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Brothers bring unique sound to Provo with carbon-fiber guitars

By Harrison Epstein - | May 16, 2022

Harrison Epstein, Daily Herald

Ian Klosowiak, left, holds an electric guitar while Adam Klosowiak holds a carbon-fiber acoustic guitar in their Provo office on Wednesday, March 23, 2022. The brothers are the founders of KLOS Guitars.

As children, Ian and Adam Klosowiak came to Utah on a vacation and it just felt right. Since then, the two Midwest brothers have established their lives in Provo while following their musical dreams — not playing music professionally, but designing and selling unique carbon-fiber instruments around the world.

The business started in late 2014 when Ian Klosowiak was a college junior studying mechanical engineering. He had a class assignment to build something with a polymer and opted for carbon fiber, so he set out to build a guitar — something he’d had on his mind for years.

“I built the first one for myself,” he said. It took Ian over 100 hours on that first guitar and it came with a promise to never build another. Instead, he found that people loved it. Whenever he brought the guitar on trips, people would ask what brand it was and where they could get their own.

While applying for business program grants, just to get a couple hundred extra dollars, he was teaching Adam to play the guitar. Adam’s first guitar, a wooden acoustic instrument he bought from his brother, cracked after leaving the window open while on a skiing trip. At the same time, Adam was steering away from his studies in electrical engineering and more toward entrepreneurship. It took the right things falling into place for the duo, but a company was born.

The two were accepted into a summer Accelerator program at Princeton University, with three others on the team, to work on business strategies, marketing, manufacturing and design while also running a Kickstarter campaign for extra funds. They brought in enough money that Ian stopped searching for other jobs and jumped in head first.

Harrison Epstein, Daily Herald

Ian Klosowiak, left, and Adam Klosowiak pose in their Provo office on Wednesday, March 23, 2022. The brothers are the founders of KLOS Guitars.

That’s not to say their journey didn’t have bumps along the way. They trekked 30 minutes each way, every day, to work in their lab at Princeton just to use high-grade epoxies, saws and materials in a lab meant for computer work. Eventually, they tried making them in their dorm rooms before being kicked out by the public safety department when the epoxy set off the fire alarms.

The Klosowiaks stayed in the program, but their manufacturing outfit was sent back to Utah for the hands-on work. KLOS Guitars is one of the last companies from that summer program in existence.

“Most companies, especially college ideas, just kind of peter out and fail and this idea is one that very easily could have. There (were) so many times where we were so close to failing,” Adam said. Every part of the guitar, from the neck and fretboard down to the screws has a story attached, a time when everything could have been finished.

The brothers are also proud to have gotten where they are on their own. The closest thing to a family financial contribution came when their parents bought a guitar in the first Kickstarter. That dose of realism helped keep Adam and Ian focused on making the best product they could. For a majority of the business’s existence, they were selling online, direct to consumers. So they looked to change things up and expand.

They have made a concerted effort in the last year to get their products into brick-and-mortar music stores in all 50 sites with a goal to be in 100 stores by June for the National Association of Musical Merchants trade show.

One aspect that has helped KLOS stand out from the pack is having their inventory on-hand. “When we’re like, ‘Yeah we do (have inventory) and we can ship tomorrow,’ they’re like ‘What? That’s crazy,'” Adam said. “That honestly blows people’s minds.”

The top-selling item in their store now? Still the travel guitar. The very first model is still the most sought-after product, with the cheapest model, the acoustic hybrid material, costing $839 and the most expensive, the full-carbon acoustic/electric, costing $1,579.

While their guitars aren’t cheap, they are made to last. Right in their shop in Provo, the KLOS team glues the soundboards, puts on the final touches and inspects every guitar to make sure it meets their standards. They also found success by focusing on practicality.

Their guitars are also only two pieces, as opposed to over a dozen found on a standard wooden guitar. This allows them to quickly assemble and ship as many guitars as people need. The also don’t paint their guitars, cutting down on complexity and cost that give the products a sleek, reflective look.

“We have extremely high standards, everyone here plays guitar or plays ukulele,” Ian said. “Customers are really impressed that quality is there because everyone who builds it has their heart in it.”

While they are proud whenever someone takes a KLOS guitar on the road, the most interesting person to purchase one, in the brothers’ opinion, was not a professional musician.

Skateboarder Tony Hawk bought “like five” of their guitars on Kickstarter. After doubting whether or not it was “the” Tony Hawk, they searched his Twitter feed and found a photo of Hawk’s wife playing a KLOS guitar.

Once the shock wore off, Adam emailed Hawk about the purchase and received what Adam called one of the most normal responses he could imagine.

“He’s like, ‘Yeah, I love the guitars. They travel really well, they’re super durable,'” Adam said. In that email, Hawk even asked to add a few more guitars to his purchase to give to his children — so people would stop stealing his. The Killers also have a KLOS in their repertoire, according to the brothers, who added that Imagine Dragons, John Mayer and plenty of others have used the instruments.

The carbon-fiber guitars were designed, as it says in the name, to travel. The two always hear back from friends and others on social media when a KLOS guitar is spotted in the wild.

“My friend was on a flight in Amsterdam, another friend was on the train in D.C., another friend went home to visit parents in Arizona and they were taking pictures of these instruments,” Adam said. “Our customer base is just incredibly adventurous and passionate people.

Every step of the way, Adam and Ian Klosowiak are proud of their product and look forward to seeing what comes in the future. The company website boasts over 1,900 customer testimonials and a smattering of songs recording using their instruments. Anyone shopping, though, will be met with a small pop-up in the site’s corner showing every time someone decides bring a KLOS guitar home — and wherever else it may go.

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