Editor’s note: Made in Tarrant is an occasional Q&A series on small businesses started in Tarrant County. Submit your business here.
Who: Brooke Wright
Employees: 5 to 7
What: A design and apparel studio. All designs are drawn by hand. Wright was recently featured in a segment on Good Morning America featuring “casual cowgirl-inspired” outfits.
Where: 3986 W. Vickery Blvd., Fort Worth.
Fort Worth Report spoke with Brooke Wright about the business. This interview has been edited for content, length, grammar and clarity.
Seth Bodine: Tell me about how you started your design firm.
Brooke Wright: I founded it 10 years ago. Started with invitations and … Christmas cards for customers, friends and family. We figured out how to create fabrics and other products that we can put our prints on, and most of them are manufactured in the United States. And we’ve just kind of developed it year by year and just kind of have grown. We started making clothing in 2015. And so, we’ve been doing that for almost eight years now.
Bodine: What was it like going from designs to actually making clothing? Was there a learning curve?
Wright: No, I’ve grown up … watching my mom sew, and I kind of sew a little bit. It’s something I’ve wanted to do my whole life. I have a degree in counseling. Somehow, I got a few extra degrees along the way, rather than getting an actual design degree. I had a computer at my house and I loved design … so it was always fun.
I’ve always loved fashion, I love vintage clothing. I love certain lines. And I always have been very particular about what I’ve worn. And I’m very passionate about what I have in my closet. And so, it was really one of those moments in which I needed a few things done, and I had seamstresses in my life that were making pillows and different linens. And I inquired about her possibly making something else for us. And she said: “Absolutely. What do you want? And if you’ll sketch it, I’ll make it.” And so, that’s kind of how it all started.
It wasn’t only a learning curve, but like growing a business cash based. That was a learning curve. And it’s like, well, how do I make clothing and afford to sell it and produce it?
We did test (the items) for a very long time. Custom made-to-order. People would come and try (things) on in our studio and … you got to pick out what pattern you wanted, and we’d make it.
Bodine: You mentioned you had studied counseling. Were you a counselor before?
Wright: I’d finished all my LPC hours and never turned them in. I was 40-weeks pregnant and finished my LPC hours — and had my baby and then stayed at home, and then had another one. And started my business at the same time.
Bodine: What was the hardest part of starting the business?
Wright: I tend not to think of challenges as difficult. I think when we do that, we kind of stunt the creativity of solving them. Sometimes it’s difficult … having people work under you and work with you, but the last couple of years … I’ve had great employees come in and out of our lives. Balancing being a mom, and my roles as a mom, is probably the most difficult, but making sure that we have people in place to help me be able to balance both has been the most important thing.
I work with a lot of women that have also entered that realm, and have helped us as long as they could and then had families of their own. So, I’m glad I’ve been able to be a part of fostering the ability for them to make transitions out of where they’ve been and where they’re going.
Bodine: How did you fund your business?
Wright: I started with $1. And my husband bought me a computer. And it was cash based. So we made custom made-to-order pieces. No loans, no major expenses that weren’t just grown through the business.
Bodine: What advice would you give someone who wants to start their own business?
Wright: Watching my dad build a business … we watched him and my mom struggle and pray over groceries and not know when … they were going to have solid income. You go into running a small business knowing that it’s going to be an uphill battle, and you’re going to struggle.
A lot of kids and a lot of adults go into running a business thinking that they’re going to be immediately moneymakers or that they’re going to immediately find that success. We didn’t see the success of this business for at least five to 10 years. I would say it’s still in its baby phase of what it could possibly do. You just have to be very patient and have high expectations and have high hopes but also, you have to work hard. And you also have to put forth a lot of effort, and it doesn’t just happen overnight. Just take one step at a time and keep your head down and keep trying at it.
Bodine: Anything else you’d like to add?
Wright: Many people don’t realize that we actually are creating and drawing and sketching and developing these pieces.
It’s something that I treasure, that I get to spend time in my creative room with my children and draw and sketch and create — and now, with 11 and 10-year-old little girls. It’s fun to be able to share that with them and, and to be able to create and for them to create alongside of me … that’s really fun.
Seth Bodine is a business and economic development reporter for the Fort Worth Report. Contact him at email@example.com and follow on Twitter at @sbodine120.