Growing up in the Silicon Valley, Sunnyvale native Adam Wegener was exposed to electronics, engineering and entrepreneurship. His father was an engineer who started his own companies and many of his friends’ dads had their own businesses.
“I remember in college at Cal Poly one of my friends said, ‘Can I have lunch with your dad?’ I said, ‘Why would you drive three hours from Cal Poly up to the Bay Area just to have lunch with my dad?’ And he said, ‘Well, I’ve never met a real engineer before.’,” recalled Wegener.
“That’s when it started to click for me that my upbringing and all the things I was exposed to as far as entrepreneurship and people starting their own businesses was actually quite unique, when to me, it seemed like, ‘Oh, this is just how everybody live life and this is normal,'” continued Wegener.
For Wegener, starting Trash Amps ten years ago with some buddies from college seemed like a natural progression from how he grew up.
“My roommates and I were all engineers and we were also musicians. So, my friend got a kit to turn an Altoids tin into a guitar amplifier,” said Wegener. “It didn’t end up sounding very good because it’s such a small package, just the tiny Altoids container.”
“So, we started looking around for things in our college dorm room and saying, ‘Could this be a speaker? Could this be a speaker?’” continued Wegener. “We started trying beer cans and Chinese takeout boxes and Mason jars. It was kind of at that point that we realized that with these electronics, you could essentially turn anything into a speaker.”
Though he has refined the idea over the years, Wegener is still passionate about upcycling everyday household items into something more.
This holiday season, Trash Amps is one of the local small businesses featured in Quickbooks’ Small Business Holiday Shopping Guide. The company’s main attraction is a Bluetooth speaker designed to fit on top of a Mason jar.
Wegener says when it comes to the speaker, don’t let the looks deceive you.
“Usually, people are really surprised by how good it sounds [since] our company is called Trash Amps and it’s using recycled materials,” said Wegener. “So, I think they’re expecting a not very good sound. But the sound quality is actually really excellent. People are usually impressed by the sound quality and volume that we get out of our speakers.”
In addition to selling Trash Amps, Wegener uses his free time to teach local students about upcycling and sustainability. He has talked to students across the Bay Area, including some in the Santa Clara Unified School District.
“I really just love leading workshops about sustainability and kind of explaining how I came up with the idea,” said Wegener. “Kids pick up on it probably faster than anyone. They really get the idea of reusing things, recycling. They’re the ones that are going to have to deal with the mess that we’ve all made. So, I’m glad that they are catching on as fast as they are.”
Wegener hopes his product will inspire people to shop locally because it supports a community member and because it’s better for the environment.
“One of the major benefits of shopping locally is that you’re cutting down on that carbon footprint. You’re not buying something that’s been shipped and has all this pollution associated with the transportation,” said Wegener.
To find out more about Trash Amps, visit www.trashamps.com.