IOWA CITY — Andy Topping considers his product line more than just something to wear. They are, he said, “bracelets with a purpose.”
Earlier this year, the University of Iowa freshman launched AndysParacords.com, an online business that sells bracelets made from parachute cord. Topping touts the colorful bracelets, which sell for $8.95 to $12.95, as something more than an attractive accessory.
“A paracord bracelet can be used for survival, enabling you to carry several feet of parachute cord very easily,” Topping said.
“It can be unraveled and used when camping, boating, hunting, hiking and any other situation where you need a strong length of cord. Each bracelet includes between 8 and 10 feet of parachute cord that will handle up to 550 pounds before it will break.”
Topping makes each of the bracelets, weaving the same parachute cord that soldiers have used as a substitute shoelace, for attaching equipment to harnesses, tying items to vehicle racks, securing nets to trees or as a trip wire behind enemy lines.
The seven strands of yarn within the sheath can be removed when finer nylon string is needed to repair a tear in a tent or backpack. The ends of parachute cord can be melted to seal them.
Once a paracord item is unraveled, it will need to be rewoven.
“Parachute cord became much more available to civilians after World War II, Korea and Vietnam because of the number of uses that were discovered for it,” Topping said. “It’s available in 30 different colors and single-color bracelets take about 5 minutes to make.
“There are several different types of weaves and different types of clips that are available. I’m also making lanyards, key fobs and dog collars that can be unraveled and used for much the same purpose.”
Metal shackles and plastic clips are available. The plastic clips will release at about 35 pounds of pressure, whereas the metal shackles are much stronger.
Topping said the bracelets can be sold as fundraisers or to raise awareness of various causes, such as a black-and-pink weave for breast cancer.
“I wanted to create something that is stylish and cool but also multipurpose,” he said.
Topping is able to buy some of the items used to make his products locally, with the exception of the paracord that has to be ordered online.
“If someone has used their paracord bracelet, lanyard, key fob or dog collar to save someone’s life, and they’re willing to share their story, I will replace it without charge,” Topping said.
As a full-time student majoring in business at UI, Topping said he has had to learn time management as well as applying many of the business and marketing principals he learned while a student at West High School. He recently introduced a new Big 10 line of paracord bracelets that have the school colors of each university.
The bracelets are custom made to the size of a customer’s wrist.
“Paracord will shrink slightly if it gets wet, but it dries fairly quickly,” he added.
Topping, like many young entrepreneurs with a new product, has embraced social networking as a marketing tool.
“My website and Facebook page have been key to marketing the bracelets,” Topping said. “I plan to use other forms of advertising, but social media and word-of-mouth have been very successful for me so far.”