Editor’s note: Made in Tarrant is an occasional Q&A series on small businesses started in Tarrant County. Submit your business here.
Started in 2015 by Chance and Kala Morgan as a printing, embroidery and manufacturing service, Morgan Mercantile later opened a retail store in the Near Southside in 2018. The retail store sells Fort Worth-themed shirts and apparel under its label Panther City Provisions.
Chance and Kala Morgan spoke to the Fort Worth Report about their business. This conversation has been edited for length, grammar and clarity.
Seth Bodine: You started your printing service in 2015. Where did you operate?
Chance Morgan: We were working with another family print shop. And so that’s kind of how I was working, and got my footing as far as learning the industry, when I was working at the other company as a sales rep.
My degree is in photography, I went to (University of Texas at Arlington), and I was in a band before that called Burning Hotels. I was designing posters. It was kind of a stepping stone to learn the production side, which is what I really got more involved in. And that’s kind of where we took off from, working as a contractor.
Bodine: What kind of companies do you print for?
Chance Morgan: When we first started it was mostly just local mom and pop. Everything from restaurants, bars, boutiques, bands. As time has gone on … we do all the production fulfillments, e-commerce for Lone Star Beer. We do (work for) pretty much everybody in the neighborhood over here — so Hot Box Biscuit Club, The Down N’ Out, Nickel City, The Holly, Tarantula Tiki Lounge. Everybody from Billy Bob’s to Meta. It’s kind of a broad swath.
Bodine: In the store, I see everything from water bottles to T-shirts and keychains. Who designs everything?
Chance Morgan: It was mainly myself. You start focusing on trying to design, and then once the business gets bigger, you’re supposed to be working on the business (side). I would say the last couple of years, especially when we brought on retail, we’re working mostly with close friends, but also our freelance partners.
Bodine: You mentioned one of the popular shirts is the “I’m Fort Worth It” shirt — did you expect that to be popular?
Chance Morgan: I don’t think we, you know, we never really had any kind of preconceived notions of success. The “I’m Fort Worth It’ T-shirt was literally like Kala laying in bed one night, she’s like, “I have this idea.”
Bodine: So you thought of the “I’m Fort Worth it,” Kala?
Kala Morgan: Yeah. It’s just one of those low-hanging fruit, but still cute. When you’re just laying in bed, and you can’t turn your brain off. You know, I’m just spitballing ideas.
Bodine: Did you write it down?
Kala Morgan: I think it’s just one of those things that just stays with you. You know, when you say something out loud, it’s like, ‘Oh, that’s a really good idea.’ You don’t really expect things to blow up or to gain popularity. And, that’s true even now when we do designs for the new season. You just never know what the public, and what our customers, are going to be drawn toward.
Bodine: What was the most challenging part of starting the business?
Chance Morgan: Just the unknown aspect. She comes from a hospitality background, so food and beverage and management. And I come from, again, more of a service industry, bartending through college, but I was focused on music. There wasn’t really a set path. When the band was dwindling down, kind of introducing the next step in life, it was like, ‘OK, well, I already have the skill set. It’s something I really enjoy.’ You know, I never thought we would be designing clothes or have a retail store.
Bodine: Do you have advice for someone who wants to start a business in Fort Worth?
Kala Morgan: My advice from a retail standpoint and just seeing production: focus on your branding. That takes you and your business so far. You can do so much when you have proper branding and have a cohesive voice.
(Chance) works with all kinds of people, people that come to us that already have incredible branding done by artists and design teams that we love. And respect to people that are starting out and have, you know, just a simple logo.
When you have something intricate and really can get across their vision, you can work with that in so many different ways. It really does make a difference.
Seth Bodine is a business and economic development reporter for the Fort Worth Report. Contact him at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter at @sbodine120.
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