BUTTE – Not all successful businesses begin with a dream – sometimes they just form out of necessity.
In Butte, a school teacher’s love of photography and computer skills lead him to create a growing uptown business.
Jon Wick moved to Montana to become a teacher – and never left. As life often does, that teaching job leads to him meeting his future wife and another teaching job in Asia. A love of photography and design took him out of the classroom, and into a volunteer position with the Butte-100 Mountain Bike race.
“The work I did there, people started to understand that, ‘Oh, he can do websites, he can do fliers, he can do logo designs and graphics work,’” said Wick. “The ball kind of started to roll, really organically.”
Then came the realization that he could make some money with his designs, so he committed to applying for a business license.
“You know on those applications it says, name: Jon Wick, Business name: and I go ‘Oh my gosh, I didn’t even think about what I was going to call this,’” said Wick. “It’s just an adventure, so I got back from a mountain bike ride earlier in the day and my GPS was sitting right next to my keypad in my extra bedroom where I was doing all my work – elevation 5518, so that’s how we got that name.
Today, 5518 Designs is based in a building in uptown Butte. Wick still designs for other people and for 5518 products. 5518 products can be found in several other stores around Montana and Wick says the internet side of his business is strong.
“We’re just having fun to start with and we’re doing some great stuff, not just on our side of the business, but we’re trying to have an impact and a greater impact on the community of Butte,” said Wick.
That happens on a few levels – the store in uptown is one. It’s been restored from a once-abandoned structure. The other way he’s impacting the community is by using community resources. He designs the logos for the hats, but those hats are embroidered at another location. Shirt designs happen here at 5518, but they are silk screened at yet another location. One creative business helping several other businesses thrive, that in turn keeps Wick striving for new designs.
Wick says because the way 5518 developed, his future plans are pretty simple. Keep doing what works until it doesn’t anymore, then do something else.
“We live in an incredible place,” said Wick. “It’s just a fact. And there’s inspiration all around us and the more I do, the more inspired I get, the more I want to celebrate who we are and why we’re here.”
The original concept may have come from 5518 feet above sea level, but with that kind of passion – the sky’s the limit.
Reporting by Chet Layman for MTN News