In 2014, Jamie and Cody Wallis found themselves with an apartment full of custom-made cycling gloves and a decision to make about selling them.
"Our first batch of gloves was stacked up in the guest room," Jamie recalls. "Cody's home office had become our sample room. Cody said 'We've got $6,000. We should put it all toward this.'
"We did, and it was gone in a flash," she says.
The Wallises say the company they started, HANDUP, did almost $40,000 in sales in 2015, its first full year in business. HANDUP did $1.5 million last year, they add, and is up 30 percent this year.
"We've got about 800 retailers worldwide – Chile, Singapore, Spain, Australia, Belgium – carrying products now," says Troy Stewart, who handles marketing for HANDUP.
Cody Wallis says HANDUP happened because he was a cycling enthusiast in search of a better glove.
"Jamie's job brought us here [Chattanooga] in 2013," he says. "In 2014, we found Cyclocross, kind of a winter sport for bike riders. It was a fun, weekend thing we got into with friends.
"I was looking for new gloves, but nothing in the market fit what I wanted – multicolor, fun prints and no padding, which cycling gloves usually have. Everything in the market seemed boring," he recalls.
Because of his cycling connections, Cody Wallis was able to find places to get his first gloves made. It took six months to stock a full complement, he says.
"At that point, we had three different gloves, including an American Flag glove," Jamie Wallis says. "That's what put us on the map."
The Wallises started going to cycling events and selling from the trunk of their car. Jamie Wallis says their big break came in March 2015, when they set up at two big events in Pennsylvania.
"Pennsylvania has a huge Cyclocross community," she says. "We were able to get some traction there. Now we've kind of created a community in the cycling world with our gloves."
The business grew, the Wallises say, but they kept their day jobs – until they couldn't.
"In the winter of 2018, we sat down and said, 'If HANDUP's going to go [forward], one of us has to quit, and Cody was getting promoted at work," Jamie Wallis says.
So Jamie, who'd earned a master's degree in speech pathology, left her residency at a Chattanooga-area health care facility in January 2019 to go all-in on the startup. The couple added apparel in 2018, and Cody Wallis left his IT job in May 2020.
* Address: 1112 McCallie Ave.
* Online: handupgloves.com
* Launched: 2014
"We really built our audience," says Jamie Wallis. "Our glove fans became apparel fans, and that snowballed our growth in a big way."
Cody Wallis says things got "a little scary" early last year when the global pandemic hit. HANDUP cut all the costs it could without laying off staff, he says, but a move the company made in 2019 wound up paying off in a big way.
"To get ready for 2020, we'd bought a lot of stuff up front," he says. "So when things opened up a little, in about May, and a lot of people didn't have product because China had shut down, we had stuff in stock."
Today, the Wallises say, HANDUP offers nine different glove designs and 15 pieces of apparel. Cody Wallis says that much of HANDUP's apparel and gloves are made overseas, but all of its socks are made in Chattanooga.
"We'll be getting more product next spring," Cody Wallis says. "Polos, golf towels – more fun, floral patterns.
"We can do better in Europe – that's going to be our big focus next year," he adds.