Inspiration, Entrepreneurial Spirit, & the Gift of Time Result in Old Road BrandNov 16, 2021 05:34PM ● By Fran Miller
Lafayette local Todd Mullins’ vision for his Old Road Brand derived from a box of vintage gas station road maps that he inherited after his granddad passed away. With a career in product sales and marketing in the toy, gift, and craft business, Mullins considered how to repurpose the many maps that were a part of his family’s history. Most had been well used during family vacation road trip in the 1970s.
Inspiration struck during a road trip to Colorado with his daughter. “I packed up some of the old maps so my daughter would have better perspective on how much ground we’d be covering without looking at the tiny screen of her iPhone,” explained Mullins. “And then it occurred to me that we were traveling some of the same ‘old roads’ my grandparents once covered a generation before. That’s when the idea for Old Road Brand originated.”
Entrepreneurship runs deep within the Mullins family. “My granddad was a cowboy, a polo player, and a silversmith,” said Mullins, whose career has entailed close working relationships with other entrepreneurs from whom he has learned and observed. His sister founded an eponymous high end jewelry company, Jennifer Fisher Jewelry, fashioning designs for a Hollywood clientele, and his dad and brother operate their own separate car dealerships. And now, Mullins himself has created a company that pays tribute to his family’s past. Old Road Brand includes hats bearing vintage license plate patches. Each evokes a memory of family road trips where he and his siblings played the ‘license plate game,’ spotting classic cars from other states.
“When you start a business, it’s not going to be enough to just come up with a fun idea,” said Mullins. “So the question was, besides me, is anyone else going to want to wear one of these hats?”
In 2018 he created six prototypes based on states where he was planning to travel that fall. He figured he would simply wear the hats and see if he received comments. The feedback was positive, so he ramped-up social media activity to draw more attention. But, as with most small business start-ups, he encountered a few bumps in the road. Specifically, he could not find a local with the right kind of sewing machine to stitch patches on to the hats.
By the end of 2019, with social media activity flourishing, a website built, but no way to make the hats, he was at a crossroads. He needed to either abandon the project or buy the sewing equipment and learn to do it himself. He found a used post bed sewing machine in Portland in January 2020, and flew there to buy it and drive it back to Lafayette. Ironically, it would be the COVID outbreak creating the gift of time that allowed Mullins to dedicate himself to bringing Old Road Brand to market.
The year allowed him to focus on creative marketing, branding, and developing new product. And he taught himself how to use the sewing machine. He increased his output to 27 states, and he has additional states planned for early 2022.
“The challenge for any small company is getting people to find you,” said Mullins, who attends fairs, car shows, and other events where he can display his wares. His recent attendance at a National Hardware Convention resulted in a large order for two ACE Hardware stores.
The Old Road Brand line now includes both trucker and low profile hats, with beanies coming soon.
“What I hadn’t thought about at the beginning is that this little idea has seemed to encapsulate nearly every aspect of my own family history in some way,” said Mullins. “I call this a “wearable tribute.” It’s a tribute to family, nostalgia, and American car culture. The story is relatable, and it’s a product that makes people happy, and that’s something sorely needed right now.”
Find Old Road Brand here and follow on social media at:
Photos courtesy of Todd Mullins and Old Road Brand