Wander North Georgia has become one of Georgia's most recognizable brands in the last five years. You'll likely see a Wander tee in Atlanta, Athens, or anywhere throughout the state. If you're an outdoors person, you're most likely familiar with the brand already. The story behind WNG is one that will leave you inspired and motivated but we'll let Josh Brown, co-owner, tell you more about the brand's origins.
We've had the pleasure of being a small component in WNG's growth and success thus far. Through the years we've seen the brand evolve and have worked together to create the best possible products for their following from tees, to totes, to bandanas. To honor our partnership, we've designed and printed a limited edition poster for WNG which you'll find at the end of this article. You'll be able to check out our printing process in the video below.
Could you tell us about Wander and how it all began? What was the initial vision for the brand?
We moved to the mountains just under 5 years ago. After coming to the mountains seemingly every weekend for the better part of 15 years, we sold our house, one of our cars, got rid of half our stuff, and moved into a 900 square foot cabin with no heating or air in an effort to get out of debt. Our parents thought we were crazy so we started a little blog and an Instagram in an effort to ease their concerns. When we lived in Athens we ran a blog there that focused on small business reviews so we thought we’d bring some of that passion to our new home and show our parents some of the amazing people and places we were “wandering” into. We never had plans for a shop or doing anything beyond that. But we were having trouble meeting younger people our age so we started doing meetups where we’d announce that we were going white water rafting or hiking or visiting a winery. These were basically free events but they would “sell out” in hours. We quickly realized there were a lot of people who were into the same stuff we were into so everything kind of grew from that original group of like-minded people who were into the same things. You can read the long version here.
We’d had the chance to work together for some time now. What’s been the best t-shirt project that comes to mind? That one tee that sold like hotcakes?
Not surprisingly knowing our North Georgia location, it’s probably our Bigfoot shirts. We’ve changed the designs a few times and had a couple of different artists provide their take on Sasquatch. But the Bigfoot shirts always seem to make people laugh and nearly everyone who buys one has a story when they come by the shop which always makes some for interesting conversations.
There's a lot of garment decoration options out there. How does screen printing fit with the Wander North Georgia brand?
It’s just such a classic process. It feels vintage and timeless yet never gets old. We love that it is still a very tactile, hands-on, artist-led medium. From the designs to the actual screening, a human with an artistic and creative bent touch every process of it. We’re obviously biased about Danger’s role in that process and this may sound cheesy as hell, but you can feel the love baked into each shirt. From Ed and Melyssa to the production and logistics team, your passion touches all of it and it’s apparent. For a brand like us that tries our hardest to live our values into every aspect of our small business, having a peer that feels the same way about the art makes it special.
For a brand like us that tries our hardest to live our values into every aspect of our small business, having a peer that feels the same way about the art makes it special.
Could you tell us a little bit about the meetups and parties that are hosted by Wander?
That’s how we got started and how we'll end it. The shop and t-shirts and hats could go away tomorrow and you will still find us in the ever after work with a cold beer in hand bragging on people and places. My wife and I started Wander but now we have another amazing family that got involved about 6 months into it all. Between us 4 owners, our 5 kids, and our 10 staff members, we’re still doing the things that we did before we were a business. Wandering outdoors, trying new restaurants, meeting new people, and enjoying the North Georgia lifestyle that we fell in love with.
These past few months have been challenging for everyone. How has Wander grown since the start of all this?
I think it’s humbled us. When we started our small business we created 4 values that we’ve done our best to live by. But the reality is, and anyone who is been involved in any type of organization knows this intimately, that things evolve and change and adapt as you grow. You don’t get cocky necessarily but you get more and more confident in what you’re doing and why you’re doing it as you go. But that creates some blind spots. Whether from ambition or a lack of patience, you tend to get a little ahead of yourself and maybe start focusing on things that won’t matter at the end of the day. Closing our shop for almost 3 months reminded us, precisely when we needed it the most, of what we really care about. Our values of Community, Conservation, People, and Marketing and how our family-run business can choose to amplify those in our daily rhythms or we can just chase rabbit trails that distract us from those things.
What's next for Wander North Georgia?
Dig ourselves out of this COVID hole. We’re going to be around for the long haul, but having been closed for 3 months, definitely took a chunk out of our momentum and forced us to exercise some loans that we weren’t planning on. The positive is that like I mentioned above, it’s allowed us to refocus on what is important. We introduced paid sick time for our staff, have committed to being Amazon free by 2021, and ended up donating over 10% of our revenue during the shut down to local non-profits. But it’s a shame that we needed all these recent challenges us to get us to that point. The next few months and years will have us focusing on building a much stronger foundation for our families and staff. We haven’t had insurance in 4 years so making that a priority for our team of 14 versus opening a second location, for example, is where we’re sort of aiming.
Any advice for any creatives trying to start up their own business?
Just start small. Don’t overthink it. Don’t make it more complicated than it is. The amazing thing about living in 2020 with the advent of the internet and social media and all the various platforms out there is that the cost of entry is almost nothing these days. It doesn’t mean you’re going to succeed or that your idea will land. But it won’t crush you if you fail. If my parents wanted to start a brand or a small business, they had to have an immense amount of capital and resources to pull it off whereas we started ours with nothing but an Instagram account and some blog posts about our favorite spots in North Georgia. And do it because you love it. That takes the pressure off of having/wanting/needing it to make money and you can instead focus on the creativity and art of it all.
We're honored to be collaborating on this limited edition print with you all. Is this the first time Wander works on prints?
First time. And super humbled that y’all offered to do it. I think how you guys get paid creative/free time to work on projects that stoke your creativity is exactly the kind of reason as to why we love working with y’all and value your partnership so much.
A special thank you to Josh Brown and his team for working with us on this collaborative print.
Prints will be released on 7.3.2020 at dangerprints.com
Illustrated and designed by J.Gilman
To learn more about Wander North Georgia please visit wandernorthgeorgia.com
You can also find them on Instagram here.
José takes pride in printing your posters and fine art prints. If he’s not in the shop you can find José at a photo session, drawing and designing at home, or spending time with his loved ones.