When and how did the business get started?
The business started out of necessity. Necessity and family. Lauren was coming off a pretty difficult first pregnancy where she spent a lot of time on bedrest and I was coming out of another business. She came to me with sketches of dresses and we thought that would be a great idea for a business. There is a definite hole in the market for Southern women's apparel. It was all of this timing thing that came right at the right time. We took those dress sketches and started sourcing, but we started with t- shirts in that same theme. Those t-shirts started selling and we started picking up private specialty retail accounts. We already had a direct to consumer business going and we started picking up steam on social media. The rest is history. It was basically six months in 2013 where we were doing that first initial screen printing of t-shirts and developing and sourcing private label dresses, Lauren's initial vision, and it went from zero to sixty from that point on.
What struggles did the business have in the beginning? How did you overcome those?
I'd say that in the beginning, we were just trying to figure out what we were doing. I think that's where all businesses, or at least good businesses, land. You catch on to something and then you're like ok what's this? How do you expand upon that? The initial struggles came with us splitting time with the business, a newborn, and a fairly new marriage. All the personal things were part of the initial struggles of the business - but that's life. We were very close to the business because it grew as our family grew.
There was not a day that we didn't have something to deal with. What accounting software should we start using? Hey, we're actually selling things so we need to get our own website. How are we going to ship things? I was driving our parents old '87 Land Rover eight times a day to Fedex - so much so that they got to where they knew my name. It was crazy. When do we move out of the basement and go into a warehouse? You look all these things and you have to make decisions. The thought process was just 'Ok, I think we can afford some space so let's go find a cheap space where we can start expanding.' And so we found some really cheap warehouse space. We tell a story where we had enough money to buy one computer. So, we were carrying a desktop back and forth from the warehouse to home. We would do warehouse operations during the day and come home and do accounting and all the backend stuff at night. You go out and do it, and you figure it out.
Who helped you most in the beginning?
I'd say it was Jeff Amerine, and we're talking way back even before Lauren James existed, just for general business advice. I'd also say local banks. Lauren's parents, of course, they let us live in the basement and we rented our house out. Her brother, too, he was our first shipping guy and doing a lot of stuff for us. From the City of Fayetteville's standpoint, just being in this part of the country was a huge help in its own right. We couldn't have done what we did on the coast somewhere.
Why did you pick Fayetteville to start a business in?
I love Fayetteville. It wouldn't have been that we chose Fayetteville to start a business. We chose Fayetteville to start a life, and the business followed.
What makes Fayetteville a business-friendly city?
Cost of living, obviously, but also the progressive nature of the city. The leaders of the City support things like this [Startup City of the South], like Startup Junkie, and they get involved in the entrepreneurial scene. It's the willingness to accept and support entrepreneurship. We have a lot of resources in this area like the University and all the big companies here, and I think everyone's coming together. The willingness for that to actually happen is exactly why we're here now and exactly why the region is going to continue to flourish.