We are thrilled to share this article from Cowboys & Indians Magazine featuring our owner, John King!
Cowboys & Indians Magazine Article Featuring John King, Written By Lindsay Whelchel
Lifelong cowboy and self-made man John King attributes his business success and evolution from welder to owner to his Western roots and values.
When we think of opportunity, we often think of an open door. In the case of Texas businessman John King, it was more like an open gate — a gate that led to stepping into his role as the new owner of Trails West Gate Company in 2019.
Taking leaps of faith to seize opportunity wasn’t new to King, who first used his creative energy and drive for growth as the owner of a successful welding company. He got his start as an up-and-coming welder in 1990, becoming known for his artistic approach to the craft, before taking a risk and quitting a high-paying salaried job to start his own business out of his garage. The move quickly paid off.
Over the years, King grew his craft, and he grew his brand by using social media. Now at the helm of Trails West, he’s applying the same business acumen to positively impact the deep-rooted Texas business.
It’s a mission entrusted to King by Trails West’s former owner, Lee Lee Brazeal, who ran the business alongside her husband before he passed. The couple had contracted King’s company, JK Welding, to do some work for them over the years. Through this working relationship, King explains, Brazeal noticed the way King ran his own business, treated his customers and employees, and infused his artist’s touch into his products. All this eventually led Brazeal to the conclusion in 2019 that King was the perfect person she could hand the reins of Trails West to. She then offered to sell him the company.
“When I bought the company, it didn’t have a single existing order,” King says. “But I knew I would be able to grow it. I have a different drive, a different standard, confidence. I like telling this portion of the story because I’m a Christian man. I’ve always believed that if you live right, God will do you right.”
King was right: After a brief downturn at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, business skyrocketed throughout 2020 and into 2021. This was no doubt in part because of the increase in marketing King is committed to doing. He quickly transitioned Trails West to having a presence online. “We’re starting to really shine on different social media platforms in such a way that I and JK Welding have for so many years. Things are really increasing. Now, Trails West is on TikTok. You can find us on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Pinterest. These things are new to us, but they’re up-and-coming, and they’re steadily increasing visibility. People are recognizing the quality of our work. That’s very exciting.”
The gate is a statement piece, King says. “It makes the entrance to your home, ranch, or farm just that much more welcoming, and it feels like more of a home.” In addition to the practical security that gates provide, the look of Trails West gates is what sets the company apart. “Aesthetically [the gates] look amazing. It makes people extremely happy. We’ve been getting a lot of feedback, especially in the last 10 to 12 months. It’s been really nice. People are in love with our gates. They’re so happy with the quality of the work, the installation, and the communication that we provide.”
Customers can choose from three different categories of gates — “Classic,” “Ranch,” and “Grand” — based on the amount of artwork and aesthetic they are trying to achieve. From there, the real fun begins. Trails West utilizes its team of skilled designers to help customers select elements from nature or symbols important to the family to be incorporated into the design. The designers might also factor in the geography of the home and what’s native to that part of the U.S. to create a gate that pays homage to the area. For instance, if the home is in South Texas, you’ll see a lot of mesquite trees, cactus, and javelina, King says. Ultimately, the gates are a testament to the Western lifestyle.
And King’s no stranger to that. His family always had horses, and he grew up riding a lot. In his 20s, he managed a ranch and frequented other ranches to ride and bow hunt. As a young dad in his 30s, he would take his daughter to youth rodeos every weekend. During those decades, his welding business took him to a lot of horse facilities for jobs on things like stalls and trailers. So gates were right up his alley.
“Gates play a big role in the Western lifestyle, especially for the cattlemen and horsemen and cowboys who operate and own these ranches,” King says. “They give such a unique feel and look to the facility — a real feel of originality, of what they stand for. The gates show a full understanding of exactly what they do from day to day and what the ranch is about.”
Once the look of the gate is determined, the artwork goes into fabrication with assistance from King’s other company, JK Welding, which cuts the artwork. Trails West then manufactures the gates, including painting them with a focus on quality and longevity.
“[The gate] goes through a drying system for three to five days, because we use very high-end PPG industrial paint that makes the gates look fabulous,” King says. Once the gate is complete, Trails West can incorporate any needed fencing to accompany it, such as columns or overheads, and even install the gate. “It’s turnkey and stress-free,” King says. While most installations take place in Texas, the team does travel for installations, or gates can be shipped to customers anywhere in the world.
It’s gratifying work for King — and humbling. “The feeling of being a self-made man from the industry that I am in, and to become known for all the things that we do, and then to be able to purchase the company and continue the quality and art within the industry of Trails West, it’s just astonishing. Buying the company was an absolute joy. It’s been nothing but heaven. It’s overwhelming, especially for a person like me, who is a welder by heart, but an artist at the same time.”
A Texan and lifelong cowboy, King takes Lone Star pride in his companies: “It just feels so original. It feels so at home, too, developing myself and these companies that I own in such a way to where it just feels like Texas.” And he takes pride in giving back: “Trails West is following in the footsteps of myself and JK Welding as they’re starting to really get involved in helping kids and helping schools,” King says. The company is sponsoring and supporting up-and-coming welders, primarily through the Texas High School Welding Series, where King has been a mentor for many years.
“It’s important for the kids to see that with these companies that are being developed, there is an individual behind it who was a welder at one time as well. They understand that I was them many years ago. I was in the same position, and it shows that they can really become someone in life, whether that’s welder or CEO or self-made businessman. There are so many avenues to take. It’s just such a great way to embrace them.”