On today’s episode of the Craft Industry Alliance podcast, we’re talking about building an ecommerce apparel business with my guests David and Holly Lesue.
Holly is a quilter. She runs Maker Valley—a brand for creative makers (quilters and sewists)—where she designs graphic quilting/sewing tees, writes quilt patterns, curates custom quilt kits and fabric bundles, and designs enamel pins and stickers.
David is a graphic designer. He runs Stately Type—a collaborative t-shirt brand—where he designs graphic tees with the help of his social media followers.
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We begin the interview by talking about how the Coronavirus is impacting our families and our Holly’s and David’s businesses.
Next, we talk about the initial idea for Stately Type and how that business has evolved over the years. What started as a Kickstarter for a project to make prints of hand-lettered states, grew into a t-shirt business that, over time, expanded out from just state-themed imagery. The key lesson in all of the steps Dave and Holly made was to listen to their audience, to look at what was actually selling, and then to do more of what their customers were asking for.
Dave explains what “collaborative apparel” means and the nuts and bolts of how he shows his Instagram followers four designs each week, allows them to vote on which one they like best, and then has them preorder the winning shirt. We talk about the challenges of managing inventory for products that come in a multitude of sizes and we discuss Shopify as an e-commerce platform. Dave and Holly share a Shopify app they enjoy called Back in Stock.
Next, I ask Holly and Dave whether they’ve considered selling wholesale or doing trade shows or retail shows and we discuss the pros and cons of these opportunities. We also talk about why they’ve chosen to keep Stately Type and Maker Valley as two separate brands and Dave shares a terrific catch phrase: “the riches are in the niches.”
Holly explains how Maker Valley was born. A conversation with Lissa Alexander at Moda led to an opportunity to create some quilting-themed t-shirts for the Moda staff to wear at Quilt Market a few years ago. Stately Type sold the shirts online and they were a massive success, leading them to eventually create an entirely new brand.
And finally, we talk about how Dave made the decision to leave his day job a few years ago to join the family business full-time. With four daughters, and health insurance, we talk about the risks involved, but also the potential rewards.
And, of course, I ask Holly and Dave to recommend great stuff they’re loving right now. They recommend:
- Razor A5 Lux scooters for the whole family
- Taking a walk with your partner for half an hour early in the morning before everyone else is awake
- the Headspace app