On the eve of our two year anniversary here at One Portrait of Us, we’re doing something a little different; Instead of one person, per feature, we’re introducing a husband and wife team. They’re part of the same team for life and are business partners for the company Stately Type and they are awesome. I asked them to introduce themselves, so read on, and after – find them on Instagram! (p.s. I’m totally wearing my Stately Type Emoji tee as I type this, and it’s the comfiest, funniest, best tee shirt I own. No joke.)
Tell us a bit about Stately Type. (and yourselves)
Hi! We are David and Holly Lesué (pronounced Luh-SWAY). We are the husband-and-wife team behind Stately Type, which is an ecommerce apparel company that we started from scratch a back in January of 2014. As a graphic designer (Dave) and quilter (Holly) with no formal business training, we started our brand with no capital, no business plan, and no clue about running a small company. Since then, we’ve amassed an extremely engaged, fast-growing community of Stately Type fans/collaborators on Instagram; created over 170 city, US state, and country-themed t-shirt designs; and shipped thousands of Stately Type tees to people all over the world. We’ve seen photos of customers wearing ST gear in over 20 countries on six continents!
Dave is a graphic designer / creative director that has worked in the design industry for the past 15 years. He’s currently employed full-time as the creative director at Workfront. He designs Stately Type tees on the side (almost) every night. Holly is a stay-at-home mother and avid quilter. By day, she raises four girls (ages 4-11) while managing the Stately Type warehouse (a converted bedroom full of t-shirts)—finishing, packing, and shipping hundreds of tees each month. By night, she’s a prolific quilter (15 quilts completed so far this year), sewist (creating clothes for her girls) and Stately Type art director (collaborating with Dave on new designs).
Do you feel being brave is a necessity in life? How has being brave gotten you to where you are now? (in life, in Stately Type…)
Yes! Being brave is so crucial in life and especially so in business. We had wished and wanted to start a side business for years, but we couldn’t ever commit. We jumped from one idea to another for years, never launching, always “planning.” After a while, we realized that we weren’t really planning, we were procrastinating—out of fear. We were terrified to launch a business. What if people hated it? What if we lost money? What is if it failed? Putting yourself out there like that is scary. It wasn’t until we decided to be brave—to launch and accept the consequences, be they failure or success—that we were able to commit to this business and get it out of our heads and into the world.
From what I’ve gathered, Stately Type is more than a company, it’s a community. Would you agree? Did you imagine it this way?
Absolutely! We have a great tribe of Stately Type fans/followers—especially on Instagram. We certainly didn’t plan on that when we started. It’s sort of been a happy accident for us. We think the reason why our followers are so engaged is because of the way we interact with them. Unlike a lot of brands, we pull more than we push. We ask them for design ideas and feedback. We ask them to vote to decide what city, state, or country we are going to design tees for next. We ask them to vote to decide which design should be produced and sold. Ultimately, we think of our tribe as collaborators, not consumers. That makes all the difference.
What would you say to a group of entrepreneurs who were seeking advice on starting their own company?
Stop planning. Just start. You don’t know what’s going to work yet—until real people start seeing/reacting/embracing/rejecting your offering, your plans are just guesses. Get a product in front of people today and start learning.
What has been your grandest adventure so far?
The business is fun, but our grandest adventure has been our marriage and our kids. Being able to participate in the growth of this little family has been so awesome for both of us. It’s thrilling and challenging and joyous and heartbreaking to live and grow alongside each other. It’s FUN! Family is it for us—it’s why we do all this other stuff on the side. We’re trying to get free of the day job—the 9-to-5 world—so that we can just spend all day together.
Do you believe one person is capable of changing the world?
Absolutely! Individuals change the world every day. We believe strongly that if you’ve got some art in you, you should make it. If you’ve got a story to share, you should share it. If you’ve got a business to build, you should build it. You never know what effect you could have on the world. People get so afraid of failing. We’re terrified of looking stupid. Of trying and coming up short. …that we quit. We quit before we begin. We forget that, anytime we set out to do something new—something interesting and difficult, something we’ve never tried before—we are babies learning how to walk. OF COURSE we’ll fail. OF COURSE we’ll look stupid. OF COURSE we’ll come up short. That’s learning. That’s growing. Babies fail and fail and fail and fail until they succeed. They feel no shame. They aren’t embarrassed. Because they still remember what we have forgotten. Learning isn’t shameful. Growing isn’t embarrassing. Say what you’ve got to say! Make your mark! Anyone can change the world. Seriously. Even us! Even you!
What do you believe has made your company the most successful?
The collaborative relationship we have with our followers that we mentioned earlier has certainly contributed to our success. Another big contributor is our attitude about success itself. We believe that everything we do is an experiment. We’re just pinging our market and learning what works and what doesn’t. Somethings work and some don’t and that’s ok—as long as you keep learning and improving. When you have that attitude, there’s no such thing as failure. Everything is a success because everything is a step toward your ultimate goal.
How does one find a happy balance in family life and a home-based career?
Prioritize. Say no to almost everything. You have very little time, so you’ve got to be very careful about how it is spent. There are a hundred thousand voices, needs, activities, tasks, distractions, and diversions out there and they’re all fighting to steal away your time. You can’t let them. Decide what’s important for you and say no to everything else.
What is next for Stately Type?
Growth! We currently have 15 thousand followers on Instagram. Our goal is to get to 25 thousand by the end of the year.