A pile of multicolored circuit boards is a gold mine to Drew Johnson. In it, he sees a set of earrings, cufflinks and a reversible tie that can match outfits for different occasions.
With the help of a computer-aided cutting machine, Johnson creates shapes and designs and turns the discarded parts into fashion accessories.
"The geek market loves to self express," he said.
The Colorado Springs native hopes his interest in upcycling, reusing scrap materials to create new things, will turn into a successful career.
He started a company called TechWears in June 2014 and created a website to attract customers and show off his handmade goods.
Johnson, a Palmer High School dropout turned University of Colorado at Colorado Springs graduate, describes himself as an "artrepreneur" and an environmentalist at heart.
"I'm 33 years old and I feel like I've found my purpose in life," he said.
The former director of business development at Blue Star Recyclers and a zero waste coordinator at UCCS, he desires to divert electronic waste from landfills.
He also wants to transform his company from running out of a garage to one that can churn out thousands of products.
He recently started a Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign (kickstarter.com/projects/techwears/ ) to raise at least $7,500 to help purchase equipment and build on his plans for the company. And one day, he wants to have a factory store of his own.
At the moment, however, making his creations can be an arduous process.
After combing through circuit boards to find colors and shapes he likes, he sometimes must use a soldering iron to remove components on a board, pop resin bubbles with a needle, or borrow a piece of equipment to make what he envisions. A circuit board tie can take him three to four hours to produce.
But the effort is worth it for Johnson.
"I want TechWears to be an e-commerce powerhouse," he said. "I've gotten so far into this that I'm hoping it takes off."
Contact Stephen Hobbs: 636-0275