If Justin Walker were a song, he’d be the one that takes you back to your first road trip with your buds. The windows are down, the music is playing, the sun is shining, and everyone is having an inexplicable good time. It’s a trip, in every sense of the word.
It makes sense for a guy whose company, Rockin’ Out Silver, which crafts jewelry and wholesale hardware, was so inspired by the musicians he grew up with.
“I love the music deal,” Walker said. “I think what I do is as parallel to a singer/songwriter as you can get. When I sit down and engrave a piece, it’s my own. I design it, engrave it, and it’s my hope to sell 10,000 of them. Just like them sitting down to write a song and record it, they’re hoping to sell 10,000 copies of it, or 100,000 copies.”
They’re big aspirations, but since making the business official in 2012, Walker has gained a few employees; his girlfriend, Katie, who shares his work ethic and vision; and a lot of business savvy that sets him up to be able to meet market demand.
“Everything’s made in the U.S.A. and I’m beating Mexico’s concho prices by $2 right now,” Walker explained in early August. “And, I’m competitive with China because you can buy five, or you can buy 5,000, from me. The only way to get China to beat me is to buy 10,000 units, and how many saddle shops are going to step out there and buy 10,000 conchos from China? I changed because I knew we was fixin’ to have a void in the market, and these leather guys I talk to, they’re not going to put China hardware on their hand-, U.S.A.-made saddles.
“That’s what I follow,” he continued. “I just try to follow voids in the market, and I fill them in. I guess I’m trying to be kind of a one-stop shop. I’ve gotten to know all these people so well, these saddlemakers, and even these huge shops. I’m just trying to take care of those guys.”
And, seemingly, with each connection Walker makes, another business opportunity for him to pursue arises. To say he’s motivated would be a sincere understatement.
“I can’t stand somebody calling me lazy. I’m one of those that feels gifted that I can actually produce as much stuff as I do with my shop at my house.”
And produce Walker does.
“I like to build something that sells itself,” he posited. “We’re casting 300 sterling rings a day. Sometimes, we’ll do $30-, $40-, $50,000 a month online just on jewelry. One day, I found the mold of a ring I built 15 years before and thought, ‘Well, let me just try this in sterling (it was gold, originally).’ I sold 1,300 of them in 11 days. And I had to do every single one of them myself. I had no help back then. I had 1,300 rings done and shipped in two weeks.”
That’s what Walker promises his customers: Shipped product within two weeks. During the Christmas season, that can be a crippling task, and in 2019, Walker has vowed to find time to get away and rope.
“I’ve done 25 Christmases in a row. I blew my back out just two or three months after last Christmas, so this year, they’re going to have to order early. Before my back went out, I said, ‘I’m leaving this year. I’m going to Wickenburg and roping and I’m going to Vegas and entering every roping I can enter.’
“If I can get my back fixed, I can still get it done. Even if I can just get over to Wickenburg and rope, just to get out of here and get away. I’m in burnout stage on Christmas stuff.”
Luckily for Walker, his friends are more apt to enter with the 7 heeler when he hasn’t had time to practice.
“My local friends joke with me that they won’t enter with me if I’ve had time to practice. The shop can pull me away from it, and then I have to go back to basics and really work at it.”
“Really working at it,” is sort of Walker’s modus operandi. A Vernon College rodeo athlete during the acclaimed rein of Coach John Mahoney (for whom Vernon’s arena is now named), Walker was teammates with soon-to-be roping stars like Trevor Brazile, Clay Lewis and John Paul Lucero.
“I wanted to rope,” Walker asserted. “That’s what made me where I’m at today. I’ve team roped all my life but, I never got to rope the way those kids I went to college with did. I was amazed by them. And there I was, just a cowboy. I day-worked the whole time I was at Vernon. I day-worked more than I went to class.”
But, of course, it was all of Walker’s day-working that led him right to where he is today. Growing up ranching and roping wheat cattle, or working the pens on his grandpa’s feedlot, he knew the hardships that go with trying to reconcile bank loans and the daily grunt it required.
“I just didn’t dig it.” he admitted. “I think I started so young that by the time I got old enough to do it as a profession, I was burnt out.”
Instead, he took cues from his bit- and spur-making uncle, Terry Hester.
“I basically grew up in his shop. I mean, at 10 years old, I was sawing silver out. I probably built my first pair of spurs when I was 12. I worked for him all through high school. Then, the summer after my last year at Vernon, I spent three months in Bixby, Oklahoma, at Trophy Tack.
“My then-girlfriend’s dad is a big horse show guy and he said, ‘Why don’t you come up here? I got you a day job and, when you get home, I’ll have horses saddled for you to rope on.’ I just learned so much at his place.”
The learning never stops for Walker, who taught himself how to use his casting machinery and now designs his work in a Computer-Aided Design (CAD) program on his computer.
“So, if you want a pendant,” he started, “I can show you that pendant in motion on the computer before it’s ever built. The only part that’s not there is my engraving—it’s going to be slick. But, what I create in my CAD program is flat surfaces for me to do what I do on. The sky’s the limit with me. Whatever I can dream up, I can build 3D, and I have three different machines that can cut that pattern out of wax and we can just cast it.”
In short, Justin Walker’s as cutting-edge as that new musician on the radio. The rare one who’s got his roots in the old cowboy sounds, but plays them the way no one ever thought to; the way everyone wishes they had thought to.
“I got big dreams,” he concluded, lyrically. “All you can do is work for ’em.”