Starting a T-Shirt Company

Interview with LTDchix Co-Founder Nina Frye

Starting a T-shirt company? If so, you'll love to hear this story of how successful mompreneur Nina Frye and her partner Cindi Schmitzer have done so well.

Nina Fry is a mom who sells clever t-shirts to other moms

Even though the mom t-shirts market is competitive, she and her partner have created a product that moms love.

Tell me about your current business. What are you doing exactly?

My business partner Cindi Schmitzer and I created a line of t-shirts that has a mom laughing at the less glamorous aspects of running a household.

Cindi and I were vacationing together two years ago and between us we have seven children. We were trying to get them all in the car and they were all just being extremely crazy.

We both looked at each other and said, "Is this what you thought motherhood would be like before you had kids?" We decided to capitalize on those frazzled moments and created our signature "mom" with the slightly sarcastic tagline "Living the Dream."

We initially sold our tees in our hometown which immediately struck a chord with these moms. Our LTD Mom touched these moms and they thought she was super funny. So we sold our tees in stores in NJ and then grew slowly into stores up and down the east coast. From there we needed to expand nationwide so we created a website called Living the Dream Chix.

Where is your business located?

It is located in Sparta, NJ

When did you start the business?

June, 2006

What were you doing before this, and is this your first business?

We both were stay-at-home moms. Yes, this is our first business

Where did you get the startup money?

Cindi initially invested $2,500 to get our illustration created, t-shirts bought and printed.

Who are your main competitors? How do you compete against them?

Our main competitors are other "Mom" t-shirt companies. There are several of them.

Most of them have some kind of sarcastic saying about being a mom, and/or an uplifting message they want to convey about motherhood. We have an illustration that has a humorous side to it. We focus on the reality of motherhood and make "moms" laugh about it all.

How has your experience in running the business been different from what you expected?

It has been a steep learning curve. We both have been out of the workforce for about 15 years. Cindi has an accounting background and I have a sales/marketing background.

We both work great together. However, both of us have been raising kids for so long we have become a little rusty in the business world. We didn't realize all the challenges we would face in running our own business.

We made wrong decisions many times, which cost us money, and we took unnecessary risks. It is very hard trying to juggle running the business without it interfering with your children's schedules.

Is there anything you wish you had done differently?

You need to research your business ideas thoroughly before you jump in and spend money right away. Those initial mistakes really hurt us financially.

What have you done that has been very effective in helping to grow the business?

During this rocky economy, we needed to redirect our marketing plan to grow the business. We decided to approach licensing. The licensing company will help us broaden our reach to other markets such as China, Japan, UK, Germany, etc. They will take our "Living the Dream Mom" and expand our product line to mugs, calendars, wrapping paper, gift books, etc.

The downside is that you do give up a percentage of your profits -- but it is one of the best options for growth and that growth should offset the smaller profit per item because we'll have the high sales volume.

We were accustomed to producing 4 designs per year -- now we have to increase the number of our LTD moms dramatically to 30 new designs in 6 weeks. It is moving quickly but we won't know the results for about 15 months!

Sounds like an exciting time for the company. What advice would you give to somebody else who wanted to start a similar business?

Don't put your idea off. There is no time like the present.

Sometimes you have to just go for it. Great advice, Nina. Thanks so much for sharing your entrepreneurial experience with us, and good luck to you and Cindi as you expand the business.

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