These cowboy boots are made for workin’
Tecovas CEO Paul Hedrick is redefining who wears cowboy boots and how we access them. A look at how his Western brand is expanding and why it’s being dubbed the ‘Warby Parker’ of cowboy boots.
Tecovas CEO and founder Paul Hedrick’s boots are made for walkin’…and a whole lot more.
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"The biggest misconception surrounding cowboy boots is that they are for a super niche market, they’re uncomfortable, they are intimidating and that if you’re not a cowboy, that you cannot wear them,” explained Hedrick to Fox Business. “I think that all four of those are not true.”
While Hedrick fully understood those stereotypes surrounding cowboy boots, he saw an opportunity in the market to rewrite the cowboy boot narrative.
“There hadn’t been a new Western brand in 25 years, certainly nothing created in the modern era,” said Hedrick. “There hadn’t been a brand that was built for the modern consumer, that was built with the idea of being timeless and affordable, and high-end service in mind.”
His idea spurred him to leave his financially stable investment job in New England, empty his 401(k), and move back to Texas in the summer of 2014.
I decided to take a leap and bet on myself, and I had some credit card debt that I’m probably still hurting in my credit card score for,” said Hedrick. “But once you take that leap, you’re committed, you’ll do anything to make it work, so that’s what 2014-2015 felt like for me, which was a little scary at times.”
Brand and Process
Hedrick used his own experience growing up in Texas as a guiding light in creating the building blocks for his company.
He was inspired by his childhood dream of becoming a paleontologist when it came to naming the brand ‘Tecovas.’
Tecovas is the name of a geological formation at the bottom of Palo Duro Canyon in northwest Texas.
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“I wanted to pick something that was truly representative of Texas, and that existed for many thousands of years,” explained Hedrick. “I wanted something that was timeless.”
As a lifelong consumer of cowboy boots, Hedrick understood the web of problems when it came to purchasing the perfect pair. He explained to Fox Business that the process is especially intimidating if you’re a first-time cowboy boot customer.
“Your options include going to a big-box western store with aisles and aisles of boots with the prices ranging from $50 to $5,000—it’s a process that really requires a sherpa if you do it right,” said Hedrick. “I felt like a brand could be that sherpa in a more effective way than thousands of store touchpoints that were really different and hard to work through.”
Hedrick explained that part of being the sherpa for consumers, in both pricing and styling, was to structure Tecovas as the first direct-to-consumer brand in the Western category. He said that by eliminating the middleman, he could connect directly with customers and offer a high-end product at a reasonable price.
Hedrick also said that he relied on his own instincts as a consumer when it came to designing the boots. He wanted to make the boots that he would seek out at stores, and what he characterized as no-brainer attributes in design.
“The main design idea came down to designing the boots that I want, that I don’t see in the market, or that I see in the market and that are hard to find or too expensive,” said Hedrick. “The boots I want are subtle, understated, browns, blacks, or tans, and they could go well with jeans or a suit.”
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While the look of the boot may be more subtle, his customer’s confidence when they put on the boots does not have to be.
“We sell confidence, we sell cool when you put on boots you probably have another half-inch, which gives you an extra spring in your step,” said Hedrick.
Luckily Hedrick’s instinct was on-point, and Tecovas experienced an early product-market fit.
“The process that we had spent designing, developing, and making the boots over the course of the first year, put us close to the right product, right away,” said Hedrick. “Tecovas was going to be easier to sell if we were the best, and it was going to be more fun to run the brand if we knew we were making stuff that was awesome and it wasn’t engineered to a certain price.”
With the right product in stock, Hedrick focused on getting traffic to the website. Hedrick told Fox Business that he employed everything in the toolkit of a brand that needs to grow online including advertising and organic social media campaigns.
The company’s e-commerce format enabled Tecovas to gain a nationwide audience.
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“For me it was a way to have immediate national distribution potential from the get-go,” said Hedrick. “So at least if we were going to learn if it was going to work, we were going to learn quickly because we were going to tell everyone about it, and not just one street or town.”
Online retail allowed Hedrick to grow his business enough so that he could then begin to open physical stores.
“Owned retail, direct retail was never a matter of ‘if,’ it was a matter of ‘when’,” explained Hedrick. “The reason retail was a ‘when’ question, not ‘if,’ was simple, it’s what people wanted. It’s a way for us to offer a customer experience that was a gap that needed to be filled.”
Hedrick approached retail from a hospitality angle, and told Fox Business that he wanted to create an experience for customers.
“I want the Tecovas stores to feel like a cool house you want to live in, and don’t feel sale-sy, and we hire awesome people who would be amazing hospitality industry folks,” said Hedrick.
He opened his first store in Austin in March 2019 followed by San Antonio in August and Dallas in October with Oklahoma City and Houston locations opening in November. The stores are equipped with a bar, comfortable leather furniture, and even a shoeshine stand.
“We want to open more experiences for people in a measured way,” said Hedrick. “We want to make sure we keep innovating and create things that people love, whether or not they’ve thought of those things yet.”
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To learn more about Tecovas and CEO Paul Hedrick, watch the full video above.
Emily DeCiccio is a video producer and reporter for Fox News Digital Originals. Tweet her @EmilyDeCiccio.
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