SandiLake has officially been open for over 2 years!
This post is going to be my real thoughts and real feelings on how we came about and the ebb and flow since 2014.
It all started with two moms (My friend Gwenie and I), staying at home with our 2 kids while our husbands provided for our families. We were 26ish at the time, and having playdates left and right due to our close living proximity. It was on one of those playdates that the ideas started moving. This was back when leggings and moccasins were all the rage on Etsy, and we both loved them. However, it was hard to buy rad tribal looking leggings when all we had was t-shirts with trucks on them or hot pink princess designs. That is when the juices started flowing. We had never screen-printed before, but for some reason it made sense for us make these tees ourselves… A made-as-ordered site. I believe we had a combined equal investment of about $3,000. (literally putting it on our credit cards!) We bought a screen printing package from Ryonet, and purchased our first wholesale order of tees through American Apparel. Every move was small, planned, and cautious. SandiLake started with around 8 designs to be our start-up look. Modern, Fresh, and Simple. They were tees we wanted our kids to wear… We watched screen-printing tutorials, made our first tees, had a crazy photoshoot, and completed our website hours before opening. (By the way, Etsy is incredibly user friendly and EASY!)
That first day we had over 2,000 views and 6 orders. We were on cloud 9! Even though we knew every person that ordered that day personally, it was still something from nothing… and we were proud. Each day as we fulfilled orders, we built our business on providing great customer service and offering fun, new designs. All of a sudden, our #Merica Flag design started selling like crazy. Before we knew it, it was the hottest item for that Fourth of July! The next was our Tribal Elk for the Holidays! We had paid off our initial investment, and kept working our butts off to grow and move forward.
The year of 2015 brought a split of ownership, Gwenie moved on to be with her growing family and some new ventures, and I took over as the sole owner. We created a new website (www.sandilakeclothing.com), a ton of new shirt designs, purchased a direct to garment printer, and much more as I switched gears. From here on out, I had to figure out how to do things on my own.
(side note) — I’m never really on my own! 🙂 My husband has been a huge support, and is a buyer for a retail company himself. He has served as a huge help. I also have a ton of family support…sitters, and packagers. SandiLake would be a lonely place without all the incredible people I share it with.
BUT. It gets nuts…
In May 2015, we had found out that Target was selling one of our original designs. The #MERICA tank top. Within hours we went viral. It was a blur of lawyers, large corporations, news stations, and more orders than I ever imagined I could fulfill on my own. I was sick to my stomach and excited all at the same time. I watch the Today Show every day, and the moment I got to live-skype with Matt Lauer was one of the most exciting days of my life! (You can read more on what happened HERE.) In this moment, we knew we were changed for good. We fulfilled every order as fast as we could, and made sure our customer service never dwindled. We brought in SO many amazing people to help us, and man, it was a whirl-wind. Once the 10 seconds of fame faded, we went back to business as usual.
In the last year, we have brought in new products, learned new skills, and grown in our knowledge of what it really takes to be a sustaining small business. We are in over 20 boutiques all over the world, markets all over the Northwest, and have some very exciting things up our sleeves coming up. (so exciting that I literally want to scream them from the rooftops!)
I get to be home with my babies, be a wife, but also be a person working hard to contribute to this world. Working Hard is the “key phrase” there. We used to make shirts literally all night. Designing around the clock, and being there for our customers 24/7. We still do those things now, but with a bit better time management! 🙂
I’m proud that my girls are watching their parents work hard and “play hard” as cliche as that sounds. Every day is something new, and I am incredibly stoked on the love and support our customers and family have given us. SandiLake is made up of SO many people doing SO much! Every day isn’t always perfect, but owning my own business and doing something I love with my family an arm length away is simply incredible.
I want to inspire others to take risks… it doesn’t have to be a big risk, just a baby-step. Be wise, find a niche market, and simply work hard. Never expect a thing to be owed to you. If you do those things, even if you don’t succeed right away, you will still have self-pride. And there is nothing more rewarding than being proud of yourself and what you have done.
If you have any other questions about starting a new business or screen-printing, or just needing some inspiration. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org