Hobo Hammocks is a company that has a big heart and a great product. Not only do they help feed the homeless of Salt Lake City, UT; but they also recycle old hammocks! I had to find out more from the man who started it all: Meet Jake Andersen, owner of Hobo Hammocks…
Get to Know Jake Andersen in 15 seconds
Friday evening, when the work is done, all I want to do is… read a book in my hammock. To be honest, the work is never done, and I like it that way. I am always having new ideas come to mind that I want to try, and I spend a lot of Friday evenings working on those ideas!
The last good book I read was… “Start Something That Matters” by Blake Mycoskie
The most beautiful Sunset/Sunrise I’ve ever seen was… in Thailand on the southern islands.
I am better than anybody I know at making (food or meal)… a bowl of cereal!
I will never again eat… baby goat brains. I lived in Mexico for 2 years, and this was by far the grossest thing I tried while out there!
My favorite pair or shoes are (brand)… TOMS. I read Blake Mycoskies book (The founder of TOMS) and he’s my inspiration. I love TOMS because I love supporting what he’s doing. I love the business model and I am trying to mimic it with my own company.
HCRB: Hobo Hammocks, tell us how you came up with the idea?
Jake: I like to stay busy. VERY busy. I’m going to dental school right now. It’s a very intense and expensive education, so I don’t have a lot of time, and I don’t have a lot of money. However, I’ve been passionate about hammocking for a few years, and there has been an entrepreneurial seed in my heart for as long as I can remember.
Last summer, as we were studying for our National Board Dental Exams, a friend and I decided to live out of hammocks for a few months in order to save up money for a trip to Thailand. We found an old, abandoned softball field and strapped our hammocks up to the chainlink fence on the backstop. I remember one morning my buddy reached out of his hammock to grab his pants, and about 500 moths flew out of them. It was crazy!
One of the biggest challenges we faced was finding a place to shower every day. Keep in mind we are in dental school, a place where looking clean and presentable is kind of important… Some days we found friends’ houses to shower at. Other days we used disposable wash cloths in the bathrooms at our school to clean up.
We kept cans of Progresso and Campbells soup in the back of our cars. You know, the kind with the pull tabs on top. It was so hot outside that our black cars acted as ovens and we could just pull a can out of the trunk and eat it hot. Sometimes when we were feeling rich, we’d go to Kneaders for breakfast and get all-you-can-eat French Toast. We’d gorge ourselves and the one meal would get us through the entire day.
We got a lot of good laughs from choosing to be homeless, and while doing it for a few months was a fun adventure, it made me step back and think about all the people who go through real homelessness. I wondered why these people didn’t do something to change their situation. I wondered why they didn’t get jobs or at least relocate to places with more temperate climates. After all, anybody can get a job, right?
Eventually I decided I needed to meet some homeless people to satisfy my curiosity. I was so intrigued by the homeless culture and I felt like everyone else should be, too. So one Friday night, I found a cool girl and took her on our first date to a park in Salt Lake City that’s famous for harboring the homeless (You can see now why I’m still single). We brought them donuts and hot chocolate, and just sat around and talked with them.
I asked what kept them in Salt Lake City, where summer days were often too hot to function, and winter nights were often cold enough to kill. Their answers blew me away. “I stay so I can visit my kids that live with their mother just 10 minutes away from here.” “My mother is in a rest home just around the corner. She needs someone to check on her.” One after another they talked to me about their families and how they wanted to stay close to them. These were real people, and suddenly I saw a logical explanation for them staying in such a terrible situation.
But if they had family living so close, why didn’t they just stay with them? The answer to this question didn’t take long to present itself. While they had families that they cared about, almost all of them also had mental disabilities. Some were veterans who had suffered injuries overseas leaving them incapacitated. Some had been in the wrong place at the time. Some had been in car accidents. Whatever the case, they all had one thing in common. Their injuries had left them incapable of work, and unable to support or be with their families permanently. It’s hard to explain in words what I learned that night, but I suddenly stopped judging homeless people and just wanted to help them.
The idea of starting a hammock company had already been planted in my head before this experience, but that night I realized that I could use the company to do some good!
From that point forward I just dove in. I make about a hundred mistakes every day, but with each mistake comes education and learning. The business is growing and I’m super excited about the direction things are going. Right now we provide meals for the homeless, but I’m looking into providing lodging for the homeless, too! I am absolutely stoked about this possibility! I’ve never been so passionate about anything in my life!HCRB: How exactly do you feed the homeless?
Jake: Mainly I work with the Rescue Mission of Salt Lake. They have a program set up that makes it super easy to donate money which then goes directly to meals for the homeless.
I also like to take homeless people out to dinner. A couple weeks ago I was going to Zupas with a good friend. She and I happened across a homeless man who was asking for money. We invited him to come to Zupas with us, and he gratefully accepted the invitation. We had a good lunch and got to know him a little bit better. Another thing I’ve learned about the homeless through all this is that they just want to be treated like people instead of being scoffed at, ignored, or talked down to.
HCRB: You recycle hammocks? What kind of hammocks do you recycle?
Jake: We take any hammocks that people want to send in! When we say that we recycle them, what we do is repair old or broken hammocks. If they don’t need any repair, we take them as they are. We take the old hammocks and donate them to people who then distribute them to the homeless. Previously, we’ve worked with Thomas Rebman, a man known as the homeless teacher. He made a few videos of himself giving the hammocks to some of his homeless friends! We are always looking for homeless camps and people who could really use these ‘recycled’ hammocks so if you know of any good resources, please let us know!
Jake: The biggest obstacle for me was the very first obstacle. Fear. Fear of failure. Fear of not knowing what to do. Fear of doing something wrong. Fear of offending someone. I couldn’t start the company until I made a choice to ignore those fears. Once I did that, things just started rolling. I’m not here to tell you that I don’t come across any obstacles or fear anymore. But when I get that fear out of my way, I just started doing things.
And that’s all you have to do to get a business going. Do things. If they don’t work do different things. Just don’t let yourself get stuck because you’re scared of making a poor decision. If the decision is wrong, you’ll learn from it and you can try again. The fear will always try to creep it’s way back in, but just try to remember that fear is debilitating, so it’s best to ignore it.
HCRB: What has been your biggest business mistake so far?
Jake: In my few short months of running the business, I have had the privilege of coming in contact with some very high profile retailers. Several of these retailers have shown a lot of interest in the company. My mistake comes back to the fear I just talked about. One of them told me they were very interested in stocking my product, but their biggest concern was that I wouldn’t be able to supply their 114 stores nationwide as I’m just a startup. I wish I would have told her not to worry about that and that I would make it happen, but I didn’t because I was scared that I would tell her I could do it and then fail. I’ve since lost contact with this retailer and don’t know if I’ll get another opportunity to work with them.
Jake: Don’t wait until you know everything to start. Because if you do, you’ll never start. Just dive in and learn as you go. It’s invigorating! If you fail, that’s ok. Just try again. If you don’t have money to start the business it doesn’t matter. Use Kickstarter! All your funding comes before you even have to purchase product.
Be resourceful. You don’t need to have a fancy office or a new company car or a big warehouse. I keep my inventory in my bedroom. There’s no room for a bed so I have a hammock hanging above my hammocks. I do trade work with my sister. She does graphic design for me, and I do projects around her house like kitchen remodeling, bedroom reflooring, etc. Find ways to save money. It’s fun and creates great memories!
I’ve already said this a bunch of times but just jump in and go for it. If you are passionate about it, you can succeed at it. So do it!
Jake: I love all things outdoors. Camping, fishing, hiking, boating, swimming, skiing, snowboarding, climbing. It’s all great!
HCRB: How do you practice the “Leave No Trace” principles?
Jake: I’m a minimalist. My camping gear consists of my hammock, my sleeping bag, and a sleeping pad. Sometimes the only food I bring is some pop tarts and a water bottle. It’s pretty easy to leave no trace when you’re not bringing much stuff with you in the first place. In my eyes, the whole purpose of camping is to get away from everything, not bring everything with you to the mountains.
HCRB: Give us 3 tips on how to relax and enjoy an adventure when things aren’t perfect…(like bad weather, broken gear, or lost luggage.)
Jake: 1- Avoid having expectations – There are so many things in this world we can’t control. You can only be let down if you have certain expectations in the first place. If you’re going on an adventure, then just let it be an adventure! The greatest memories come from when things DON’T go according to plan.
2- Turn it into a joke – Everything is funny. You just have to choose to see it that way! I remember one time my family was on a river rafting trip in Moab. While we were sleeping, somebody came and stole our breakfast food. My mom, instead of being upset, couldn’t stop laughing. She thought it was absolutely hilarious that another tour group would break through our camp in the middle of the night and steal our breakfast. It took about a half hour before she could even construct a sentence because she was laughing so hard. That’s how you should live life my friends!
3- Perspective – Sometimes we tend to make a big deal out of things that are not a big deal. If something bad happens, recognize that it’s not really that bad. Because no matter what the weather is, or what you broke or lost, you’re doing something you love, probably with people you love. Focus on that.
Jake: Hammock, Sleeping Bag, Sleeping Pad
HCRB: Tell us more about your Hammocks…how are you better than other brands?
Jake: To be honest, almost all big brands of camping hammocks are pretty similar. Whether you buy Hobo Hammocks, ENO Hammocks, Grand Trunk Hammocks, etc. you are getting an awesome portable camping hammock that you will NOT regret purchasing!
Jake: We only sell double hammocks. Our reasoning for this is that single hammocks suck. (Personal preference) I can’t get comfortable in a single hammock and I don’t want to sell hammocks that I think people aren’t going to be comfortable in.
Our double hammock is a bit larger than the double hammock sold by most other companies. It measures 300 cm long by 200 cm wide (10 ft. X 6.5 ft)
HCRB: How do your prices compare to other hammocks?
Jake: Our hammocks sell for $59. (Straps Included)
Other companies double hammocks typically sell for around $70-$85 + an additional $15 – $40 for hanging straps. So buying a double hammock + straps from a big company like ENO or Grand Trunk, you can expect to pay $85 – $125.
Our hammocks come with hanging straps included so your $59 gets you everything you need to start hanging. (Plus the meal for the homeless!)
HCRB: What is your current sale?
Jake: For anyone reading this article, we are offering an additional $5 off our retail price! When you checkout, just use the code ‘hcrbeta’ and you will save $5.00! So get on it!
HCRB: Best advice to someone who is a beginner and just now learning how to enjoy the outdoors?
Jake: Don’t overthink it. Just get outside and appreciate the beauty around you!
Read more about the Best Hammock for a Beginner: ENO vs Hobo.
Jason Clements is the founder of and writer for HCRBeta, Hike Climb Relax: How to… He lives in Shawnee, Kansas and also runs the cell phone recycling company, Cells for Cells, which recycles cell phones to raise money for families battling cancer. You can follow Jason on Facebook or on Twitter @jasonclements.
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