Jack's childhood was a blast and was drawing before he could walk. Get to know Jack and what he is up to with MOTO76co.
Describe who you were as a kid. I was creative, that's probably the best word to describe my childhood. I grew up out in the country with everything that a kid could want, we had dirt bikes, horses, log cabins out in the woods, creeks within riding distance and cornfields and gravels roads in every direction. My father raced dirt track at the Boone Speedway too, and he was always working on motors of some kind, cars, motorcycles, snowmobiles, I have so many memories of his teaching us - though I'm ashamed to say I did not retain as much as I should have! Childhood was a blast, having the freedom to roam and explore really defined who I would become. We worked hard, there's no denying the home grown and midwestern work ethic, that was instilled in me at a very young age, that I could do anything, and have anything if I worked hard enough and never gave up. Thats what I'm doing now, just working hard to chase my dreams and live my "American Dream."
My all my family is creative, I was drawing before I could walk. My father was a toy designer, and Mother a plush toy and fashion designer, so between the both of them it was really easy to find my creative voice. My parents really pushed me in the arts, from all forms of drawing, woodworking, scrimshaw on bone, sewing and anything else I wanted to try, they supported me and pushed me to be the best I could be. I've very thankful for that.
What was your first job? I've worked my whole life! But my first "real" job was at the Skating rink in my hometown of Gowrie, an old wooden floored skating rink, I can still remember the sound of skate wheels and the crackle of classic vinyl records playing every weekend. My dad had taken us there since the time we could skate, he'd worked for Rollerblade and taught us on those from a young age, myself and my sisters were rink rats, so it was only fitting that would be my first job. I loved it there, the older couple that ran it had a huge impact on everyones lives in our town, and really on mine. From anything about life to some killer skate moves, I learned a lot there. I'd still work there if I could, just to see smiling faces of kids and to hear those same worn out records..
"I was drawing before I could walk ... My parents really pushed me in the arts."
Walk us through your journey to starting your own thing. My journey probably started before I can even put a timeframe on it, as I said, I've always been surrounded by creative people, and with my parents running their own business, I think it was always a huge goal in my life to do the same. In high school I spent a lot of time at the skate shop and drew a lot of t shirt designs for them, I was always working on companies and brand ideas, some went places, others sank into the back of my mind, I'm still working on brands and ideas all the time, from hand made skateboards, retro BMX clothing, refurnishing vintage chairs, photography and clothing brands, I've got my hands in anything I think sounds like a cool challenge. Everything in my life is small batch, I want it to be hand made and tell stories, I don't want to do things on a high scale level where I don't have control over what is going on. For me, that's the fun in it, telling stories by the hard work and craftsmanship that is in everything I do.
Tell us more about MOTO76co and why it exists? MOTO76co is really a homegrown brand that exists between Grant (father figure, business partner, motorcycle riding friend, all around cool guy) and myself. It's an extension of what we do, we ride motorcycles, we work on motorcycles, we wanted to create something that reflected that. I've very vintage inspired in my life, from growing up on an old acreage, spending all my time in an old fashion skating rink, riding vintage motorcycles, I love the old days that were simple. So that is what MOTO76co is all about, the good old days of riding with friends and telling stories around campfires at night, it's the freedom of the open road and just being able to be yourself. It's a lot more than just motorcycles, our group of friends is full of hooligans, skaters, wakeboarders, artists, musicians, and anyone that wants to throw off the restraints of every day life and ride with us.
"If you're in that spot where you really want to pursue a dream, nothing should be stopping you."
What’s been challenging about working on a side project and having a full-time job? Any advice? My full time job is in graphic design as well, so perhaps the biggest challenge is being able to give my best at work then give my best again for my side projects once I get home. With everything I do, I'm trying to outdo my previous work, so doing that at a full time job then again at home gets exhausting sometimes! I'm always pushing and always thinking about the next design and solution, pretty much nonstop.
But that's also part of the fun in doing so many projects. Having the side projects also really allowed me to explore different design styles and practice my techniques that really weren't being used for my full time job. Really I would say that my advice is to do it, if you're in that spot where you really want to pursue a dream, nothing should be stopping you. It's a ton of work, but I'm sure that is the most well known part about running your own business.
Along the way, who and what helped you to keep pushing forward? A lot of people have helped me, there are too many to name in all honestly, from family and friends, employers, and professors, I would not be doing this if it was not for all of them. But for the question, I would not be here without my Mother, and business partner Grant. My father passed away shortly after I graduated college when I was really getting my foothold in graphic design. Obviously, a loss like that really messes with you, breaks you down in every way that you can. I'd always thought my father and I would do something together, so I was pretty lost after he passed. Mom really went into overdrive as a parent and held together our family. She kept supporting me, kept pushing me and kept me focused on my dreams when it was hard to see them. Grant became a father figure in my life, almost "adopting" me as another son. I could not have done it without them both, hard days still come up, where I just want to hear "good job" from my father, they both are there to keep me going.
Someone is starting a project for the first time, what would you want to say to them? That it is hard... I'm sure that most people would say "don't give up" and both are really the advice that anyone starting a project needs to hear. I've had so many doors close in my life, sat down questioning if I was really supposed to be doing this and wondering why it has to be so hard. But when one door closed, another opened, even if I had to kick it open. But looking back, the hard times are just as rewarding as the successes, and make the good times so much better. At the end of the day, I would not trade a bad time, (lost jobs, failed ideas, redoing the same project for the 100th time with an hour left) for anything, they made me stronger.
What are you most proud of and why? As strange as this will sound, a really dumb tattoo... I have "I aint scared of shit" tattooed on the back of my calf. It's great, and always gets a laugh and the "how drunk were you?" But I was completely sober when I got it, I got it to push myself, a way to remind myself that I cant use fear as an excuse to not do something and that I'll always regret the chances I did not take. I really try to live my life by that. Now its gotten me into some fun problems in the past, and has always been a fun conversation with my ex's parents (and I wonder why they are exes...). I've done a lot of great things because of it, I cant get out of bombing hills on boards, and most recently fractured my ankle trying to surf a dirt bike. I was by no means ready to try it, and we were on terribly muddy farm. I tried to voice that, but was met with "come on, you ain't scared..." But all jokes aside with it, as dumb as it is, it's a fun little reminder to keep pushing even when I'm scared I'll fail.
"The hard times are just as rewarding as the successes, and make the good times so much better."
Why Des Moines? I grew up in the country outside a small town, and remember swearing that I would move to the big city someday (always thinking New York or something.) As I grew up though, I realized just how great it is here in Iowa and that it would really be hard to have everything that I love this close anywhere else. I moved to Key West for a time after college, and had a blast, it was a great time living on an island 90 miles from Cuba. But I really missed the gravel roads and places to open a motorcycle up. I missed the countryside and tall cornfields. So I came back, I love Des Moines, it's a great city full of extremely creative minds in all forms, so just walking downtown is inspiring, from antique stores and art galleries to all of our great bars... if I'm ever hitting a wall on a project I just head downtown and relax. So that's really it, I love this city and am proud to call Iowa home.
Favorite underrated spot in Des Moines? I've got to say the BMX track at Ewing Park, I honestly just found out about it lately and am so surprised I didn't know of it before. Between the track and all the trails around there for bikes, it's a great spot. I'd like to do more to support that kind of stuff in Des Moines, it's on my never ending list of things to do! I love doing whatever I can do promote Des Moines and all the awesome stuff here.
"Being grounded with our roots here is a very important thing."
If you could grant the Des Moines area one wish what would it be? So I would never grant myself a wish, not that I don't like that idea, but if I want it, I don't want it today or tomorrow, I want to work for it. So for Des Moines, with everything that is happening, with all the artistic people that are here and all the young ones coming up next, I would wish that they will remember what makes Des Moines what it is and what makes Iowans who they are. We've got a great work ethic, we are a city full of dreamers that aren't afraid to take huge chances, we're Des Moines and we're a city full of talent that is putting it up against all the other cities that are full of so many "opportunities".
I really think that is something that makes Des Moines so great. I don't have a four year degree from an Art College, just two years at DMACC, but I'm not afraid to go against people with art degrees in New York because I know how to work hard and how to learn on the spot. I think our city is blessed with hard working dreamers, and I think that always remembering where we came from and being grounded with our roots here is a very important thing.
In six months what do you hope to have accomplished? I'd like to start racing vintage motocross. I've worked with some guys out in Nebraska for years now called Great Plains Vintage Motocross. It seems like a blast but I've yet to make it out there for it. When I was younger, I did a lot of motocross riding, now its tuned to street and trails but I would love to get back into it. And with everything that I do, I love the vintage side of things. There's something about being able to race a track with a bunch of riders on old bikes, like time traveling back to On Any Sunday with Steve McQueen. I have no clue if I'll be any good, but that's not the reason I want to ride, just to get out and have fun. That's really the best thing for me, the things I'm most passionate about all merge together in the middle. One thing helps the other, when I've hit a wall with design, I go out and ride and it comes back to me.
For MOTO76co, I just want to keep growing the brand, we don't do much advertising, it's just a fun passion project for us where we get to pool our creativity and make some cool stuff. I do want to keep pushing it though, so that more people across the world can be a part of it.
What’s one thing people need to know you really care about? Making memories. I love to work, I'm very passionate about it. But at the end of the day its the memories that will remain and inspire us to pursue our dreams. I would not be doing what I do without all the memories with my family, from old dirt bikes and camping out at the river, long rainy weekends spent drawing with my father and sisters, hiking out in the woods and eating over the campfire. Pizza with friends at the Boone Speedway watching my father race and all the spent riding in the back of the old truck on the way to another adventure. Its those memories that got me started, I always wanted to create brands and a lifestyle that reminded people of the good old days... So for me now, its making new memories that will inspire us now and in the future.
Photo credit: Blair Rosenbeck