History of my Shop

On my 24th birthday in 2015, I sat in my parent’s garage and watched people browse up and down the aisles of a garage sale we were having. Laptop in front of me, I purchased a domain name, filed some legal documents, and opened my first online shop under the name Sly Fox Shirts. I was casual about it. I was at a point where I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do in my life, but I did know that I hated desk jobs and I really wanted to use my creativity while also being in charge of my time. I’d never made a t-shirt in my life, but I had stumbled upon an article on Pinterest several months prior that made owning a t-shirt business seem easy. So I figured I’d give it a shot. I made a logo, came up with a handful of designs, and prepared to take orders.

I was using a fulfillment company called Print Aura to actually create and ship my shirts. Now, I’m not trying to say Print Aura is a bad company, but my experience with them back in 2015 was awful. I started by ordering a sample shirt. When it arrived, the graphic was stretched out and instead of being round (as it should have been), it was oval. I contacted them about it and they sent me a replacement, but I was a little weary. The replacement was fine and I decided to go ahead and open up shop and give them a chance. Opening up shop with no knowledge or background of business or online sales is not easy to do. 99% of my small handful of orders were from friends and family. Then one of my friends texted me about the shirt they’d ordered – half of the graphic was completely missing from the shirt! I contacted Print Aura for a replacement and then I closed my shop to take some time to figure out my next step.

After my wedding in November of 2015, I had a little more time to put into my business. I opened up shop again, this time having my Shopify store as well as an Etsy shop. I’d worked out a deal with a local screen printing company to print my orders for me. This was leaps and bounds better than Print Aura, but still not perfect. Turnaround time was sporadic based on how busy they were otherwise, and there were several instances of the wrong shirt colors being ordered. Basically, everything other than shipping the shirts was still out of my control, and I didn’t like that. I wanted to be able to answer customer questions about when they could expect their orders to ship, and if there were any mistakes made during processing, I wanted to be responsible for them. I did some researching and placed my order for my own printing press in early Spring of 2016. It was also around this time when I cut ties with Shopify. It was clear that Etsy was the platform for me and it didn’t cost me any monthly fees, unlike Shopify.

When I first got my printing press in, I set it up and tried the traditional emulsion method of making screens. It was a nightmare. After some broken light bulbs, spilled emulsion, and three failed attempts at burning the image to the screen, I finally had a screen I could use. It only took me about 2 weeks. Needless to say, I looked into other methods and determined that the stencil method was right for me. The Silhouette Cameo went on sale on Amazon and I jumped on it (to see what equipment I use in my shop click here). It took no time at all for me to have several screens made and ready to use with this new method (read about this method here). I got set up with a wholesale apparel company and felt as ready as I was going to be. It was early summer before I parted ways with the local printing company and I was totally terrified I’d ruin every shirt I tried to do and my business would fail. It certainly took some trial and error, but after a couple of weeks I was printing like a pro and loving being in charge. Not to mention I was pocketing all of my profit by not having to pay someone else to process any part of my orders!

In August of 2016, someone shared one of my shirts using the rstyle.me/liketoknow.it method. My sales EXPLODED. To this day, I don’t know who shared it or what they said, but I am so grateful to them! I went from $4,038 in sales combined from January to July to $3,858 in sales in the month of August alone. And it just kept climbing. I came up with a Christmas shirt that was a huge hit, too, and closed out the year on a high note. I’d also worked out a deal to sell my shirts at a boutique that one of my friends had recently opened, and they did well there, too. For a side hustle that I really hadn’t expected to process more than a few shirts a week, I was thrilled. I closed out 2016 with about $20,000 in profit. Not bad for a supplemental income!

With the turn of the new year, I was starting to think about what was going to happen with my shop since I was approaching the end of my pregnancy with our daughter. Although I didn’t have crazy sales that spring, I had no idea what to expect with a newborn and I decided to put my shop on vacation mode about a week before she arrived. Closing my shop allowed me to not have the stress of processing orders with a newborn and it also gave me some time to think about the direction of my shop. But MAN did vacation mode kill me. I didn’t know anything about vacation mode before I did it, and I really wish I had looked into it before closing up shop. 

It was during this break that I decided to re-brand from Sly Fox Shirts and become Wild Blooms Apparel & Gifts so I’d be able to offer more than just shirts if I wanted. I had planned to use Printed Mint for my non-shirt printing needs and had ordered some mug samples that I was happy with. A few weeks after reopening my shop in the fall of 2017, I decided to start offering shirts printed and shipped by someone other than myself so I could offer more products in my store without having to make a million screens. I planned to use Printful for this and since Printful also offers mug printing, I went to using them for all external printing needs.

Once again, I was back to not being in control of things, and I hated it. I did enjoy the ability to offer more designs without having a bunch of screens, though, so I weighed my options and ultimately decided to begin processing my own tee orders again by using Heat Transfer Vinyl for the majority of my designs and having screens for the most popular ones. This worked very well and I probably would have continued this way for a long time, had I not gotten kicked out of my office/studio in order to have a bedroom for our second child in summer of 2019. I moved my operation up the road and into my parent’s basement and decided to try out some screenprint transfers for those designs I had been screen printing so that I didn’t have to worry about rinsing screens outside in the cold winter months in Missouri.

In December of 2019, I was feeling incredibly down about my business, especially after having a rude person message me and tell me that I was “the biggest copy shop” they’d ever seen. It crushed me. I never had any intention of copying someone else’s work. I’d had it done to me and I knew how frustrating it was. The problem was, I took custom orders and I wasn’t active on Instagram whatsoever. I wasn’t aware of what other small shops were creating. And with so many tees being simply text-based, it was super easy for someone to send me a custom request and ask me to use a specific font or font style for a particular word or phrase and BAM… someone else’s design was copied. And since I didn’t realize I was doing so, many of those designs I thought were cute and I would list them in my shop. My actions were innocent and any copying was unintentional, but it was copying nonetheless. I’ve since removed all listings that I’ve been made aware of are copies or very similar to other shop’s original designs, but I still feel a little ashamed and embarrassed because those shops that I may have unintentionally copied don’t know the story. I even considered closing up shop because I didn’t want to be seen as a fraud, but my family relied on that income. While feeling that I’d ruined my shop’s reputation and possibly future, I decided I needed a fresh start.

I really wanted to have more creative freedom in my designs instead of common phrases people are searching Etsy for or finding in other shops. I also wanted to get back into screen printing. So The Dreaming Daisy was born. A clean slate with more intentional creativity. It was refreshing. I worked on a handful of designs for Valentine’s Day and launched on January 10th, 2020 with only a couple dozen followers and a few collaborations set up to help me get noticed. 

As of this post, I’m at about 3,500 followers in around 8 months time – slow but steady. It’s been a little overwhelming beginning a new business amid the COVID pandemic from facing inventory and shipping issues to having childcare cancelled on me, and some of my launches have been complete failures. I’ve considered closing this shop, too, but promised myself I’d at least see it through the end of the year. It’s a lot to design, process, ship, be an accountant, the marketing person, etc. for two shops, along with staying home full-time with a one-year-old and three-year-old!

My most recent endeavor is to offer my printing and dyeing services to other small t-shirt shops who maybe don’t have the time or resources to do so or just don’t have any interest in the physical creation process – the part that I enjoy the most – and maybe slow down on selling my own designs a bit. Time will tell!

Since starting The Dreaming Daisy, I’ve become aware of many small shop mamas creating unique tees and I follow many of them on my Instagram page. It’s a wonderful community. I’m also able to tell when someone messages me about a custom idea through Wild Blooms if they’re stealing that idea from another shop. If they are, I kindly turn down the sale and direct them to the original shop owner.

There have been a lot of ups and downs and I still don’t entirely know what I’m doing, but I do know that I have a lot of knowledge to share and I am passionate about the small shop community. Thanks for being here and reading my story. I will try to update this post a couple of times a year if there are any changes!

UPDATE 11/10/2020: I’ve decided to combine my shops! Keeping up two different shops that offer the same (basically) product to the same demographics is just too much and honestly kind of silly. I’ve learned SO much from operating my businesses separately and I’m taking the best of both and merging them back into Wild Blooms exclusively. If you want to read a little bit more about why I’m going back to just the one shop, head to this blog post.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *