MEET THE T-SHIRT LADY: This dynamic entrepreneur left her home in Harlem, New York when she was only 14-years old. In just a few short years she has created her own company and nonprofit foundation, the T-Shirt Fairy Foundation. As if that’s not enough, this business owner is also a single mom. “Carpe Diem” is the T-Shirt Lady’s favorite phrase; it means “Enjoy the present and don’t worry about the future,” as in – “It’s a beautiful day, so forget tomorrow’s test – carpe diem!” It’s Latin for “seize the day,” an aphorism found in the Roman writer Horace’s Odes. The T-Shirt Lady continues to live each day as if it were the first day of the rest of her life. She is remarkable entrepreneur who aspires to have store locations around the United States in efforts to leave her legacy behind for others to witness. Check out the T-Shirt Lady online at http://www.thetshirtlady.com
WMI: You were 14-years old when you left home, striking out on your own. Where do you think you got the courage and belief that you could survive on your own at such as young age? Asking because some of us struggle to launch out on our own when we’re well into our 40s and 50s.
TSL: To be honest, at that point in my life I had no other choice. I was either going to win or lose; I chose to WIN! I think courage and belief come within one’s self. If a person has faith in herself or himself and is not afraid to fail, that person can do anything she or he desires to do at any age!
WMI: Are you the first person in your family to own and operate a business? If not, tell us about two to three of your relatives who owned and managed companies?
TSL: Actually, my mother and father owned restaurant businesses when I was growing up. They are both pretty much entrepreneurs, so being an entrepreneur is not a surprise to me; it’s in my blood.;-)
WMI: Is the t-shirt and clothing business the first type of business you owned? If not, what other lines of business have you worked in as an entrepreneur?
TSL: My first business venture was a small printing company in New York City. I designed and printed business cards/flyers for local businesses. Shortly after I managed a small business consultant company through which I advised people on the different options of starting a business. I also assisted clients with incorporating their businesses, getting the proper licenses and other requirements. I still do this from time to time now.
WMI: When did you launch T-Shirt Lady and what inspired you to start the T-Shirt Lady?
TSL: I will try to make a long story short. I originally had a clothing store in a local community and would notice that when people would shop they would purchase two pairs of pants and twice as many tops (shirts).The light bulb went off in my head that tops sell more than bottoms do. Eventually, I turned my shop into a t-shirt shop and started getting a high demand from customers wanting a t-shirt that matched another part of their outfits (hats, shoes, etc.). That’s where the custom t-shirts come into play. I knew nothing of the custom printing industry at all. I taught myself everything I know.
WMI: How did you come up with the name of your company?
TSL: Actually, the name was given to me. Having a T-Shirt Shop in the community, the people of the community would see me out and about and would say, “There Goes the T-Shirt Lady!”My original company name was The T-Shirt Factory. Shortly after realizing that I was the T-Shirt Lady, I changed the name.;-)
WMI: You majored in Marketing at Georgia State University (GSU). Do you recommend that entrepreneurs take college marketing courses? Why?
TSL: Most of my marketing techniques came to me naturally prior to attending GSU. If a person feels like they need to attend school to gain another level of expertise, I would recommend that, but I don’t think it’s needed.
WMI: What was the greatest challenge you faced as you put on the helmet of business owner?
TSL: The greatest challenge is NEVER giving up! Being a business owner, you have to stay focused and keep your faith in what you do. There have been plenty of times when I wanted to give up but I didn’t. I just have to remind myself that nothing good comes EASY.
WMI: Where did you get your initial financial investment to launch T-Shirt Lady? Also, what was the initial financial investment you put into T-Shirt Lady?
TSL: The initial investment came from a severance package I received when the company I worked for at the time starting laying people off.
WMI: Tell us about the types of t-shirts you create? Are they mass produced or do you create custom-designed t-shirts for clients?
TSL: All of the t-shirts that are created at http://www.thetshirtlady.com are custom made to order for customers. We mass produce but we also do small orders.
WMI: Do you currently partner with other clothing or retail firms to get your t-shirts in department stores, etc.? If not, what are your thoughts about doing such partnerships in the future?
TSL: We specialize in custom orders so there isn’t a need for partnerships with clothing or retail firms. However, we never know what the future will hold. A clothing line may be in our future.
WMI: What three to four key on-line and offline marketing strategies do you use to spread the word about T-Shirt Lady?
TSL: Our main marketing strategy is our on-line presence. The use of Facebook, Twitter and other social media is our MAIN way of spreading the word. Once the word is spread, a lot of our new customers come via word of Mouth.
WMI: Do you offer discounts or special services to writers, entertainers and other creative artists? If so, what type of discounts or specials do you offer?
TSL: We are currently implementing promotional packages geared towards people in the creative environment as well as for other customers. Once the packages are finalized, we will post more information via our website at http://www.thetshirtlady.com.
WMI: How do you keep yourself motivated as an entrepreneur when sales are sluggish?
TSL: I’m a true believer that you should never put all of your eggs in one basket, so when sales are sluggish, I have other business ventures and investments I partake in. As for staying motivated, I know that owning business means having plenty of sales at times and maybe not having any at times. I take the good with the bad.
WMI: How has living with a carpe diem attitude benefitted you?
TSL: Having a “Carpe Diem” attitude allows me to be a business owner with a life! I try my best to not put off for tomorrow what I can do today. I apply this to my personal life as well as to my business. When I see an opportunity, I grab it.
WMI: What’s next for the T-Shirt Lady? Where do you see yourself and the company two to three years from now? What new business oppportunities would you like to seize?
TSL: I see The T-Shirt Lady having a larger entity with brick and mortar stores in major cities. I have other plans for the T-Shirt Lady but due to confidentiality, I am not allowed to disclose those plans at this time. All I can say is, “When you visit the T-Shirt Lady locations, you will not just get a t-shirt, you will get an experience!”
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