Most startup companies are obsessed with scaling, and design their business model around how to grow big and be as profitable as possible. Austin-based cowboy boot company, Tecovas, has no intention of stagnating. But instead of complying with industry norms, founder Paul Hedrick is pouring his energy into customer-centric values and high quality products.
Originally from the Dallas area, Hedrick graduated from Harvard and spent time in the investment world before choosing Austin as the birthplace for Tecovas. Deep in the heart of Texas with a culture that embraces innovation, Austin seemed like a good fit for the emerging boot brand.
While Austin may be home to Tecovas’ business operations, product design and showroom, the boots themselves are manufactured in the “Shoe Capital of the World,” Leon, Mexico. “Pretty much every other brand makes its boots in Leon,” Hedrick shared. “The town has been making shoes for hundreds of years. At least in terms of cowboy boots, there really is nowhere better.”
Early on, Hedrick decided he didn’t want to outsource the design and sourcing process to an agency. He has done it all himself, including interviewing factories. Even now that the company is up and running, he still visits the factory in Leon every four to six weeks.
But the term factory is deceiving. Approximately 80 people touch every Tecovas boot during the hands-on creation process, which you can see in the video below:
All About Values
Tecovas has adopted what Hedrick calls a “new model” for his boot company. Unlike other brands, there are no retail store middle men. By purchasing directly from Tecovas, consumers avoid retailer markup and end up paying a much lower price. Hedrick is extremely transparent about his business model, including production costs and markup.
Not surprisingly, this attitude appeals to milennials who are passionate about how products are made and sold. Half of Tecovas’ customers are age 25 to 35. But because of the timeliness of cowboy boots–especially the classic style designed by Tecovas–there’s no age limit to the customer base.
Many first-time customers are surprised to learn that Tecovas only has four boot styles: one short boot and one taller boot for both men and women. When I asked Hedrick how this has limited his business, he said he has no regrets. “I have zero regrets about simplifying and curating the lineup the way we have. We’ve taken a stance on the way we think boots should look, with a classic style. We think it’s more important that we solve other problems like quality and sizing. It’s helped us a lot to have a lot of size availability.”
Because Tecovas is a small company with a limited selection of boot styles, Hedrick can innovate quickly. Boots are made every month in small batches, allowing the company to constantly incorporate customer feedback into the next manufacturing round.
What’s Next for Tecovas
Less than a month ago, Hedrick opened a showroom at 2514 E. Cesar Chavez St. It’s currently open to the public every Saturday from 12-5 p.m., giving Austinites the unique opportunity to see and try the boot lineup in person before purchasing.
While the basic boot styles will remain, Tecovas plans to expand its leather and color choices within the next month or so. In fact, there will be twice as many products as there were at the same time last year. The company will also be releasing belts in time for the holidays.
Considering they’ve only been around for one year, this Austin brand has done an admirable job establishing itself and gaining exposure, while staying true to its core values. As time passes and the call to scale becomes louder, I hope those values that form the identity of Tecovas will continue to come first.
@theAustinot wants to know:
What was the last pair of boots you bought?
Disclosure: I received a complimentary pair of Tecovas boots for the purposes of this review. All opinions are my own.