Milwaukee local Drew Griswold launched Dope Fanny with his wife, Jenni Griswold, and friend Kyle Ciske when the itch of quarantine restlessness set in. Before the pandemic, Griswold never saw himself selling fanny packs online, but a longstanding joke with Ciske grew into his latest business venture.
“Whenever my wife was wearing a fanny pack, Kyle would say, ‘Hey, that’s a dope fanny pack. Did you get that from dopefanny.com?’” Griswold said. “When COVID hit, I thought dopefanny.com was a good idea, and we should go for it.”
Currently, the website offers six different fanny packs covered whimsical patterns such as unicorns, Bigfoot and aliens. The fanny packs – designed by a Jakarta-based illustrator Griswold connected with on Instagram – are sold in limited, six-month runs. He hopes to introduce new designs quarterly as the company continues grows.
Dope Fanny is not his foray into the world of e-commerce. Griswold, a three-time business owner, wears many hats – and, of course, fanny packs – and thrives on it. (It should be noted that Dope Fanny co-founder Ciske also co-owns Ope! Brewery in West Allis.) Griswold’s business models combine his passions for traveling and supporting non-profits.
In 2014, Griswold founded Wander & Co., which he coined a social cause shop that raises money for different charities through the sales of its merchandise. Griswold would team up with various artists to create designs that represented various causes: turtles for non-profits that helped ocean wildlife rescue, meditating astronauts for organizations raising money to help kids in Chicago go to museums, etc.
The proceeds from sales were then donated to a variety of social causes. So far, Wander & Co. has helped various non-profits plant around 50,000 trees and donate 55,000 meals to food banks, and Griswold is always looking for new organizations and causes to support.
The following year, in 2015, started Camp Halcyon, a summer camp for adults, in Wautoma. And he launched Dope Fanny in 2020.
“I came from a family where my dad and mom are very entrepreneurial by nature,” Griswold said. “I like to joke that I have a horrible sense of risk because I’m the jumping in headfirst kind of person. It’s never been scary to me to start a business.”
Griswold and his wife have taken to the road, traveling to festivals across Wisconsin and the rest country to sell merchandise from Dope Fanny and Wander & Co. Locally, Dope Fanny has participated in Bastille Days and Brady Street Festival as a vendor this summer.
“Working with Dope Fanny was a no brainer,” said Ryan Laessig, Brady Street Festival vendor management director. “They are a local vendor who creates a quality product, which can fit people of all sizes. That’s not an easy thing to find.”
Businesses had to apply to be one of 120 vendors to sell at Brady Street Festival, and Laessig was excited when he ran across Griswold’s application. Laessig, who is also the owner of the Milwaukee Makers’ Market, was familiar with Wander & Co. and knew Griswold’s newest venture would represent Brady Street well.
In fact, at the festival, Laessig was so enthralled with the product that he purchased the “Beach Day” fanny pack – a peach-colored design covered in sunglasses, sharks, palm trees, starfish and beach babes.
Looking to the future, Griswold would like to establish stronger roots in the Milwaukee-area, both for himself and his business. He and his wife recently traded living a RV full-time and traveling the country for a home in the Washington Heights area, Griswold’s old stomping ground as a kid. For Dope Fanny, Griswold wants to expand the team, which now consists of Griswold and Jenni, work festivals and increase the business physical presence by opening storefronts.
He never dreamed of starting this business, but he is excited to see where it goes.
“This is something we’re doing for fun, and it’s been wild to stumble across some success and see people receive the product well,” Griswold said.