Wes Johnson, 47, started his business Lawson Hammock in Raleigh, N.C. in 2005 when he was working in home construction and looking for a side hustle. As a camper, he knew that many fellow outdoor enthusiasts were trading their sleeping bags for rugged outdoor hammocks—but that many didn’t offer much comfort. If he could invent one, he imagined there would be a market for it.
Johnson kept his eye out for opportunities to start the business. When he met two brothers who were selling hand-sewn hammocks at outdoor festivals, he offered to buy their inventory with a $30,000 loan he secured from a friend. Selling their wares through Lawson Hammock—the
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