John Bollaert seeks to be original.
If you hang around University Boulevard, you have probably seen him handing out his “flower power” to passersby outside Posner’s Art Store. Trading hand-picked flowers for smiles with the folks who walk by him, Bollaert loves to see people feeling good.
Bollaert, 35, grew up in Illinois with four brothers, of which he is the second youngest. Though his parents pushed him towards a career in medicine, he always found himself more intrigued by innovative products with unique designs than the fundamentals of human anatomy.
Attending Florida State University for college, Bollaert received a degree in anthropology but found himself unsure of what he wanted to do with it. He eventually decided to attend a community college in Chicago, stumbling upon a screen printing studio in the process.
Bollaert said he was fascinated by the concept of screen printing, leading him to learn the ins and outs of the craft for two months, and ultimately enrolling himself in graphic design school. With his newfound passion for graphic design, he finally had a dream he could fully pursue.
During his time in graphic design school in Chicago, Bollaert made money on the side as a server for a restaurant in Trump Tower. One day, he was written up by his boss after receiving a customer complaint that he “lacked personality.” Bollaert took this news in stride and quit his job on the spot to later accept a position in his friend’s budding company as its head graphic designer.
Having gained valuable experience as a graphic designer, Bollaert eventually decided he wanted to start his own personal project that best represents who he is and what he values most. Bollaert believes in positivity and authenticity to the fullest degree, which is what led him to launch the Original Goods Co.
Original Goods Co. is the creative outlet that Bollaert devised to combine all of his experience with graphic design into an inventive brand that focuses on high-quality goods for a reasonable price. The company specializes in producing quality wooden sunglasses and apparel, emphasizing individuality with a stylish selection of merchandise.
Bollaert said he takes pride in naming his various products, coining amusing titles for his models of sunglasses like the "Meows," the "Space Travelers," and the "Cloud9ers." The enthusiasm that he shows for his business is palpable and demonstrates his dedication to both his craft and his customer base.
The company runs out of an office that doubles as both a design studio and music space. The studio contains an array of screen printing and design equipment as well as Bollaert’s guitars and keyboards. He credits his love and appreciation of music for influencing his artistic endeavors into graphic design, noting how music inspires his other creative ventures and allows him to feel grounded.
Perhaps the most encouraging aspect of Bollaert’s story is his inspiring philosophy for living life by embracing curiosity.
Bollaert talked about how many of the unique hobbies and talents he has picked up throughout his life were simply due to him being curious and wanting to learn something new. Harnessing the power of the internet, Bollaert used websites like YouTube to teach himself how to excel at different hobbies he found himself interested in, like building different electronics.
“Keep learning new things,” Bollaert said. “We’re in a time now where if you don’t know anything, all you literally have to do is pick up your phone and start researching it.”
The future looks bright for Bollaert, as he said he hopes to expand his brand of quality goods and possibly be the first wooden sunglasses brand with interchangeable lenses. If his radiant positivity, determination and authenticity are anything to go off of, his idea for creating “good products for good people, at a good price” is sure to make some serious waves soon enough.
“Don’t be afraid of your ambitions and make the small steps to try to pursue your dreams because nobody else can make them for you,” Bollaert said. “Once you can really understand that you can be the creator of other people’s reality, then you can start forming that reality. And it doesn’t just happen. You’ve got to be the inspiration.”
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