1 Aug 2018

Living The Dream: StemCaps

WORDS & PHOTOS x Jason Savill

Small businesses are the backbone of economies and there are countless people working to follow their dreams and back their ideas. These people have taken the enormous leap from an annoying idea that won’t leave their heads into a full-blown, scary-as-hell, work-80-hours-a-week, get-stressed reality. The mountain bike world is full of such stories and over a series of weeks we’re highlighting some of these small businesses by asking them about their dream, what lessons they have learnt, and any advice they may have. Maybe it can inspire you to follow your dreams?

This week, we travel all the way to Texas, USA and talk to Kiwi implant Jason Savill from StemCaps – one of the people responsible for making your stem cap a work of art.

Jason Savill – StemCaps

Jason was quick to point out that StemCaps isn’t his business, but rather that of his friend Phil. However, like many small businesses, it’s also about the people who are there from the beginning and those who are able to help others with their ideas.

Jason’s story with StemCaps begins right at the start. He was working at Mellow Johnny’s as a mechanic for 6 years (and Jason’s claim to fame/infamy is that he took care of Lance Armstrong’s bikes for the last 2 years) but was yearning to get out of working weekends due to having a young family. Then 2 years ago he went to work for a customer from MJ’s, Phil Reed, who owns a prototype machine shop. Phil machines functional, finished quality prototypes and some of his customers are brands from around the bike industry. Phil was already making traditional style stem caps on the side for MJ’s but was always frustrated by the bolt hole and the disruption it caused to the art work.

When Jason started at the machine shop he threw out the idea of a boltless stem cap. Together they worked on the cap, making 30+ changes along the way. From material, fit, even the sound it made when it was fitted together. (StemCaps now has 2 patents pending on the design and construction,)

In the beginning Jason (and Phil) worked the idea in-between machining jobs – whenever they could find the time. Then Jason started dedicating more time and found a few hours a day to build the brand and social media following. Finally, they took the plunge and launched their website in October 2016. Slowly the demand grew until eventually Jason was able to transition into a full-time role and now oversees printing, sales and distribution. Phil is still there taking care of all the machining of parts and packaging, while still running the prototype side of the machine shop.

What and when was the dream/spark that started it all?

The spark that started it was finding a simple answer to problem that had never really been addressed. It was just the way things were done: “Curve your logo around the hole”, or perhaps get creative and “use the hole as part of the design”. We didn’t think that was a solution.

What made you take that giant leap?

We made the leap when we realized that we had something no one else in the industry had to offer.

What were you doing previous to this (or indeed still doing)?

I had previously been a bike mechanic for 14 years in both NZ and Texas. Phil had been operating Reed Prototype and Machining for 17 years –  RPMaustin.com

How many hours per week do you work on this business?

I work 40 + hrs a week on StemCaps.

What’s the best part of your job?

The best part is creating something unique, and seeing others get excited about it. I have had the opportunity to help people remember their love ones, fight cancer, MS, PTSD, and support athletes in their own quest for success all through a StemCap.

What is the worst part of your job?

Figuring out the subtleties of international customs. It varies with every country.

What lessons have your learnt?

The most valuable lesson I have learned is that honesty and integrity are invaluable.

What advice would you offer others?

My one piece of advise would be “your product is only as good as your customer service”.