Can you tell us a little about yourself?
My name is Erline StGeorges, together with my husband Gavin we own PROUD TSHIRTS COMPANY. I’m a mother of two wonderful little people, one boy and one girl. A graduate of Johnson & Wales University with studies in International Business. A business owner. I love long walks on the beach…Oops wrong place to say this. Anyhow, this past year has been a whirlwind and I have learn a lot about myself. As a business owner now – it’s an amazing feeling doing something that contributes to my community and at the same time providing financial support for my family.
What exactly is the Proud Tshirt Company?
PROUD TSHIRTS COMPANY is a garment decoration company. We offer screen printing, embroidery, custom t-shirts, and uniforms. We help people market and expose their brand through garment decoration. We love helping people bring their ideas to life. We meet all type of people – we meet business owners looking to make shirts for the first time. Sometime it’s an event planner that’s organizing an event and they have a lot on their plate. Other times it’s a mom looking for a sweet t-shirt with a really nice design for their kid’s birthday party. We know it’s important to them to get quality work and get it fast. We also know it’s important to them to find someone they could trust and feel comfortable with. We think we offer that.
What inspired you to start Proud Tshirt Company?
About a year ago I got this idea to make custom design onesies and kids’ t-shirt for my newborn son. I explained this to my husband and asked for his help to make it happen. We spent a little bit of time researching and seeing what would work best – to make onesies for our baby with custom designs.
After some time researching, we made the decision to purchase a piece of equipment that can be used at home to help produce t-shirts. We purchased other necessary supplies. Spent about $250. After messing around for a bit, we were able to make our first baby onesie with a design – that moment was so awesome because the whole family was gathered around and got to witness this little creation. Our 5 year old daughter was there too. I can remember witnessing the reaction of our little family – everyone was happy – even if it was just a simple t-shirt.
We later tried to see if we could sell our product (onesies) to nearby children’s daycare. We made flyers, samples, list of schools and off we went. Our very first visit didn’t go so well in one aspect – the daycare staff seemed busy and weren’t in the mood for a sales pitch – they quickly turned down our offer and asked us to leave. That very same first visit – as we’re getting ready to leave – one daycare staff asked if we could instead help supply them with 200 t-shirts for the kids and staff. While being surprised and shocked by their request, we stumbled on our answer and in a bunch of words we pretty much said yes. The moment was huge – mainly for our confidence.
We continued visiting other schools gathering valuable information and just learning what some of their needs were. We thought it would be appropriate to invest in our education about the business and industry, so we decided to enroll in a training class. While we could have started from home and most people do, we decided to purchase industrial grade and high capacity equipment and rented a space to formally begin our business. The money to begin was from our savings, we understood it was a high risk but we felt confident enough if we work hard and provide a great product with great service to match we’d be fine.
How did you come up with the name?
The name PROUD TSHIRTS COMPANY means a lot to us. With the help of my husband we came with something we both could agree on. We wanted something simple, self-explanatory, and meaningful to us. While the inspiration for the business came from our son, the name of the company came from our daughter. Early on our daughter had some difficulties with speech and one time during a car ride, she was a able to put together a full sentence together. Her first full and clear sentence was: “Daddy I’m so proud of you” – not sure exactly where she learned it but it was a magical moment. So that’s the reason for the word PROUD in our company name.
What is your favorite part about running Proud Tshirt Company?
Business ownership is tough, we face challenges everyday. It’s a tough balancing act keeping clients satisfied, employees happy and performing, and being fair to yourself. However, the feeling of running your own business is like nothing else. Business ownership brings the possible of living a more worthwhile life because of some of the freedom it provides.
What is your least favorite part about running the Proud Tshirt Company?
The long hours – right now we are a growing company and that comes with a lot of pain. There’s a lot on the agenda and not enough people to help with it, so in order to get it done we have to work some long days.
You took a trip to Haiti, can you share with us what you did there?
The Haiti trip was amazing and super special. A dark side of our industry most people aren’t aware is that – as an industry we’re super wasteful and there’s a lot of exploitation that happens in the t-shirt making process the average person wouldn’t be proud of. For example, most t-shirts in the market are made with industrial cotton grown in far away countries (usually poor countries) and are filled with chemicals. These tshirts are dyed, cut, and sewn by people making less than a few dollars per day. In our opinion it’s pretty much modern day slavery.
The trip to Haiti was with a group of folks on a mission to end this dark side of the industry. A group of tshirt shop owners, has gotten together to form the brand known as Allmade. These folks are dead set on changing the exploitive ways of the garment industry. Allmade has introduced the most amazing tshirt to market, a t-shirt that feels and fits amazing. These tshirts are made with US grown organic cotton, modal, and recycled plastic water bottles. Even better these tshirts return to the hands that makes it by providing workers a living wage and a dignified work environment. Allmade is paying 3-5 times more than their competitors in Haiti. As a person of Haitian heritage, this is very special to me.
As early adapter of the Allmade t-shirts, you can get this tshirt exclusively through our shop. We ask you to connect with us to learn more.
How do you spread the word about your company?
Our growth is been super organic – people we serve tell other people about us. We do try to keep a decent presences on social media, mainly Facebook and Instagram. We also do take of advantage of live events – we’ve attended conferences, music festivals, and church functions. As of recently we began offering the service of live printing on location for major event – this give another opportunity to market our brand.
Do you have any advice for fellow entrepreneurs?
Advice to other entrepreneurs is to buckle in because it going to be a bumpy ride. You’ll make mistake. You’ll be forced to grow. We think it’s worth it though – the benefits of business ownership are great.
Do you have a favorite quote or go to saying? ☺
Is there anything else that you would like to share with us?
We’d love to connect with you. Yes you, the person reading this. Thanks for reading our story. Do us a favor – say hi – and let us know you read this here.