Austin is more than thelive music capital of the world —
it’s also the best place to start a business.
“Keep Austin weird” is the motto that leaps triumphantly from the mouths of native Austinites, signifying the city’s pride in its small, local businesses.
We’ve found the coolest small businesses in Austin. Some of them may be “weird,” but only in the best way possible.
Max Nisen contributed to this piece.
Why it's cool: The man known as Jeremiah Newton, who also sports an impressive face full of hair, started Bearded Bastard to help soften the burliest of beards and tame the unruliest of mustaches.
Products include the Woodsman mustache wax, Woodsman beard oil, and a natural shave oil, but the new Austin-based company is developing many new man-inspired oils and tonics, which will be available soon.
Why it's cool: A product of Treehouse Labs, BiKN turns your iPhone into a tracker for all the things that are important to you -- pets, keys, bags, or anything, really. The tracker is mostly run out of an app, but it is based on your use of the protective iPhone case and the BiKN tags. The case tracks your things even when your phone's battery dies, and the colour-coded BiKN tags attach to the things you want to track.
What it is: A beer co-operative and brewpub with a no-tip policy.
Why it's cool: Black Star is 'the world's first cooperatively-owned and worker self-managed brewpub,' sustained by a community of more than 3,000 'member-owners' who buy shares for the chance to drink exclusive local beer, eat great food, and receive other perks.
Unlike many food establishments, Black Star pay their workers a livable wage and benefits. They believe that tips should not motivate workers to provide excellent customer service, so they don't accept them (and still provide great service!).
314 Congress Ave., Ste. 200
What it is: A yoga studio that teaches classes while suspended in the air.
Why it's cool: Yoga can sometimes be challenging enough on solid ground, but Four Elements raises the bar, literally, and hosts their 'aerial' yoga classes on silk hammocks suspended from the ceiling. Aerial yoga gives its students a wider range of movement than floor yoga, and increases blood flow and circulation while allowing for bigger stretches.
Aerial yoga is becoming increasingly popular throughout the country, but Four Elements is the first (and so far, the only) studio to offer this yoga form.
What it is: A brand new language school aimed at adult learners.
Why it's cool: Located in a beautiful house in the Austin area, the school combines small size traditional classes with events that emphasise food, wine, culture, and conversation. They teach Spanish, French, Italian, and Portuguese, and offer specialised classes for people in specific professions, like in the legal, health care, and business management fields.
What it is: A mind-blowingly weird doughnut shop.
Why it's cool: Gourdough's Big. Fat. Doughnuts. (yes, that's their full name) is known for having the oddest doughnut creations in Austin. And the biggest: Some of their doughnuts are so big that they're better eaten with a fork.
Based out of a vintage Airstream Trailer, doughnut aficionados can line up for doughnut delicacies like the Boss Hog, a doughnut with pulled pork and potato salad drizzled with honey barbecue sauce, or the Mother Clucker, a doughnut topped with fried chicken and honey butter.
What it is: A vegetarian, Mexican food truck with a mohawk.
Why it's cool: Owners Benjamin and Ashlea Miller painted an old mail truck green, gave it a spiky black mohawk, and now serve some of the city's best veg food in Austin. The Mexican-inspired fare is served with fresh ingredients like avocado, jicama, mascarpone cheese (for vegetarians), or their special hot carrot habanero sauce (for vegans).
In 2013 Guac N Roll was named by The Austin Chronicle as the city's Best Food Truck With A Mohawk, but as far as we know it's the only food truck with a mohawk.
What it is: A combination art gallery and salon that also treats hair as a work of art.
Why it's cool: Hearts & Robots hosts a rotating selection of art by local artists and photographers amidst the barber chairs used by their talented, rockin' stylists. Seeing some pink or blue ombré doesn't surprise anyone here; the mission of the salon is to provide a place for independent stylists to style 'badass hair in a 'diy' and craft-inspired studio.'
Hearts & Robots also encourages socially conscious business practices by decorating the salon with 90 per cent up-cycled furniture and equipment.
Why it's cool: Their creative small plates -- nuts, cheese, charcuterie, and even duck confit nachos -- are the perfect accompaniment to beer or wine. The name comes from the 'hi hat' cymbals on a drum set, and Hi Hat pays its tribute with a drum set on the ceiling.
Why it's cool: In addition to great produce, the store showcases some local favourites, like mango chile paletas (Latin American style popsicles) from Mum & Pops. The store makes a point of giving produce and products directly to you, doing away with the often excessive packaging you see at your local chain store.
Each product has to fit their ethos, which emphasises reducing waste, reusing things, and avoiding artificial additives.
What it is: The first fully mobile secondary market for tickets.
Why it's cool: MeetMe Tix connects people looking for tickets with those looking to sell them, on the go and right up to game time. Sellers list their extra tickets and approximate location, you arrange a meeting through their anonymous text message service, meet up, and make the swap.
Why it's cool: All of the meat used in Melvin's delicious sandwiches are cured in-house. While they do have a few veggie options, carnivores will love Melvin's, which has been called a 'meat-tastic sandwich truck' by Yelp reviewers.
Why it's cool: Tom Micklethwait has always loved cooking and eating barbecue. His dream of opening his own barbecue pit came true thanks to the help of an old trailer that he refurbished, and a Kickstarter campaign.
Micklethwait specialises in Hill Country-style barbecue, an old German and Czech traditional method for smoking meats with oak. Micklethwait makes everything himself, from sauces to sausages.
Why it's cool: Built in 1890 as a fire house, Palazzo Lavaca has lived several lives since then, but still retains its vintage charm and makes a beautiful backdrop for any kind of occasion. They host private events like engagement parties, shows, and photoshoots, but also more unique events like a recent Johnny Walker House of Walker whiskey tasting.
What it is: A company that turns photos and snapshots into large, canvas wall pieces.
Why it's cool: You can take a random picture and turn it into something you'd be proud to display, in large format and on gallery quality canvas or acrylic. A particularly cool feature is a tool that allows you to upload photos from Facebook or Instagram to the service and create prints.
What it is: A store that sells jewelry, accessories, art, and other giftable things in the popular 2nd Street District.
Why it's cool: PRIZE offers a truly eclectic selection of luxury gifts and accessories, with a focus on offering handcrafted items that reflect what's unique about Austin. They also offer interior design services and resources for people looking to change up their home or office.
What it is: A retail shop run by and based on the edgy erotic magazine Pure Filth.
Why it's cool: How many naughty magazines have retail locations that sell more than just recent volumes of the publication? Not many, and Pure Filth uses their brick and mortar location to sell a growing collection of local self-published books, magazines, and badass streetwear.
The magazine, which celebrates girls, graffiti, and sexual empowerment, just opened the store this past March in Austin's Foster Heights neighbourhood.
What it is: A new adult toy store that openly celebrates all different sexualities.
Why it's cool: Q Toys is a safe, friendly, sex positive and non-sleazy boutique for people to buy high-end and high-quality adult toys.
Originally a mail order business based out of Phoenix, they chose to make their home -- and first storefront -- in Austin. They also throw parties.
What it is: A website that offers one central place for volunteer groups to get organised online.
Why it's cool: Started in the spring of 2012, Rallyhood is already being used by organisations like the Susan B. Komen foundation, the Girl Scouts of Texas, and Habitat for Humanity in Austin. It works to make it easier to run and organise large groups, and to create a better experience for them.
Founder and CEO Patti Rogers created it after seeing her own community rally around her after being diagnosed with breast cancer.
What it is: An elegant, upscale restaurant that personalizes the dining experience with custom meals.
Why it's cool: Wait staff at Restaurant Jezebel will ask you about your dietary preferences and favourites, and create a customised, delicate dinner menu just for you, paired with wine, cigars, or both.
Owner and Executive Chef Parind Vora was originally pursuing a medical degree in the top 15 per cent of his class at St. Matthews University School of Medicine, but his love of food drove him instead to travel the world and open a restaurant full of the culture he soaked up along the way.
Why it's cool: Burlap sells gorgeous and craft handmade clothing, eco-friendly goods, home decor, and more. Their items make great gifts; the products are reminiscent of items sold at Urban Outfitters, only a lot more unique.
What it is: Outrageously-topped hot dogs.
Why it's cool: You get your franks from a completely different kind of hot dog cart at The Evil Wiener. More people come for the toppings than they do for the dogs.
The toppings are inspired by cuisine from all over the world -- New York deli lovers can opt for the Uncle Reuben (a hot dog topped with corned beef, sauerkraut, Swiss cheese, grilled onions, and thousand island dressing) while those looking for Japanese can try the Samurai (a hot dog inside a sushi roll that's been deep-fried, tempura style, topped with shiitake mushrooms, daikon radish, and wasabi peas).
Why it's cool: Wet Whistle isn't your typical corner grocery. In addition to staples, the store has great espresso, farmers market produce, vegan snacks and aguas frescas. The store knows its hip clientele: it even has a bike-through window for people looking for groceries or coffee on the go.
What it is: A full-service apparel manufacturing facility near Austin.
Why it's cool: WhiteStar can put together single garments for one person, or it can manufacture several hundred garments for a local designer. It serves as a sort of incubator for designers, with studio space and staff available to help move from sales sample to final production.
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