Small-town Success Story: The Rise of Twisted J

By T.C. McKeown

Photos by Southern Grace Photography

Twisted J is a brand that started with humble beginnings in Stephenville, Texas and rose to achieve worldwide appeal. Deriving its name with inspiration from the family’s surname and the family ranch, Cody and Luann Johnson started the Twisted J brand six years ago in the form of a boutique.

“It’s harder to make a living as a rancher than it used to be, and after my father passed away, I wanted to take the ranch in a different direction,” Cody said. “So, my wife and I came up with the name Twisted J, and we’ve sort of morphed into a clothing company.”

The boutique—which started out being operated by only Luann and the Johnsons’ eldest daughter, Bayli—quickly grew in popularity amongst Stephenville shoppers.

“The boutique really took off and started to shape our brand. Then, we woke up one day, about two-and-a-half years ago, and found ourselves opening up a clothing company,” Cody said.

Today, Twisted J has its own apparel line that includes comfortable, durable T-shirts; gorgeous, uniquely-designed tanks, blouses, and dresses; and an exquisite collection of denims of all cuts; plus shoes, boots, and even items like jewelry, accessories, and home décor.

Additionally, Twisted J offers custom screen-printing, embroidery, and patches.

What’s more is that the Johnson family ranch is now home to Corriente roping cattle, quarter horse broodmares, and a top-notch training facility for barrel-horse-racing and cattle roping.

“Once we got more knowledgeable about the industry and the avenues we wanted to pursue, we started to see more success,” Cody said.

The Johnsons work with major companies from all over the world and with national and regional rodeos, where they advertise their brand by way of merchandise, apparel, and sponsorships. They even partner with entertainers like Steven Tyler (yes, Steven Tyler, of Aerosmith fame).

“When Steven Tyler was putting out a country album last year, he was looking for a company to work with to fit his new style and they came across us,” Cody said.

Soon, the Johnsons and Tyler were collaborating on something much bigger. In April of 2016, it was announced that Twisted J would be presenting Steven Tyler live in New York City at the Lincoln Center. The concert, which helped to kick off the musician’s “Out On a Limb” tour, served to benefit Janie’s Fund: a philanthropic initiative founded by Tyler to provide support for girls that have been abused.

“It was a great time and it was for a great cause,” Cody said of the experience. “We got to go up to New York City, get all dressed up and walk down the red carpet with Steven. We’ve since worked with him on several projects.”

In fact, at the time of writing this article, Cody and Luann were at the Professional Bull Riding World Finals in Las Vegas, where Steven Tyler was headlining the event.

“It’s because of [Steven Tyler] that we’re out here and it’s because of us that he’s out here! So it’s just really cool how it all meshes together,” Cody Johnson said.

2016 has been a big year for the Johnsons as Cody and Luann were invited to attend the Golden Globes and the Oscars, where Twisted J T-Shirts were included in the luxury gift bags for celebrity attendees. The Johnsons and their product were such a hit, that they were invited back to the Globes and Oscars in 2017.

Continuing to shine bright in the limelight, Twisted J T-shirts were also featured on the Ellen DeGeneres Show as part of her ‘Favorite Things’ section.

Cody credits their success to a few different things: a huge social media campaign, which is only bolstered when celebrities like Steven Tyler start hashtagging your brand; advertising at events like the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo (NFR) and the Professional Bull Riders World Finals (PBR); word-of-mouth; and a lot of hard work, plus a little bit of luck.

“We also try really hard to sell what’s trending at the moment,” Cody admits. “What’s happening this week may not be happening next week so there’s no telling, and we just try to stay on top of it all.”

Additionally, Cody says that spontaneity is a key factor in why he feels he and his wife have been so successful with their company.

“We just had wild ideas and big dreams,” Cody said. “I’m sure if we had studied [business] or worked at the details for too long we would have been too scared to even try anything, but we just jumped in with both feet. We didn’t have a clue what we were doing when we first started but we learned as we went along.”

The business isn’t just a husband-and-wife team, however; it’s a full-on family affair. Bayli still has a hand in the boutique side of the business: placing orders and managing schedules for boutique employees (it’s not just a mother and daughter store anymore!). She also helps with planning events and managing the booths at expos such as the PBR and NFR.

The Johnsons’ youngest daughter, Tori, 21, is in charge of shipping; 15-year-old Clay is tech-savvy, so he runs the IT side of things; and Cody’s mother, Linda “Mamaw” Johnson, works embroidery.

“It’s an absolute honor to work with my family,” Cody said. “And we work very hard. We might say we love each other as we walk out of the room, but we all have our jobs and at work it’s work. We take it seriously and I’m very proud of my kids and everyone who works with us.”

Cody says that is one of the best parts of his job: working with his family; and the Johnsons brag about the rest of their employees, saying, “we have such an amazing group that give so much of themselves [to this company] and we just can’t say enough how much we appreciate them.”

“We’ve just met so many great people in this business,” Cody said. “If it wasn’t for this business, we never would have had the opportunities that we’ve had. I don’t know what the future holds for us, but we’re just going to keep on putting out quality products that people enjoy.”

 

To shop the Twisted J apparel and accessory line online visit www.getalittletwisted.com

You can also shop in person at their new store location: 2285 N. U.S. Hwy 377 in Stephenville. Not in Stephenville? Visit the website to find authorized retailers near you.