Name: Reed Hushka
Job: Head Person, Sleevecandy
Industry: Accidentally Ironic T-shirts
Twitter or Facebook: Facebook – I honestly still don’t get Twitter.
Finding that perfect random tee is one of those hipster moments that fills your spirit. Alright, so maybe that’s a little too deep. Either way, we all love finding “accidentally humorous” shirts that say things like “School for Little Children, 75th Anniversary”, “McDonald’s Managers Rock! Peakfest 09′”, or “Hooker 5K Run”. They’re simply irresistible!
Rather than buying made up t-shirts at places like Urban Outfitters you can get the originals from Sleevecandy. Digging through piles of t-shirts via the Salvation Army can be time-consuming. That’s one reason why Sleevecandy pulled together the one stop shop for the best shirts from Salvation Army’s across the country. They inspect them for quality and categorize them by size just for your liking. You can wear original, and do good by supporting a site that donates 30% of each sale to The Salvation Army adult rehabilitation programs. Read more about how they made this idea into a reality below.
ProFASHIONal: Reed Hushka – in black
Reality Chic – in pink
First, if you want to tell us a little bit about yourself and what it is you currently do?
I’m a 28 and grew up in the great state of North Dakota. My claim to an interesting life story is that I actually worked on a cattle ranch for a good part of my early to mid-teens, cowboy hat and everything. I’m a bit of a politics nerd and currently head person at Sleevecandy.
How did you first come up with the idea of finding tees from The Salvation Army and re-selling them?
In college and high school (and even now), my friends and were addicted to ridiculously random t-shirts that you can only find in thrift stores (my favorite in college was a blue tee emblazed with “Nebraskans for Peace”). Not only were those tees hilarious, they also entitled us to look down on friends who got t-shirts from Urban Outfitters. Looking down on others is fun and a great way to boost self-esteem. The problem we had was that while we’d always find one or two cool tees in a given thrift store, the tee would almost never be in our size and we’d have to spend hours digging through t-shirts to find even marginal tees. We also had a holy grail conception that, somewhere in the country, there was a perfect t-shirt for each one of us but, because we could only visit our local store, we’d never be able to find it. That’s where Sleevecandy came from – we want to provide an easy way for everyone to find their perfect random t-shirt.
At what point did you decide that you wanted to open your own online website?
When myself and a few of my graduate school buddies who shared my thrift store pain decided that the best way to fix the thrift store problem (from above) was to aggregate tees online and that we could do social and environmental good by doing so.
What was the process to get the startup going, and what were some of the steps you took?
Phase one was getting the paper work stuff out of the way: getting an agreement as to who owned what – there are 4 of us who own Sleevecandy, opening a bank account, etc. After that, it was basically the four of us running as fast as we could to get up a website + the operations (t-shirt sourcing & t-shirt processing) to support the site. My favorite part was building our storage racks out of two-by-fours and wire.
How do you go about buying the clothes for Sleevecandy?
That’s a trade secret.
I hear all the time from girls or guys who want to open their own boutique. Do you have suggestions for a 20 something on how to get started especially now a days when everything can be online?
In many ways we wish we had a physical store as it makes getting the word out easier. I think people underestimate how hard it is to get people to know about and go to a website (including us when we started). So… I guess what I’m saying is that a physical store can be a good thing.
What are some of the struggles in being a startup, and do you have any tips on making it work?
The biggest struggle of being a startup is a lack of money and no matter what startup you talk to, that’s going to be the bottom line. My biggest tip is to make sure your fixed costs are as low as possible, to really scrutinize every bit of spending, and make sure you think creatively about how to get things done cheaply. Another thing people need to realize is that startups aren’t successful overnight. Most all startups are going to take much longer than people think they will to be successful.
Could you take us through the process of finding a solid Sleevecandy garment?
We inspect thousands of t-shirts a month and only put about 1% of those tees on the site. The first filter is on content: we want tees that would be very hard to find anywhere else AND we need the t-shirt to be interesting or humorous. The best tees are those that are accidentally humorous. After content, we look at quality – we inspect our t-shirts for even tiny holes and stains both before and after we wash them. Any tee with even a hole or stain no one will notice is donated back to the thrift store.
What were some of the crucial steps you took to launch your new line?
In as much as you can call Sleevecandy a line – everything is one-of-a-kind which is what we think makes us unique – I think the best step we took was to define the types of t-shirts we wanted on the site and categorize them in a way that was fun and (we think) makes sense. If you go to our site, you’ll see “Accidental Humor” and “Intentional Humor” – the categories are important as we have different types of customers looking for different things.
What are some of the tasks involved in having your own website that people be surprised about?
Hmmmm, getting a contact us stating that we spelled guarantee wrong (we did) was a bit surprising. Beyond that, it was realizing that taking a vacation can be a bit of a headache when you need to ship orders every day.
30% of Sleevecandy purchases go back to The Salvation Army to support their adult rehabilitation, what made you want to give back rather than keep it all for profits?
When we started the business, we wanted to do something more than sell t-shirts, we wanted to “Do Good.” We thought it was important to keeping us interested in the business. As such, Sleevecandy will always find a way to do good through its operations.
Do you have any tips to those 20 somethings who want to one day start their own company or online site?
- Start small and prove it – do as much as you can before you quit your day job
- Talk to as many people as you can, especially those who work with or have start-ups – they always have good ideas
- Have a good marketing plan
- Know most everything is going to be harder and take longer than you think
Last but not least, is there any other new projects you’re currently working on that you’d like to share?
We have several top-secret projects to make Sleevecandy much more awesome and much better at matching everyone with their perfect t-shirt. Check back in 3-4 months…
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I used Windows Live Writer to create this photo collage…it rocks my socks off! **I am a part of the Windows Champions blogger program. As part of this partnership, I have been loaned a Windows 7 PC for an entire year and have the opportunity to learn about Windows and Microsoft products. I’m looking forward to sharing the inside scoop with fellow 20 something’s & fashion bloggers.**