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Past, Present, and Future: An Uncommon Covers Interview

Every day, Team Uncommon Covers works hard to create handcrafted products, interact personally with customers and potential customers, and run a small business effectively. Although many people are now proud owners of Uncommon Covers koozies, face masks, and scrunchies, the details of the operation might not be known. This month’s blog post fills that gap! Below are 15 questions asked of the people behind Uncommon Covers recently; learn more about the company your dollars support!

  1. Who is Team Uncommon Covers?

Uncommon Covers is a husband and wife team: Jenny Walker and BJ Johnston, who has help from Honky Tonk Foodie, and other devoted friends and family.

Family Photo!
  1. Where did you get the idea to make custom koozies?

In the heat of Summer 2013, BJ brought several used koozies and asked Jenny to sew them together to create a koozie big enough for a 24 ounce beer. After reluctantly agreeing, she gave it a whirl! While it wasn’t the most beautiful makeshift koozie, it did the job! The same day, Jenny also created a koozie for a 16 ounce can. Every time BJ used one of these two koozies, people commented they should sell them.

uncommon covers original drinkwear
Original Uncommon Covers

3. When was the first sale?

The very first market Uncommon Covers participated in occurred on March 28, 2014, selling to their first real unknown person!

BJ & Jenny at the Liberty Jubilee, March 2014
  1. Where have you done markets?

Uncommon Covers works markets across Texas, including Liberty, Houston, New Braunfels, Boerne, San Antonio, Austin, Dripping Springs, Buda, Seguin, Spring Branch, and Adkins.

uncommon covers christmas booth 2019
Christmas Booth 2019
  1. What percentage of orders are customized?

Customized orders can be very seasonal; they account for about 30% overall.

  1. How has the pandemic affected business?

Unfortunately, the pandemic led to cancelations of the remainder of in-person selling events in 2020. The last market was at Currents in New Braunfels on March 14th. The real bummer is not being able to chat with customers in person! However, because Uncommon Covers is a small business, they have been able to pivot and create new products which are in demand.

  1. What are these newest products?

Uncommon Covers is now making face masks and scrunchies. Who knew scrunchies would make a comeback?!? Good COVID fashion is made with a matching face mask and scrunchie combo! Jenny has also started designing and printing fabrics on Spoonflower. This endeavor has opened the door for fun themes and helped the efforts to meet specific requirements. For example, when making double-layer products, Jenny prefers the fabric to have an alternating design. This is because a single piece of fabric is used per item, and when wrapped, the other side would be upside down otherwise.

  1. Where is the furthest away you have shipped product?

Uncommon Covers has shipped to New York City from Texas.

What is your favorite product to make?

Currently, Jenny’s favorite products are anything upcycled. Exactly how it will look is a mystery but she does have a pretty good idea ahead of time! BJ will always have a soft spot for the 24 ounce options.

upcycled drinkwear uncommon covers
Upcycled Drinkwear
  1. What parts of your personality/ background help business?

By nature, Jenny is a creative and organized person, which she believes lends itself to her entrepreneurial spirit. Jenny holds a degree in mathematics, the ultimate assistant with geometric and spatial reasoning. A graduate degree in accounting boosted her to never fear starting a business. Genetics help too! Jenny’s mom and grandmother are both professional-level quilters.

BJ is talented with all things manual. His degree in safety management and experience in construction are helpful for keeping operations safe when working with Uncommon Covers machinery. BJ has also donated several of his favorite shirts to upcycled products!

  1. What kind of machinery is used to make products?

Used in no particular order are a standard sewing machine, an industrial overlock sewing machine, a heat press, a shop press, proprietary die cutters, Silhouette Cameo for vinyl cutting, and a simple needle and scissors for finishing touches.

Where the magic happens
  1. What advice would you give to small businesses?

If you have an idea, there is no time like the present to get started. Better to try, fail and learn, than never do anything at all. Being able to start a business from nothing and turn it into something is one of the reasons America is so wonderful.

  1. Name a mistake learned.

Although many can be counted, two really stand out. The first occurred when just starting: Jenny says she would compare their products to other brand’s similar products, trying to compete with the pricing. As Uncommon Covers products evolved and the customer base grew, so did her confidence. Jenny and BJ don’t produce products which compete with low-cost promos, instead, they produce a high-quality, long-lasting personalized product to be used for years. Jenny states she has heard it said before and it is true: comparison is the death of joy. When she comes across other young women business owners, Jenny does her very best to instill this in them. You are worth your time, talent, and product pricing.

The second lesson learned was when Jenny and BJ moved, and the business change of address was delayed with the state; this led to missing the state franchise tax filing deadline. Uncommon Covers had to pay a penalty. Ouch!

  1. Do you donate to charity?

Yes! Uncommon Covers has donated to many non-profit fundraising silent auctions over the years. There was once a bidding war for a Bad Words Bundle! Recently, Jenny has donated her time to Riverside Pride by helping with their website, a skillset learned through her small business adventure.

  1. What does the future hold for Uncommon Covers?

The immediate future has Jenny and BJ at the Boerne Handmade Virtual Market in November. Here, Uncommon Covers is planning to go Facebook Live for the first time! Further down the road, they want to keep growing by getting product into brick and mortar retail stores and eventually, having an entire team cranking out drinkwear on a daily basis.

Thank you for reading all about the past, present, and future of Uncommon Covers! Stay safe and take care. Until next month!

 

Sarah & Jenny at Wein & Saengerfest in New Braunfels, Texas.

Upcycled Drinkwear: Old Clothes Into Useful New Things!

Has staying at home and general boredom got you cleaning out clothes for donation, or planning to store them away per season? Or have you found old t-shirts and tank tops you don’t want to throw away but know you won’t wear again? Uncommon Covers has the perfect solution! Instead of shirts taking up space in drawers and largely forgotten, upcycle and get them made into a koozie or two! Coasters, scrunchies, and face masks are also available, dependent on the size of the graphic or fabric to be kept.

Original Upcycled Drinkwear
Original Upcycled Drinkwear

For over five years now, Team Uncommon Covers has made multiple versions of all their koozie sizes from upcycled clothing. The process first began with a couple of prototypes from Goodwill shirts, then evolved into the first official Upcycled Drinkwear: a beloved, holey shirt from college days was made into a 16 oz. Tall Boy size. Pleased with the product and its fortitude from extensive porch testing, these upcycled products soon became available at events where Uncommon Covers had a booth. The response has been phenomenal; people truly love this original idea!

Most everyone has at least one or two shirts floating around their house which have special meaning but don’t get worn anymore. These can be from school, a band or show, and occasions like concerts and golfing events. Upcycled Drinkwear is the perfect means to preserve these articles of clothing into something useful and compact. For best results, choose your much worn shirts made from soft cotton/jersey blend, adorned with worn screen printing. Stretch denim is also an option, as well as any fabric comprised of a cotton blend.

Upcycled Drinkwear comes with the neoprene lining (which with the provided material, provides extra wicking) and signature side stitch of Uncommon Covers. Plus, it is still machine washable! Always made in Texas, simply drop off your item locally or send it through the mail, clearly indicating in writing what part you want saved or if you want to use the whole item for Uncommon Cover products. Choices range from a koozie or two to a coaster, a scrunchie or a face mask. Koozies are available in all sizes: 12 oz. regular, 12 oz. skinny, 16 oz. tall boy, 24 oz. silo, cup sleeves, and The Forty (40 oz.), as well as custom sizes. Get to digging in those drawers, bins, and closets. Upcycled Drinkwear is great for the earth, innovative for gifts, and perfectly suited to you!

For more about clothing waste, please see the chart below and visit here and here.

Textile waste chart
Textile Waste Chart from epa.gov

 

Support Three Birds with One Face Mask

Now is a time of uncertainty for all. Personal and professional lives are intermingling like never before, and clear courses of action are in short supply. We as Americans have ways to lessen impact to our communities, including social distancing and utilizing face masks, as well as supporting our healthcare workers and grocery store employees. One thing which remains steadfast is kindness: choosing to treat others with compassion and respect is important especially now.

face mask face masks

Of course, we are all aware of how local and national businesses are being affected. One constant which may not be so obvious is the United States Postal Service. Everyone needs USPS to deliver mail, packages, and magazines; in this time of isolation, this connection has become key. However, due to businesses reducing marketing and customers reducing purchasing, the USPS has been impacted, in addition to the detrimental 2006 law passed by Congress which required the creation of “a $72 billion reserve to pay for the cost of its post-retirement health care costs, 75 years into the future. This burden applies to no other federal agency or private corporation.”

Here are some facts about the United States Postal Service:

  • More than 7.3 million people are employed by the agency.
  • Zero tax dollars are used by the Postal Service. Sales of postage, products, and services fund its entire operation.
  • The Postal Service employs more than 97,000 military veterans and is one of the largest employers of veterans in the country.
  • In 2019, the Postal Service recycled 177,612 tons of paper, 39,792 tons of cardboard and 5,537 tons of plastic.
  • Minorities comprise nearly 40% of the Postal Service workforce.

Source: https://facts.usps.com/

gray face mask face masks

Now for some great news!

It is easy to support both the United States Postal Service and a small business! Along with the usual array of unique drinkwear, Uncommon Covers is now offering face masks for sale, which will be shipped, as usual, via USPS. This is the perfect way to support two types of industry which are essential to America, and protect your family and community! Available in both adult and child sizes, these masks are hand sewn (as are all UC products!), washable & reusable with 3 layers of cotton. Each face mask is made to order; multiple fabric options are offered. Send a few to family and friends, gift your favorite essential worker, and order for yourself.

Uncommon Covers has proudly donated to frontline workers and first responders in New Braunfels, San Antonio, Houston, and Lubbock. This is a real opportunity to help multiple groups of people. Order today!