Here at Southern Flair, I love hearing from local female entrepreneurs. Even if it’s not in my field, I’m always so interested in hearing how other women run their businesses — I want to know about their successes, their failures, and any advice they can offer. Typically, it’s in the form of a Boutique Tour post, but today we’re going behind-the-scenes with the Baton Rouge t-shirt brand, Southern Football Tees, which you’ve seen featured numerous times here on SF! This local business has successfully continued to grow over the years, so today owner and founder Meredith Waguespack is sharing an inside look into SFT and the brand’s focus on Louisiana and local lifestyle.
Meredith started to take notice on how simple the shirts were to print and sell and how quick the turnaround was on t-shirts compared to the other children’s clothing. Eventually, Meredith decided her true passion was in t-shirt designing and closed the dress shop all together.
In addition to Meredith’s clothing line experience, she earned her degree in marketing in December 2005. She interviewed for a job where she pitched an idea for a “I Heart Nola” t-shirt in Mardi Gras colors. The idea was to sell shirts for charity as a way to raise money for the victims of Hurricane Katrina. Needless to say, Meredith landed the job and worked for the company for three years. She says it was the best job she ever had leading up to owning her own business. This was the beginning of her SFT story before she ever knew it.
Meredith: Well, as I make my morning drive from Gonzales to Baton Rouge, I usually fuel up with coffee. Once I’m at my office, I’ll go through emails first, and from there, I print orders and package them before the end of the day. Being a very small team, there are a lot of things to do. I’ll go through our social media calendar to plan what photos need to be shot for the upcoming week’s posts. Each day, we have delegated tasks that need to be completed, such as create graphics for an upcoming newsletter, prep new vendors for our Lagniappe Boxes and online pop-up shop, or email customers we’re currently working with on the wholesale side. I also manage the website and so much more.
Meredith: Since the beginning, I’ve always loved LSU football. That was my original inspiration. Since then, I have worked with my creative consultant, and so much love of the designs comes from the love I have for all of Louisiana. I also have a love for my childhood. I grew up in a small town in North Louisiana. There I grew up on 200 + acres of land. My childhood was full of fantasy and southern fun. I spent all of my childhood outdoors playing with my brother and cousins. It really was the life. So, some of my southern-style t-shirts come from my past, while others are fictional. I love going back to those days, it was simple and so much fun. I don’t think I treasured it nearly as much as I do now. Miranda Lambert’s song “The House That Built Me” runs so deep within my soul because it’s very true with me.
Meredith: SFT has been around for six years. With any company, sometimes you just want to get to the top as quickly as possible. I wanted SFT to be in stores all over the South. I would attend a few different apparel markets throughout the year and showcase different collections that were more trendy and generic. Over the last few years, it all keeps coming right back to Louisiana. After the August Dallas Apparel Market, I decided to solely focus on my Louisiana-based customers for the time being. Hopefully, I pick back up where I left off. Being still a small business, I learned that I just can’t be where I’d like to be just yet.
Meredith: About three years ago, I wanted a shirt that showed hometown pride in a way that you could wear it and talk it about here in Baton Rouge or wherever you lived. I fell in love with Baton Rouge when I moved down here 18 years ago. Growing up in a very small town, the city was amazing. I loved everything about all the different areas of Baton Rouge. Once I debuted the shirt, so many people fell in love with the design, so I went ahead and started the trademark process. This past October 6, I was given the registry mark to where SFT owns the name, and we couldn’t be more proud! We have a lot of goals with this design in the future. We want “Sweet Baton Rouge” to be a household name when you think about Baton Rouge. We created the hashtag #sweetbatonrouge, and we want this way of networking to showcase everyone in Sweet Baton Rouge apparel wherever they may go.
Meredith: Wow, this design will forever be an iconic tee of SFT. Since the flood — because of our AMAZING customers — we have been able to donate almost $50,000 to the Greater Baton Rouge Food Bank in honor of the 2016 Cajun Navy. Our shirts have been recognized on a national level, which is so exciting for SFT. Just recently, the crew for Bar Rescue on Spike TV wore our Cajun Navy shirt for the re-grand opening of Big Mikes in Denham Springs. The show will air in March 2017. We’ll also have a contestant on Master Chef Junior wearing the Cajun Navy tee, which will air in October 2017. We really can’t wait to see our shirts on national TV! With that kind of exposure, we hope to continue to talk about the flood and just how affected we were in Louisiana.
Meredith: This holiday season we will be launching our Holiday Gift sets. We want to make these sets gift-ready for whomever you’re buying for. We’ll be offering three types of gift sets that can be customized for the person you’re purchasing it for. Most importantly, this set will be perfect for the one who loves their hometown and has Louisiana state pride. We’ll launch our December Lagniappe Box on November 7th, and these boxes will remain available until November 21st. We just recently launched our online Local Pop-Up, which it’s a community of small business that we’ve fallen in love with. We wanted to share their stories and products all in one place. You can follow their stories as we release them through our blog and social media.
Finally, what’s one piece of advice you can give for other local entrepreneurs or someone who might want to create their own businesses one day?
Meredith: Be persistent with your dream. Educate yourself about the business you want to follow and really learn who your customers are. Tell your story rather than sell your story. People want to fall in love with you and the brand by the picture you paint. It took me a few years to really learn that and understand it. Since then, I’ve been able to really know my customers as they learn about me. If you make mistakes, learn from them. When you start a business, you won’t know how to do it all. Find people who can help you with your weaknesses and grow from your strengths. I’m thankful for the small team that I have because they make me a better owner each day.
Shop my favorite SFT tees:
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