At a Glance:
Old Enfield Supply Co.
Just in time for your Father’s Day gift-hunt, we check in with a new Austin gear company
by Ivy Moore
Photographs by Andrew Bennett, Kelly Leeves, Claire Schaper & Shannon Vandivier
Elliott Weeks, founder and owner of Old Enfield Supply Co. is a loyal Austinite who was raised in the Tarrytown neighborhood and now calls Clarksville his homebase. Both a University of Texas graduate and United States Marine Corps veteran who served in Afghanistan and Iraq, Weeks has returned with a plethora of life experiences to build an outdoor gear brand. I had a chance to sit down with him and hear a bit about this rising need-to-know-local brand and how he got his start.
Ivy Moore: Tell me about Old Enfield Supply. How did you come up with the name and the whole idea behind it?
Elliott Weeks: I was making duffel bags as a hobby at the time, and I was kind of reaching out to my friends and saying, “Who wants a bag? I’m making these bags now,” and they were pretty much what’s now our 48-Hour Duffel Bag. So in that process, I was thinking I probably should brand this as well.I was trying to think of names. And then the name Old Enfield came to me mainly because of the Austin neighborhood. But also, it kind of has this old school British feel to it.
IM: So duffel bags is how the whole business started?
EW: Yeah, well, initially it got started because I had a lot of free time on my hands. And so I started making a hunting and fishing vest. Once I got that vest to a point where I really couldn’t work on it anymore, I decided I’d do bags. I love gear. I go to REI and just look at all the products, and feel the different materials that all the bags are made of, and I study the details that make one bag different from another. I used to do that even before I started to sew, so I was always very interested in it. It’s kind of a natural progression.
IM: How did you go about sourcing the materials? What was that process like?
EW: It’s been a long one. When I first wanted to start doing all this about four years ago, I basically just taught myself how to sew.I was also like, “Where do I buy materials?” Other than, say, Jo-Ann’s or something. So in that whole process, I was not only learning how to sew, but I was learning how where to source things from. It was a long process. By the time I was ready to go forward with the bags as a full company, I found this guy out in North Carolina who was also a veteran-owned an operated cut-and-sew manufacturing facility. So, I started working with him on prototyping.
IM: What’s the hardest thing about starting your own business?
EW: I’d say that probably depends on the person. For me, it was officially getting it started and not knowing really what the first steps are, and the next steps. Just that whole process. Actually getting past the barrier of going from an idea to something actually happening is also pretty difficult.
IM: How has the fact that you’re a veteran shaped your business model?
EW: Yeah, it definitely has.I give back to the veteran community. I like to hire, or I like to source veteran manufacturing as much as possible, but it has also very much opened a few doors over time – over the last year – with other companies wanting to work with a veteran-owned company. I didn’t want my products to come off as, “Oh, this is obviously a veteran-owned company because all the bags are 100% geared towards the veteran community, or the military community.” I wanted it to be geared toward a very broad audience, but it just happens to also be a veteran-owned company. I think I’m kind of more unusual in that sense.
IM: A lot of young people these days dream of owning their own company and being their own boss. What was it like to do this in a place like Austin?
EW: Well, it’s actually fortunate that I started this in Austin. I feel like Austin’s a great place to start a company like mine. It has a great community of other businesses like mine and everyone’s very friendly and open. That’s helped out a lot.
IM: What are your hopes for the future of this brand?
EW: Eventually I’ll expand the products offered. I see it becoming more of an everyday type of company, as opposed to just luggage and travel accessories.