What was the inspiration behind you becoming an entrepreneur?
Entrepreneurship has always been in my DNA. From the moment I was 5, I just knew that I was going to grow up and be a business owner. I was always that kid on the corner selling lemonade and even opened up a toy shop in our backyard before I was 10-I just loved everything about the business. When I was 14 I met my then-boyfriend, now-husband Tanner and 2 years later we took a stab at screen printing in his parent's garage. People never took me all that seriously when I said we were starting a clothing business at that age, but all I could ever envision was what we have now. I didn’t know how we would get there or if it would always be a true reality but I knew we could get there if we put the work in and just tried. We worked for 10 years to turn the tiny garage print shop (with a $100 investment) into an outdoor-focused clothing and home goods business that’s generated over 2 million dollars in sales.
I always felt the drive to do my own thing. Something about that challenge of building something from literally nothing really excited me and I never wanted to wait to make it happen. When I knew I had that sense of drive in me, I just knew that I couldn’t spend my entire career working for someone else-I just knew it wasn’t the life for me.
Did you face any obstacles that made you think to give up?
Just about every day has had challenges that are inevitable, that’s just the life of being a business owner. I will say though, that there were 2 times in the past 10 years that tested my limits. The first was experiencing burnout and the other was navigating the worldwide pandemic.
I hit a phase of burnout about 2 years into running our business full time. I was working an extreme amount of overtime for little to no pay from our business. I always felt like the groundwork would be worth it but in the heat of that time, I questioned if it truly was worth it. I was constantly exhausted but yet the work was so extreme that I never felt like I could stop to take a break. This phase taught me that if I didn’t protect one of our biggest assets (myself) then we likely wouldn’t be running our business much longer. I put a big emphasis on protecting myself, delegating, and creating systems to run our business in as healthy of the way as I could until I didn’t feel that anymore
Then we have the global pandemic. I recently released a podcast episode (link below) about our experience of navigating this pandemic as a whole but as you can imagine, and as most business owners have experienced, 2020 was a very trying and testing time. We did all that we could to protect what we spent our entire lives building but times like 2020 make you sit back and reflect on what is worth fighting for or not. We fought like mad to keep our business alive. While it was a really challenging and exhausting chapter, we ended up, much to our surprise having our best year on record.
What obstacles did you face in 2020 during the Coronavirus pandemic?
2020 was a year that none of us saw coming and it was without a doubt, the most difficult chapter we have been through in our life. One day our world was normal and just a few short days later, our entire world turned upside down. Within 24 hours, our entire summer of events was canceled, we were on lockdown and every outstanding wholesale order was canceled because everyone else was on lockdown too. The sheer panic of the world around us had us sitting at a six-figure loss within the matter of just a few short days and it was devastating. We worked 10 years to build what we have so we thought: “how could this be happening?”
Tanner and I have always discussed what we would do in a recession but never could we have planned for a time like this. We were in shock for a while but l knew we had to quickly figure something out to make sure that we didn’t lose everything we’ve ever worked to build. The initial shutdown felt very devastating to us because we felt that because of reasons completely out of our control, we could potentially lose our business. Everything happened so quickly and we went into complete survival mode because our future was dependent directly on the actions we took.
We turned to our community that we spent close to a decade building to simply tell our story. When all of our orders and events got canceled and all of our retail partners had to shut their doors, we thought about what we could do to pivot. There was a significant mask shortage and we had an abundance of one material: T-shirts. We spent a day prototyping how to make a mask from what we had and within a week, we had thousands of orders and we instantly scaled the manufacturing and employed people who just got laid off to help us sew and fulfill. The beauty is that all of our material came from defective shirts that we never knew what to do with so our supply cost felt like nothing and we had what felt like an infinite supply. When the world began to open back up, we continued to make the pivot, after the pivot. When our demand came back, we were faced with constant supply issues. When the only option came to sell online, we dealt with many shipping issues. It felt like a year of headaches and constant uncertainty but when you build something worth fighting for, you fight like mad to keep it alive.
How did you overcome those obstacles and still be active as a business owner?
Tanner and I are high school sweethearts running a business together and our entire livelihood depends on our success, or lack thereof with it. This period tested the foundation of our partnership, marriage, and our business.
Despite many moments of panic and sadness, we knew that we had to be in this together and that the only way to get through this chapter would be to communicate, be kind to one another and do what we needed to adapt to the new reality.
We continuously went back to our roots and really looked at what we felt was important to us. We knew that our partnership and well-being were the first things we needed to continuously prioritize. Doing that allowed us to, as calmly as possible steer our ship out of this storm. Once we could get out of the heat of the storm, we could start working on what we were excited to create again and had a renewed sense of appreciation for that when it was all said and done.