Drew Johnson’s mission to make his hometown a more sustainable place to live is one that goes back to his youth.
For the 34-year-old Colorado Springs native, that journey started while attending Palmer High School. Uninterested in primary academics, Johnson persuaded his parents to let him drop out of high school with the promise that he’d get his GED and start college early.
“I just recognized that high school was not working for me, so I opted to take a different path,” he said.
But that path was a bit different than he anticipated. Johnson joined the workforce and developed a deep interest in the concepts of recycling, sustainability and community, and in his early 20s, started his own recycling business, Junkman Drew.
By age 25, Johnson had reached the conclusion that those were concepts to which he wanted to devote his attention, so he went to Pikes Peak Community College to study business.
“I decided to close my business and return to school for a higher education so I would be better positioned to leverage my strengths,” Johnson said. “It was one of the best decisions I ever made.”
During his time at PPCC, Johnson became very involved in student government and interested in campus sustainability — he even helped create a five-year sustainability plan for the college. He eventually transferred to UCCS (where he served as the zero-waste coordinator for the office of sustainability,) and graduated in 2013 with a bachelor’s degree in business and sustainable development.
By the time he graduated, Johnson had already gone to work for Blue Star Recyclers as director of business development, which he soon parlayed into the founding of his own sustainable business.
The story goes that, upon being hired by Blue Star Recyclers, Johnson took to the internet in search of a tech-centric tie to wear to appointments and meetings with potential clients. Frustrated by the lack of options, he took a Dremel to a circuit board to create his own — and TechWears was born.
Johnson left Blue Star Recyclers in 2014 to focus more attention on his fledgling business, which specializes in the production of ties, bowties, earrings, cufflinks and other accessories made from recycled parts from electronic devices.
Since then, Johnson has scaled up operations in hopes that he might support the community by creating jobs, and is active on several boards and committees around town.
“He has been very dedicated in supporting other startup entrepreneurs in Colorado Springs and provides a great example for others wanting to do something similar,” said UCCS Sustainability Director Linda Kogan. “He is a skilled networker and is excellent at connecting different community leaders and organizations to further collaboration.”
Johnson said he considers it a pleasure to support the community after all the support it has shown him over the years.
“Colorado Springs has consistently shown up to support my startup and has helped build my confidence in creating a global brand focused on social impact,” he said.
Kogan, who called Johnson “a real go-getter,” said that the entrepreneur does much to bring value and excitement to the community — and because of that, he was already a Rising Star.
“He is a proud Colorado Springs native and always works to get more people involved locally,” she said. “It is fun to watch his business grow and he is certainly a Rising Star worthy of formal recognition.”