“We only have one Earth,” said Erin McGann, owner and operator of Tubular Gear.
“We only have one Earth,” said Erin McGann, owner and operator of Tubular Gear. “What we do to the Earth ends up in our water and our air- pollution, it literally becomes a part of our bodies and cells when we breathe and drink and eat.”
This sentiment is one of many reasons McGann decided to launch her line of products made from up-cycled bicycle materials, specifically old tire inner tubes.
Created out of a desire to keep rubber out of landfills, Tubular Gear represents McGann’s growing childhood fervor for environmentalism. “It translates into every facet of my life,” she said on her eco-friendly attitude. Thus, turning her green predilection into a business venture was a natural step in the right direction.
However, Tubular Gear began as a sort of happy accident. McGann collected a box of used bicycle inner tubes in order to repurpose them as covers for her handmade journals. “After using the larger tubes for the covers I was left with the narrow road bike tubes and felt bad just throwing them out. That’s when my husband suggested making leashes.”
McGann’s business expanded from there, the first few leashes were sold through social media sites until its official launch at the beginning of May of this year.
The challenges for any start-up are obvious, but with a degree in art education, McGann has pushed herself beyond what she was formally trained for with Tubular Gear. “I don’t have a background in business so I have just done research online, in books, spoken to friends, and listened to some webinars, and I am still getting the hang of it,” she said.
Nevertheless, McGann’s obvious talent and enthusiasm is apparent in the company’s success.
Furthermore, McGann transcends the conventional mold of “business owner.” She is currently balancing being a mother to a one-year-old son, business owner, and caregiver to her husband, Stephen, who is a quadriplegic. When asked how she maintained her busy lifestyle she joked, “you also forgot caregiver, gardener, chef and house cleaner.”
Managing her responsibilities at home while operating Tubular Gear means McGann is in a constant juggling act. “Most of my work for Tubular Gear is done in the evening or into the night,” she said. “ It means I sometimes miss time spent with my husband after my son goes to sleep, but Stephen is understanding.”
If anyone knew how to stop the clock they would, but surprisingly, time is not McGann’s main concern. The biggest challenge she faces is networking. Because her husband is a quadriplegic, McGann cannot leave her son with him at times where she could go out and market her products, do shows, or make connections.
McGann’s home studio
“So I am trying to be more active online, though I feel my face to face interactions are more successful,” said McGann. Nonetheless, Tubular Gear represents her hope of providing for her family while never missing a minute with them — “I can make it work on my time and I don’t feel like I am neglecting any of my other responsibilities,” she said.
McGann and her husband met in 2008, “and I had every intention of being just friends,” she said. The commitment that came along with dating someone in a wheelchair made her apprehensive, but her worries quickly became welcomed responsibilities as they hit it off immediately, according to McGann.
Stephen had a motorcycle accident in 2004 restricting him to a wheelchair for the rest of his life. Prior to the accident, he was a cyclist at Virginia Commonwealth University, and “it’s through him and all of his friends who now own bike shops,” that McGann gets most of the materials she needs to make her product.
McGann and her family
Thus, McGann’s business is a family affair and her products are an embodiment of her earth-loving and minimalistic attitude.
McGann believes her perspective is becoming the norm as “more and more people are realizing the wastefulness of consumerism and are making better choices,” she said.
“We have limited resources and limited space- we all need to be careful and make good choices in how we live and what we buy,” said McGann. “Buying Tubular Gear is a way to limit waste, because the tube is repurposed, and it’s made in the USA (specifically Northern Virginia) so it’s not being shipped over from another country which saves on fuel pollution.”
McGann attained her goal of providing eco-friendly products for Richmonders while balancing her responsibilities as wife, mother, and caregiver. Beyond that, her motto for this year “is to not let fear of failure hold me back,” she said. “You can’t reach a dream if you don’t even try,” and the products featured on her website for Tubular Gear is just the beginning of McGann’s growing vision.