Can you tell us a little about yourself?
I’m Meredith, a Los Angeles-based designer who founded Boredwalk. My career started in the tech world. After growing disillusioned with an industry that is largely a boys club, I decided to go out and do my own thing, which led to my current career running Boredwalk, a graphic apparel company. When I’m not coming up with clever designs and slogans for products I love going to comedy shows, taking weekend road trips around California, cooking vegan food, and practicing martial arts.
What exactly is Boredwalk?
Boredwalk is a graphic apparel brand that combines unique on-trend graphics with clever humor and good design. Each product is designed in, printed in, and shipped from our office/warehouse in Pico Rivera, a Los Angeles county suburb.
What inspired you to start Boredwalk?
I wanted to create unique, well-designed, on-trend graphic apparel that stood out to people. I knew I didn’t want to go back to working in tech once I left and I wanted to design products people could get excited about. I’m a person who has a natural aptitude for pattern recognition and could easily see what kinds of imagery was trending. I knew I could create better versions of things that were already around that would still have mass appeal.
How did you come up with the name?
Truth be told, it was a bit of a spiteful decision, which I kind of kick myself for now but can’t go back and undo. My first product line was a lot more artistic and less trend-driven — it sold okay, but not enough to pay the bills. I was seeing more basic designs out in the world outselling design work that was taking hours – sometimes even days — to produce. I considered the more basic design work “boring” but more commercially viable. Since, I was more interested in not going back to working for other people than I was in sticking to my personal creative interests I decided to launch a new product line that was meant to be a walk on the “boring” side – meaning trendy stuff that would be easy to sell. Boredwalk has evolved a lot since its inception and now has found a happy medium between being trend-driven and creatively satisfying.
Can you tell us about your values?
I’m a big believer in being the change you want to see in the world. I’m not naive enough to think I can change the whole world, but I can add a little more decency to it by doing the things I think are right. I place a high value on integrity. This means doing what I say I will do, delivering a quality product, creating good jobs in my community that offer living wages and a pleasant work environment, and giving back to organizations that are trying to make the world a better place.
You give back to different organizations, can you tell us about that?
Being a creative professional in Los Angeles, it should come as no surprise that my values lean leftward. I try to select charitable organizations that promote social justice, such as ACLU, City of Promise (a Charlottesville, VA-based organization), and Planned Parenthood. Rather than putting all of our eggs into one basket, we select different organizations throughout the year that we think can benefit the most from our support.
Is there a favorite product?
Picking a favorite design would be really difficult, but in terms of the shirt styles we carry, I really recommend our scoop neck fleece. I really like all of the shirt styles we carry and wear them all the time, but putting on our scoop neck fleece on a cold day just feels like a soft, warm, cozy hug. They’re so delightfully warm and soft and look great on. We don’t carry any products I wouldn’t want to wear myself, but when we get cold weather (at least cold for Southern California), I’m always glad to have our scoop neck fleece to warm up in.
What is your favorite part about running Boredwalk?
It’s really fun to hear from customers that their purchases make them happy. I love hearing about all the compliments they’re getting on their shirts and how wearing our unique graphics helps them connect with people who share their values, sense of humor, or aesthetic sensibilities.
What is your least favorite part about running Boredwalk?
Dealing with vendors. When I hire team members I walk them through our company values, and one of the things I stress to them is how we are not what I call a “bare minimum” company. We don’t do as little as we can get away with; we do the best job we can possibly do. We put out great products, we pay living wages, we respond to customer communications promptly, and we do what we say we will do when we say we will do it. This is a big deal to me because I actually don’t think most companies operate that way. I think a lot of them are “bare minimum” companies and I definitely see it a lot with vendors. Our ability to do a great job for our customers really depends on our vendors doing what they are supposed to do, and when they don’t it’s incredibly frustrating to have our ability to do a good job impacted by people who just don’t seem to care about that. We try to build in contingencies where we can to avoid having our customers impacted by our vendors, but it definitely creates a lot of aggravation for us internally.
How do you spread the word about your company?
We do a lot of digital marketing, such a Pinterest, Facebook ads, Google ads, etc. When people hear what I do they usually think it’s purely a creative job, but marketing is a huge part of it, and that’s an entire craft unto itself. I didn’t start out with any marketing experience, but I’m more open to learning new skills than going back to my previous career, so I’ve taught myself a ton about digital marketing since I started this business.
Do you have any advice for fellow entrepreneurs?
Have realistic expectations!
Having a side hustle can be fun and low pressure, but if you really want to run your own company as a full time commitment and have a team of employees I cannot begin to describe how difficult and demanding this work is. You need to quickly pick up expertise on a mountain of complex topics. Depending on what you want to do you may need a working knowledge of manufacturing, shipping, running a warehouse, intellectual property law, labor law, contract law, state and local regulations for your business/product/service, email marketing, Facebook ads, social media, branding, content creation, running payroll, accounting and bookkeeping, vendor management, insurance requirements — the list really goes on and on.
Really think hard about whether it’s what you want to do with your life because our culture glamorizes this kind of career without really showing people what actually goes into it. Working at the kind of company you’d like to create is a good first step for getting some idea of what you are getting into. Most businesses fail and I think it has a lot to do with people not understanding what’s involved, so getting a look at what the life of a business owner is like is a really good way to get a sense of whether this lifestyle is for you.
If you’re the kind of person who has a natural aptitude for learning a lot of complicated new skills quickly, likes a difficult challenge, and has the drive to work really hard, you’re more likely to be successful at something like this. If you’re going into it because you think you’ll have more free time or get rich fast you’re probably going to be disappointed — it’s unlikely either of those things will happen quickly. It really takes a lot of time, effort, and perseverance to build a business.
I also recommend making connections with peers in your desired industry. You will never know everything and you will need people to turn to when you run into trouble. Making connections with professionals with more experience is crucial.
Do you have a favorite quote or go to saying? 🙂
Yes and I think this one is maybe one I made up but it’s the truest statement about running a business whether you’re Boredwalk or Budweiser. “Running a business is about running out of mistakes before you run out of money.” We are all in that position regardless of size, scale, and experience, so there’s always that pressure to be right a lot more often than wrong as you move through your work life.
Is there anything else you would like to share with us?
I’m pretty open about what goes on behind the scenes at Boredwalk, whether it’s adventures in hiring or dealing with internet trolls. If you’re curious about the inner world of Boredwalk we email updates to our list every week and we always share something we hope you’ll find interesting whether it’s a list of podcasts we think you’ll love or a Banh Mi Bowl recipe. We pride ourselves on being a company run by actual people you can relate to instead of a faceless corporation. Remember what I said about being the change I want to see in the world? I try my hardest to run my company in a way I’d want other companies to run, so even if you’re not in the market for a new shirt, I hope you’ll come hang out anyway, at least for the existential humor and cocktail recipes 🙂