We get emails weekly from aspiring entrepreneurs who are curious as to how I got started, what steps I took, etc. I try to respond back to as many as I can, but lately there seems to be an influx of them and as much as we'd like, we can't respond to all of them. With Independence Day coming up, it always reminds me of the freedom we have as Americans to dream, and I thought it would be the perfect time to pen a blog that might answer some of those questions!
First of all, I admire those who have the courage to reach out. It's a scary thing to do, I know, because I've been there. You wonder how the person will respond or if you're overstepping boundaries. Obviously, there are going to be questions I can't answer and for good reason, but I try to help others out when I can.
Aside from prayer, many mistakes and a lot of faith, I'd have to say one of the biggest things that has gotten my company where it is today is networking. Building relationships with people is what has carried me through. There is no way I could have done it on my own. I knew nothing about the apparel industry when I set out on this ride and I am still learning something new every day many years later!,
I reached out directly to screen printing companies, shirt suppliers, show/event producers. I was literally clueless and had many questions. What I learned is that people are typically more than willing to answer questions and help if they can! I would advise that you be transparent about what you know and what you don't know and then learn all you can along the way. Many times I was tempted to let fear keep me from learning the trade and accomplishing my goals.
This all began when I was a college student at Charleston Southern University. I created a design that had all 46 counties in South Carolina along with facts and history about the state. I thought to myself, where is the BEST place to sell this shirt? Keep in mind this was pre-social media days. It hit me that some how, some way I had to get into the South Carolina State Fair as a vendor because this one shirt represented all 46 counties in our great state!
I called representatives from the State Fair and they said they weren't accepting anymore vendors at the time. Not one to be denied, I sent the person in charge a free S.C. design shirt and the backstory about the design. Two weeks later I received a letter stating my shirt was shown to the State Fair board, and they accepted me as a vendor. But, on top of this win, I also signed a contract to be the only person at the State Fair selling T-shirts that had the "South Carolina Palmetto Tree" on them.
This was a big deal for a 19 year old! I still hold that contract with the State Fair today, 16 years later. I said all of that to say this, I could have let that initial phone call keep me from chasing my dream. I could have said "Well it wasn't meant to be." Instead, I decided to give it one more shot. And I'm sure glad I did. A dream doesn't require advanced knowledge or a college degree, but it does require a lot of hard work, vulnerability and dedication.
Speaking of dreams, have you ever sat back and wondered how different our lives would be if we weren't allowed to dream? And I don't mean the dreams we have when we enter peaceful slumber.
I"m talking about the ones that keep us awake at night! The ones that drive us to learn more, do more and invest more, because we know in our hearts we have the right to turn them into something if we so wish! As Americans, all we know is freedom. We are taught from young age that we can do and be whatever we want to be, right? It's a blessing to know that we can actually pursue AND turn our dreams into a reality.
However, these dreams don't come free. We can dare to dream today because of the countless men and women who currently serve or have served in our military and most importantly the many who sacrificed their lives so we can continue to dream and be free.
So this year as we celebrate the July 4th holiday, I hope we all are reminded that we some times take the little things for granted, like "American dreaming." It isn't free. It's a gift. And it's up to us to chase our dreams and turn them into a reality.
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