By Zach Collier
Scandalous confession time. While I write for Provo Music Magazine and am a die-hard fan of Provo music, I actually live in Springville. I moved my family there a few summers ago to a little townhouse just off Main. Since then, I’ve been taking Provo State Street home every day.
This has given me literally hundreds of opportunities to drive by the KLOS Guitars storefront and warehouse. Every time I drive by, I get a happy little feeling of pride in my chest knowing that KLOS is still in business. I followed their Kickstarter closely when they launched it back in 2015, and it is great to see another Provo startup not just surviving, but thriving – especially one based around music.
After about the thousandth time driving past this location, I decided to stop by. When I bungled my way inside, I was met by CEO Adam Klosowiak. Turns out, I accidentally took the wrong entrance and ended up in his back office. How embarrassing. Luckily, he’s a really chill guy.
Originally from a suburb of Chicago called Glenview, he studied electrical engineering at Princeton University after a summer language course at the Sorbonne in Paris. He started the company with his brother, Ian, who graduated from BYU with a degree in mechanical engineering.
Ian focused on material composites in his studies. “His first attempt to build a carbon fiber guitar was for a class project,” says Adam. “The first guitar took him a couple hundred hours to build, between all of the research and all of the attempts to build parts – and assembly.” Adam says that building a guitar out of carbon is a completely different process than building one out of wood. “Not only that, but building it with manufacturing in mind is a whole other beast. To design something so that it’s easy to manufacture at scale and so that it can be made cost-effectively? It’s an art.”
Even though Ian initially planned to build just one guitar for himself, he always had scalable manufacturing processes in mind. “Ian really took this to heart and wove this into his work from day one,” says Adam. “He’s the CTO and I’m the CEO, which is a natural division since he’s a phenomenal mechanical and manufacturing engineer and I’m more business oriented.”
The combination of smart business strategy and quality product development has helped KLOS Guitars solidify their place in the industry. The two brothers leveraged university programs and crowdfunding from the beginning to build a self-sustaining business.
“After we graduated, we participated in the Princeton University summer accelerator, which helped us get KLOS Guitars off of the ground,” says Adam. “After that program during the summer of 2015, Ian moved back to Provo to start building our initial pre-orders for the guitars, and I moved to Austria to teach English part-time as part of a Fulbright Fellowship while working on KLOS Guitars. The following year I moved to Washington, DC to do strategy consulting for a year while also working on KLOS part-time.”
It wasn’t until June of 2017 that Adam moved to Provo to join his brother at KLOS full-time. The two played the long game to ensure that the company was viable. KLOS has done nearly ten crowdfunding campaigns since they first started.
Initially, the Kickstarter platform served to simply get the company off the ground. Soon it became a platform to launch new products to fans. Each time, they used the funds to buy inventory and invest in their manufacturing facilities and team.
“Each Kickstarter campaign that we did served its own unique purpose at the time,” Adam explains. “The first one really launched our first concept and allowed us to build the first 70 travel guitars. The second one allowed us to improve the first prototype. The third one launched our acoustic electric model. The fourth one launched different colors; the fifth was our ukulele; the sixth was our dreadnought model; the seventh was our electric guitar and bass.”
Adam says crowdfunding just makes sense if you’re launching a company that makes physical goods. “You have to create pictures, videos, and promotional material anyway for your website, so you might as well pull it together into a crowdfunding campaign and launch on there,” he says. “You get capital upfront, customers, product market fit feedback, and time to develop your product without the financial risk of taking out loans or giving away equity. There’s almost no downside to going this route.” His advice to others trying to do it? Take your time, build out a good campaign, and document all your feedback from mentors, friends, and potential customers.
In under ten years, KLOS travel guitars have shipped to all 50 states and over 70 countries. Some have even ended up at the south pole and the Mount Everest basecamp. KLOS now offers sponsorships and partnerships to musicians, including local artists The Birdwatchers (formerly The Naked Waiters).
It’s been a wild ride. The company hit a million dollars in annual sales back in 2017 – a big moment for the Klosowiak brothers. “Ian and I are both the sons of two Polish immigrants who moved to Chicago in 1981,” Adam says. “For us to be able to start a company pursuing one of our passions, and for us to reach a million in sales, was a special moment.”
You can shop KLOS Guitars online here. Make sure to follow KLOS Guitars on Instagram, and watch someone hit a baseball with one of their guitars in the video below.