To read more about Jeff, owner of Custom Stix™, or to learn more about having him come and speak to your group, check out Jeffjones.org. You can also check out his other business where he creates mini-bat baseball trophies over at www.Coolbats.com.
How it all began
It seems like playing the drums has always been a huge part of my life. I started playing drums at the age of 10 in middle school band after seeing my brother’s high school marching band getting ready for a Friday night football game. I was like a magnet being drawn to a refrigerator. Once I got a taste of the drums I was hooked! I began taking private lessons from a local high school student because the middle school band department wasn’t giving me what I needed to grow and learn as fast as I wanted. I was like a dry sponge in search of the ocean.
I soon found the call of competitions. I wanted to be the very best. I began a journey to audition and eventually made 1st chair snare drum in the Alabama All-State Band all four years of high school. I continued on this path to get a percussion scholarship to the University of Southern Mississippi and the University of Mobile. I studied music theory, music history, scales, rudiments, etc... I really enjoyed the challenge of playing in a big marching band, but that feeling soon left as concert band and drumset opportunities kicked in.
I slowly realized I didn’t have a passion for all percussion instruments. I only wanted to do one thing: Play drum set. This obsession consumed me. I began practicing as often as time would allow. I watched countless DVD’s of famous teachers and attended clinics as often as I could. I wanted to land a drum set gig that would allow me to do what I loved, and that was play drums.
I began playing drums in several ensembles at college. Much to my excitement, I got my first real band gig a month after graduation. We were the typical lounge band, playing everything from Lionel Richie to Kool and the Gang. It's funny though, our tag line was, "The more you drink, the better we sound!" This opened the doors to a lot of other playing opportunities. I played at various events around the Mobile, AL area with different groups. I wanted to play jazz, but I couldn’t convince myself that I truly liked the music. I only liked it because I was supposed to like it, or so I was told.
I then got a call from a local acoustic duo looking for a drummer. My most memorable moment of that audition was the fact that the kit I showed up with had 8 drums and 6 cymbals. I was later told I got the gig partially because I had the biggest kit! I played with that band, Dog Named David, for about two years until they went back to being a duo. Little did I know that a recent concert where we headlined for the University of Mobile would be the connection that would change my drumming career forever. The opening band, Big Daddy Weave would soon need a new drummer and I was the lucky man. That day at the University of Mobile was over 14 years ago. I was with the band for over 13 years and played over 1,400 concerts. I've been to 49 states, all but Hawaii, and have spent an average of 120 nights per year on a 45' Prevost bus in a bunk the size of a large coffin.
As a full time musician and private teacher I was very busy with balancing my schedule while spending a third of the year on the road. There were times during my early years with the band that I had 32 private students per week. I owe most of that experience to my first private teacher Brandon Smith who taught me the basics of teaching private lessons and knowing how to connect with my students. As the band got busier and busier I found it more difficult to maintain my private lesson schedule. So I gave all of my current students to a good buddy in Mobile, AL and focused on the band and all it involved.
As the schedule with the band became more predictable I began to experience more free time on the road. After reading a book recommended by my good friend Paul Powers, "Rich Dad, Poor Dad" became the one book I refer to as the book that made the difference. I began to see life in a different light with the ability to make a difference and do something of significance not being as out of reach as I had previously thought. Being primarily an audio learner, I began listening to audio messages and audio books as often as I could. I try and listen to an average of 5 podcast per week and listen to a good audio book every month. It certainly is a better way to spend my time on the road than playing video games in my bunk.
After reading “Rich Dad, Poor Dad” I got my first idea for an invention. It was called, “My Biggest Fan”. I assembled it in my garage and sold it at concerts and online. Ultimately, it cost too much to produce, but I know it is not the end of the line. Someday I will develop it and sell thousands. After realizing the fan cost too much to make, I put it on the back burner. I began thinking of other ideas that would allow me the ability to do something I loved, make money and make a difference.
As I began listening to more and more audio recordings and podcasts I began realizing I was going about it all wrong. My mentor Dan Miller of www.48Days.com was kind enough to go to lunch with me in January 2009. That 2 hour lunch made a huge impact in my life and future. Dan reminded me to look in my own backyard and quit looking for something out of reach or something that was not a natural extension of my personality and lifestyle. This was a no brainer for me. I am a natural salesman and teacher. I love business and merchandise. I put the two together and began as a distributor for a custom drumstick manufacturer and launched my own website www.Customstix.com in the fall of 2009.
I was no stranger to the custom drumstick world. I had ordered sticks from another company the year before. I didn't know what was available and so I got what I could find. Below you can see the first drumstick we ever had. This is what a lot of people have and don't realize there is so much more out there. Soon after we sold our one and only batch of sticks from the other supplier I developed a relationship with my current supplier. I knew it was a great fit because of their attention to quality and detail. I believe if something is worth doing, it's worth doing right. I also believe in being the best if at all possible. That's what I started my company on: Being the Best!
Below is a comparison of the first custom stick I ever got for Big Daddy Weave (from another company), and below is the first stick I ever did with Custom Stix. The difference is huge. The quality of the art as well as the actual stick is amazing. See for yourself!
I knew there was a huge need in the marketplace for a great quality drumstick that also looked amazing. That's when the business started. I knew there would be others who agreed with me and I was determined to make it happen. I began with one client who eventually allowed me to grow to 5. Then the ball really started rolling. I began in January of 09' and by that summer I had 15 clients. By the end of the year I had 28 clients allowing me to achieve my goal of 25 for the first year. I was blown away by my first year and very excited to see what the next year would hold. By the end of 2010 I had over 45 clients. With the growth of the personalized drumstick side of Custom Stix™ and the evidence of word of mouth advertising, 2011 was an even bigger year and 2012 should be even bigger. People are realizing they can have it their way. That is my goal: Give people what they want with the highest quality possible. The sticks speak for themselves! Check them out for yourself.
I love drumming. I also love owning my own business. With Custom Stix™ I get to do both. Here is a photo showing what life is like at the office during Christmas. It is crazy and keeps growing with every passing day. Christmas 2010 was a huge eye opener for me and my family. We realized the potential of Custom Stix™ and began to prepare for it in the up coming years. I have decided to hire more help this year than I have had in the past. I found myself sitting in the floor up to 5 hours per day packing drumsticks into cardboard tube, taping the ends and labeling them for the post office.
One thing I learned this year that I will never forget. Don't forget what matters most. For me, the answer to that challenge was not hard to find. I know my family is the most important thing to me. Sometimes I can get lost in filling orders, taking phone calls and returning emails. I have to remember that my wife and two little girls want their daddy more than anything. They need to see me give them the very best I have. This in no way means I should not give my best to my business, but it means I should remember what will be there when I am gone. The legacy I leave behind with have a huge impact on generations to come. I want them to know that Jeff Jones was a man of principle and a man who stood up for what he believed. That is what really matters. When you get down to the core of things, I am reminded of how this affects the way I run my business. I want my family to be proud of what I do. If I don't offer my best, then I know they won't be proud. That is one thing I will always stand by: I want to offer you my best. When you buy sticks from Custom Stix™, that is what you will get: My best!.
We are grateful to have had the opportunity to work with several clients in several different styles of music. Below is a list of some of the clients we have worked with recently with our custom drumstick line:
- Mercy Me
- Toby Mac
- Jeremy Camp
- Tenth Avenue North
- Big Daddy Weave
- Drumline Live
- New World Son
- The City Harmonic
- Acquire the Fire
- Hawk Nelson
- Jason Crabb
- American Bang
- The Katinas
- Jason Lovins Band
- Lulu's at the Homeport
- Casting Crowns
- Isreal Houghton
- Stax Museum
- Peter Furler
- Camp Electric
- Rush of Fools
- Everyday Sunday
- The Rock and Worship Roadshow
- Sanctus Real
- Oswald Brothers Band
- Red Roots
- Seven Glory
- Noah Cleveland
- Bread of Stone
- University of Mobile