Name: Adam Wegener
Business: Trash Amps
After watching a friend turn an Altoids® tin into a guitar amp, Adam Wegener set out to amplify sound using household products like beer cans and Mason jars. Soon Adam had more orders than he could fulfill for his “trash amps.” Now, as founder of Trash Amps, Adam spends his days designing, refining and marketing his funky little amps that pump out big sound.
Adam will be selling a selection of Trash Amps at the Bazaar at this year's SOLD OUT QB Connect 2017 in San Jose.
Adam, tell us the story behind your business.
Back in 2010, when I was still in college, a friend bought a kit to make a guitar amp from an empty mints tin. It didn’t sound great, but it was a really cool concept. Then he had the idea to put the electronics from the tin into a beer can. He made the first prototype, and I was impressed. I wanted to make more!
As an electrical engineer, my friend was interested in circuit boards and electronics. I’m a manufacturing engineer, so I was interested in how to make the amps. We were both musicians, so we’d plug our guitars into our homemade amps and try to impress girls when they'd come over to hang out for a party.
People wanted to buy the amps, so we made ten for our friends. Soon, we’d made 50, then 100. There was clearly a demand for what we were creating.
I saw potential for a business, but my friend was only interested in the amps as a hobby. We parted ways, and then I raised about $25,000 through a small round of funding with friends and family. I invested in an injection mold, since our original models made from PVC pipe weren’t great quality. With an injection mode, I could improve the products and scale up.
In the beginning, Trash Amps strictly sold amplifiers, but I soon realized speakers that connect to a smartphone were also in demand. Plus, more people listen to music than play the guitar.
How do you grow your customer base?
We started out selling at a kiosk at a local mall! Since then, I’ve focused primarily on online sales through the Trash Amps website. Additionally, I go to the Maker Faire in San Mateo, CA every year, which has been huge for getting our product and brand out there.
Another marketing strategy is corporate branding. For example, a company will pay to put its logo on a speaker and hand use it as promotional material or as a gift to their employees.
How do recycled materials fit into your business strategy?
Trash Amps are made from recycled materials that are “upcycled” into fully functional amps. A lot of our customers care about where our materials come from. Others just think it’s cool to have a great-sounding guitar amp out of a Mason jar. The sustainable materials help us make products that are really portable. You can throw an amp in your bag and go.
What does a typical day look like for you?
Every day is different. My main job is designing speakers and creating instructions for people who manufacture the circuit board and other components. But on any given day, I’ll pack orders, deliver products, update the website, photograph new products, research patents -- all that stuff. Over the years, however, I've learned that you can't do everything yourself. I try to be selective about how I spend my time and what I hire other people to do.
What do you hope to gain from attending QuickBooks Connect?
I’ve been attending QuickBooks Connect since it started. The event itself is amazing. I've heard some life-changing talks given from the keynote stage. I love the atmosphere -- the lights, the sound and the snacks. It’s an experience!
So many interesting people attend QuickBooks Connect, which makes it a great business opportunity for networking with and learning from new people. And every time I attend a session, I come away with practical tips to improve my social media strategy, manage my finances and generally grow my business.
Joining the QB Community connects you to others who, just like you and Adam, dare to work for themselves. (Find the Sign Up link to the upper right!)
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Adam these are so amazing!! I am always just blown away by products like these. Being able to reuse and "upcycle" every day items is so brilliant.
Ingenius! My husband would LOVE this! Looking forward to checking out your amps and meeting you Adam! :)
What a great way to repurpose materials! Clever. Wish I had this when I was in college, it would have made busking a lot easier.