-made merchandise.
The company manufactures, stores and ships its products in Keller. Wysong said Tumbleweed TexStyles prides itself on manufacturing in the Dallas-Fort Worth area because a lot of other companies make products overseas. “Our hem tags, our embroidered hats and our shirts are printed right here,” Wysong said.
Because of Wysong and Matulich’s education connection, varying portions of sales go to the Frisco Education Foundation – which provides scholarship opportunities for high school seniors. “We did that because we felt Frisco ISD has supported us so much by promoting us,” Wysong said. So far, they have helped fund scholarships for 12 graduating seniors.
The brand also prides itself on its authenticity. “We’re not trying to be Texan, it’s just who we are,” said Matulich, who’s been teaching art at Liberty High School since the school opened in 2006.
And they’ve turned down investors who’ve offered to buy into the business. Wysong said there has never been a need for outside money.
“You don’t necessarily always have to have a lot of capital to start a business. You need a lot of hustle, a lot of work and commitment to make it happen,” Wysong said.