In some ways, the last decade went just as we dreamt it would, and in other ways, not at all. 10 years ago I was 15, so full of excitement for the idea of growing a business together. This time was full of staying up deep into the night, dreaming about exactly what we have now. The only difference? The reality of building our dream has been so much harder than whatever could've imagined at that moment.
Looking back now, it feels so naive to have our 16-year-old selves say what if one day we get married and get to run our empire together? Well shit, we've done it. It will forever be a work in progress, but we feel like we're exactly where we should be. There are so many things that could've led us in so many other directions than this one. Somehow, through the hardest of work to keep moving towards a life worth living, we've stuck together, and have had a pretty damn good time doing it.
We've enjoyed this journey and are so grateful that our paths crossed when they did. In many ways, we call it luck, but at the end of the day, you can't maximize your luck without busting your ass too. Every argument has brought us to a new phase of growth. Every time I've cried over the stress in our business, we've gotten through it just fine. Every time we doubted what we were doing, we learned, tried something new, and built something we will never doubt again.
We have a good feeling about the year, and the decade ahead. If not easy, then full of growth. If not full of laughs, then full of finding strength. If not full of contentment, then full of something new.Here's a look at our life through the past decade!
We met and started dating when I was 14 and Tanner was 15
Us at our High School prom
We set up our first shop in Tanner's parents' garage where we taught ourselves how to screenprint. We learned a lot, messed a lot of things up and nearly burnt the house down because it wasn't set up for commercial use. We all have to start somewhere!
I realized how truly talented Tanner is and truly started to believe that we have the opportunity to create something special.
We both graduated high school, started college and moved in together. At this point, we were still operating out of Tanner's parents' garage. We went to school during the weeks and would spend nights and weekends making products and promoting our brand every way we knew how at that time.
After years of self-teaching ourselves to screenprint and doing a lot of custom work for people, we came out with our first collection we were actually proud of. We took this collection out to local events and added more products based on the feedback we received.
We made a huge step to get an actual shop. I was 19 and terrified but so excited to move to a place we could build out to make ours, without worrying about burning the house down. We had saved up, but we were on a really tight budget and didn't have any credit established because we were so young. We slowly bought what we needed as we could. Slowly but surely we started to grow.
We started to grow stock of our actual inventory.
We were able to upgrade our equipment. We paid all cash upfront and still operate on the same equipment today. This was the turning point for the production of our products. Suddenly we could make things about 10x faster. We got better and faster at printing and suddenly could make products almost as fast as the pros.
We took the time to start traveling the world together. We became incredibly inspired by the landscapes we've never seen before and had the most incredible excitement for the business we wanted to grow.
We started to get some big custom orders and were also able to start growing our inventory to get us through multiple shows at a time and to start distributing to local wholesalers.
We went to hundreds of events every weekend to grow our brand. Still do.
Traveled some more, we're still completing college and working endlessly to grow our business so that we could avoid working for other people shortly after we graduated.
What a year this was. I graduated college with a degree in Human Resources and received a full-time job offer working for Comedy Works in the HR department. I felt naive not to take it even though I DESPERATELY wanted to grow our business. Although I didn't love every day of this experience I was able to build up a financial safety net, made some of the best friends in my life, learned a lot about running a business. I was working a 40 hour a week job, had about an hour commute each way and ran our business on nights and weekends. And I couldn't just keep up with the status quo. I had to grow the shit out of this business if I was going to even think about quitting my job. Tanner was wrapping up school and was hustling just as hard as me but was still in school.
We got engaged! And now we had to plan a wedding.
Then we got our first puppy, Scout. Best. Decision. Ever.
After working about 90 hours a week between commuting, working, going to the shop after hours and working events and doing production on the weekends, I quit the day job.
Then we bought an old bread delivery truck to turn into a mobile shop.
Then we signed a lease on a much bigger shop because we outgrew the first one.
Then we turned the shop into a space we always dreamt of (complete with my dream shipping station).
We had a grand opening party to celebrate the new space.
We didn't have time for a honeymoon but did a road trip anyway.
Planned a makers market (no we had never done this before and kind of knew what we were doing). Hosted 50 makers in a random warehouse and got 2000 shoppers. Said holy shit, we actually did it.
Tanner told me school was destroying him and I could see it. Our schedules were absolutely insane. He told me he couldn't go one more day and dropped out. I reluctantly said "okay, well then let's continue to grow this business together. Let's make it count."
Then we did.
We expanded a lot. We hit a new phase of growth that we didn't quite know how to navigate. So we got an advisor and started outsourcing and hiring slowly as we needed.
Celebrated a decade together.
Got knocked down a few times, but got right back up.
Finally took our honeymoon to New Zealand. We absolutely fell in love and found a new sense of excitement in the world. For the first time, we completely, 100%, disconnected from our business.
Turned our bread truck into a mobile shop.
I started shipping many, many packages.
I learned Tanner is a really good builder and maker of things.
We started to grow our team and made our first full time hire.
Threw some awesome events with great turnouts in our space.
Started hitting numbers we never thought was possible.
We looked back at the start of this decade and realized we're a very legit business now, which is all we ever wanted when this decade started.
We learned that we love running a business together as husband and wife.
We learned that all hardships have brought us closer, and have made us stronger and better business owners and people.
We learned that you can do absolutely anything if you put your mind to it.
We learned that community is your strongest asset.