Tiki Bar culture is a quirky niche for a Kansas City-based side hustle, admitted Bryan Azorsky, but rapidly evolving online tools that eliminate middlemen help make such passions profitable and scalable.
“I think the future is really people having more than one job in a way. They may have their main job and then they have their passion as well, ” said Azorsky, founder of the Tiki Bar T-Shirt Club and bag printing service Bagettes, as well as many other small enterprises in between over the years. “I think it’s just amazing. The opportunities [available] through the Internet are just amazing.”
Click here to check out the Tiki Bar T-Shirt Club.
Developing niche consumer products that don’t yet exist — like retro T-Shirts commemorating now-closed but beloved Tiki Bars — has a certain satisfaction to it, said Azorsky, but the real kicker comes with the ease of distributing and attracting customers that is presented in this modern age.
“Having the understanding of how this works and how to get it out there — it’s like, I don’t have to rely on anyone else to get it done,” he said. “I remember being in school, wanting to create consumer products, and realizing that you have to go through big companies to get distribution — today, that’s so different.”
“When my oldest daughter started college, my goal was to make an extra 600 bucks a month to help cover her allowance. That’s why I started the T-shirt business,” Azorsky added. “I certainly wanted to make more than that, and [soon] I was able to on a consistent basis.”
The Tiki Bar collector scene ended up being surprisingly expansive and aided the membership count from the beginning as a result, he said.
“I often get comments from customers saying ‘This place was around the corner from where I lived and I never got to go there!’ and they’re really excited to have some memory of the original [establishment] like something from history,” said Azorsky. “I also get people reaching out saying, “Oh, that was my grandfather’s place, or my father’s place.’ One of the things I got lucky with was the fact that people were collectors.”
Though some old Kansas City Tiki Bars have been featured in previous months — and the designs have been popular locally — most of the club’s customer base resides on the West Coast or in Florida, he said, noting the shirts are made through a KC-based screen printer.
“I don’t really depend on the local Tiki community — I travel to California and there’s just a ton of Tiki Bars out there,” he added. “It’s been a lot of fun. I’ve met a lot of new friends through this business.”
The flexibility that comes with working through side hustles like the Tiki T-Shirt Club or through Bagettes provides chances to pivot or pick up a new interest to focus on, said Azorsky.
“At some point, I might be interested in selling [the brand] and getting into something else,” he said.
As a former organizer for 1 Million Cups Kansas City, staying tapped into local startup community through events and Global Entrepreneurship Week is important to maintaining momentum and inspiration, he added.
“I’m excited to see what’s happening here,” Azorsky said. “I enjoy meeting other entrepreneurs, especially people of all ages, really. I’ve hopefully inspired my kids — I have two girls, one’s 23 and one’s 20 — and I think they think about doing things kind of side hustle-style as well. I think that’s an important thing for people today.”