We adore Gabby Finkel! Tailgate Tees by Gabby was one of the hits of our #ConnectToConfidence event in NYC last May. Fingers crossed – you just might get to experience her awesome looks at #ConnectToConfidence UCLA in October. Be sure to check out her new awesome graphics, bandeaus, rock & roll tees and tanks.
You always hear that the best businesses come from identifying a problem that you have, recognizing that others probably have the same problem, and then finding a creative solution! Add to that talent, drive and passion, and you’ve just described Gabby. We love her collaborative spirit, her enthusiasm, and of course her awesome designs.
1. What inspired you to start designing shirts?
When I was a high school senior, I had accumulated so many college shirts from visits that were basically useless to me after I made my decision. I already had enough shirts to sleep in, so I just started experimenting with acid wash and my sewing machine and came up with a few designs for fun. I have always loved fashion, and it was really a way to get my senioritis boredom out. But the response from everyone was surprising- they all loved them, and my friends started asking me to make them shirts, so I figured this could really be something cool.
2. Where do you get the inspiration for your designs?
I get the inspiration for my designs from my love for fashion, my sense of creativity, and my friends. All of my friends’ styles are so different, so I always try to make options for every type of person with every kind of style. For example, edgy girls go for studs, girly girls go for the lace looks, and I have little halters for the warm schools, and flannels for the colder schools. I also get inspired by combining different materials, styles, and colors, and I want everyone to have their own unique outfit for tailgates, and all activities. Expressing your individuality through fashion is a great outlet.
3. How did you go from customizing college shirts for you and your friends into a real business?
Because of my passion and the amount of orders I was getting, at one point senior year I found myself coming right home from school, and making shirts until I slept that night. My parents finally said to me, if you love this so much and want to spend your time doing this, it’s time to really start investing. And that’s when I knew that there wasn’t anything else I’d rather do than this! I feel really lucky to be doing what I love and being successful at it. It makes me happy that people appreciate and enjoy our apparel.
4. Do you think Tailgate Tees will be your career after college?
I hope it will be! I know there is no guarantee what will happen after college, but for now I’m loving what I’m doing so much. I will do whatever I can to make this my life-long career. I can totally picture myself in 30 years surrounded by sewing machines and hundreds of cut up shirts.
5. How do you balance being a college student with maintaining your business? Do you ever have to pass up plans to work? Do your friends understand?
I think for any typical college kid, even without a business, it’s super hard to balance social life, academics, and chill time. So yes of course having a business makes that even harder. But this business really is what I love to do- it’s my passion and it makes me excited. I definitely have to pass up on certain social or academic things for the business, but I’m so lucky to have the friends I have that make it so easy for me. They’re always there to sit with me while I make shirts and help me with anything they can. Not to mention it’s a little pay back for me cutting them up shirts every morning before a tailgate.
6. What’s new for Tailgate Tees? What trends do you see that you think are exciting?
Every couple weeks, I go on the hunt to find and create new styles. I love sitting at my table sketching new ideas I have for the company-it’s one of my favorite parts about owning my own business. I don’t want to give too much away but this coming spring one of my new styles will be very boho, and another will be perfect for showing off sick bandeaus in the front. I always try to go with the trends so when high neck bandeaus are what’s in style, I’ll make a shirt for you to show that off. My mind is always on creating new styles and I write down ideas as they come to me.
7. Do you ever find that you aren’t taken seriously because you are such a young entrepreneur? If so, what do you do when that happens?
Of course there will be little instances where that could happen, but as of now it’s been actually the opposite. I think people look at me differently because I’m so young, but they always like that. I think people really appreciate the work I do because it’s not really a common thing to see a 19 year old business owner. I think people appreciate my driven personality and fresh ideas, which is different when you work with a teenager as opposed to an adult.
8. What is the most challenging part of being a young entrepreneur?
I think the most challenging part of being a young entrepreneur is balancing the success and growth of the company with keeping it at a level where I don’t get ahead of myself. As exciting as it is to be growing and to have expanding interest in our products from all over the country, from stores to individuals, we want to keep our product at the same quality it has always been. It is important to take things one step at a time, which can be difficult.
9. What advice do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs?
My advice for aspiring entrepreneurs is don’t let fear stop you. If I hadn’t posted my first picture of a Penn State shirt I just tried cutting up and acid washing in my house, I wouldn’t have my company. Don’t let the fear of people not liking what you’re doing stop you. There will always be people who don’t like your product, but there will ALWAYS be people who love it. It takes a while to find your customers, but once you do it will be so rewarding. When you do what you love, people will see that and love it.
10. Do you ever have times when you doubt yourself? What do you do to restore your confidence?
I think if I didn’t doubt myself sometimes, I’d be insane. It’s so normal to doubt yourself-especially when your entire company relies on if people like what you’re doing. One thing that always restores my confidence is talking to my customers. It happens when girls have a question about a shirt, or just a comment to make, and they message me. Getting these messages are the highlights of my day- my customers are always so sweet and supportive, and I love talking to them. I even have been helping one of them figure out housing for UF! I’m a social person and love talking to people-so they always make me feel confident in what I’m doing.
11. What does She’s Fit to Lead mean to you? How does someone become “Fit to Lead?”
To me, being a leader is being somebody who isn’t afraid to show who they are. To lead others, you need to know yourself. In one way or another, it’s so important to be proud of who you are. Doing Tailgate Tees by Gabby lets me show the world who I am, my style, my creativity, and what I like to do. It’s not an easy thing to do, putting yourself out there, but that’s what makes a leader. I want to help inspire girls all over the world to put themselves out there and show everybody what they love to do. This doesn’t need to be necessarily making your own business, but social media is a great outlet to post pictures of your paintings, or videos of you scoring a soccer goal. I want all girls to be empowered to show their true selves and not be ashamed of who they are! I wouldn’t be where I am today, if I were too afraid to show my friends and followers my designs, so I want to inspire all girls to do the same, and that makes them fit to lead. She’s Fit to Lead is a wonderful organization with an important message- empowering young women. She’s Fit to Lead is the perfect match for someone like me, who is inspired to succeed, and could benefit from the mentoring and support and camaraderie of She’s Fit to Lead.
We recently checked back with Gabby and asked her what was new and different and trending for Fall. You have to check her newest graphics – crops, bandeaus and rock & roll tees: