Building a business for half your life...

Building a business for half your life...

Building a business for half your life...

  Tom has been building Tom Balding Bits & Spurs for half his life! It was not always an easy path to forge. You can learn the basic history of the company at COMPANY HISTORY.  This blog entry is dedicated to the little known stories that paint the picture of Tom's journey and background.  Tom's family was full of outdoor enthusiasts and he was raised backpacking, camping, and immersing himself in mother nature. His uncle would take him and his cousins up into the California wilderness for weeks at a time.  His immediate family traveled all over camping from their car, catching fish, and enjoying each new adventure that came their way. This is the base that has created Tom's desire to backpack, hike, mountain bike, and snowboard that to this day is a


center point of his life.


 As a young man he delivered papers in Ontario California to raise a little pocket money. He would slowly peddle by while delivering the morning paper to Hooker Headers  (now owned by Holley) and dreamed of the day he could work there. He practiced welding in the family garage, using his fathers work equipment, and has since said he was surprised he did not blow himself sky high. The day he turned eighteen he stopped in Hooker and applied for a position. He was hired and started his official welding career.
Tom's first car was a 33 Plymouth that he revived from the ground up. He laughs when he describes his many mistakes along the way including a mix up with the steering that resulted in having to turn the steering wheel left to go right and vise versa. Later in his life he purchased his 65 K code Mustang that he still drives to this day. It was a pace car that had been parked and become a rodent hotel. A lot of love and elbow grease in both cars turned out something to be
proud of!




One of Tom's early welding jobs included welding Hobie Cat sailboat parts for his cousin, Hobie Alter. Hobie Cat, like so many start ups during the 60's and 70's was not given much hope by outsiders. Tom watched his cousins passion sell surfboard after surfboard and later catamarans. Hobie's first passion was surfing and he came up with lighter more efficient boards that he would use personally. Tom learned passion could be the difference between failure and success. He also honed his precision welding ability that he would later use to handle government contract work from his own shop. His first bit, many years later, was actually made from scrap sailboat parts. Tom's drive for adventure and life experience sent him from his comfortable life owning his own welding business on the California coast in the 80's.  He was thinking about where his life was heading, to the house on the hill and days of welding high paying jobs, and found there was no luster left. His neighbor owned a rarely ridden horse next door and Tom decided to try his hand at riding, hoping to cure his boredom. The neighbor warned him it would be a wild ride, but Tom was up for the challenge. He was promptly bucked off.  At that moment he decided cowboy life would be a welcome change of pace and offer the much needed challenge he was yearning for. He packed up everything and moved to Wyoming where he bought a horse and trained it by reading a how-to book. He found work as a Wyoming ranch hand and put his full attention into learning every aspect of his



new life.

Money was tight and Tom, in his passion for new experiences, took a traveling salesman position. He went door to door across the expanse of Wyoming peddling outdoor thermometers to housewives and hardened ranch owners. He refers to this span of his life with love, "If you don't have anything, you have nothing to loose... I learned many things during my hardships in the early days". After his neighbor approached him and he built his first bit from scrap sailboat parts, Tom called his family to tell them he had found something that was easy to do and would be his new career. He went to town and had business cards made the next day. He later revoked the comment that it would be easy. After several attempts at building unique bits, not wanting to copy other makers, he found out he would need to gain a greater understanding of bits to build his business. He drove all over the country learning as much as he could from renowned trainers and horsemen. He always asked for the most honest feedback and would at times have to start a design almost back at the beginning to make sure it was right. These early connections would later launch his business into success, but  before that break he drove to shows setting up booths and peddling his creations. Times were very tight and he often went with only enough money to get him there, fully dependent on sales to get him home. He almost lost his property during a particularly rough spell and loaded all his product up and drove to a large show with only the fuel in his tank, not a penny more to his name.  This was a very risky move that could have left him stranded with out a home, money, or food. It paid off and he sold enough bits and spurs to get home and save his property.


 He started building bits out of a mobile home he rescued from the landfill and experienced both freezing cold and fires from the propane space heaters. One of the fires was more of a smoldering hole in the floor that occurred overnight and filled the trailer with smoke to greet him the next morning. The smoldering hole was only feet away from a gas can full of fuel that could have been the early demise of the shop if luck had not been on his side. In the 90's Tom built a home outside of Sheridan, doing most of the work himself, that he later sold to build the current location of Tom Balding Bits & Spurs. He loved the layout of the mobile home, using each room for a specific purpose and based the new shop to mimic that layout. We hope you enjoyed this look into the man behind Tom Balding Bits & Spurs!




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