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Who are you and what business did you start?
Hi, I’m Joeleen the owner Joeleen Torvick, a women’s wear company that designs ethical and sustainable clothing for conscientious women wanting clothing that is modern and refined and works for many aspects of a busy life.
The modern woman today is aware of her impact on the choices she makes. She is busy and wants pieces that can be worn from work to night, and transition to pieces that can be worn over the weekend, all while being beautifully produced in an ethical and sustainable way. All pieces are made from natural or deadstock materials, deadstock meaning the fabric is no longer being produced and is being sold to avoid ending up in a landfill.
What’s your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
When I was little, my grandmother taught me how to sew. That sparked a creativity in me that had lasting impressions. From there I went on to making my own prom dress. I decided I wanted to go into the bridal industry, but after attending University of Wisconsin-Stout I changed my focus into women’s ready to wear.
During my education, I interned with a small design house, David Rodriguez, then I studied abroad in London at the London College of Fashion. After school I moved to New York, and then eventually came back to start my company of my home state, Minnesota.
My parents are small business owners and from them I developed the desire to run my own small business. In 2010, I decided to come up with a women’s wear company that was modern and refined. At that time, it was hard to find independent clothing that has a unique sense of style other than your large retail chains. My clothing has always been ethically made, but as time has gone on, it has made sense to use sustainable materials.
Describe the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing the product.
All the designing, prototyping, and manufacturing has been done in house. Each season the collection is designed around a culmination of fabrics and concept. Sometimes the fabric takes the collection in a complete direction and the story unfolds through textures and colors, other times pieces are designed and fabrics are picked to fit a concept that seems to make sense for the target market.
Once designs are solidified, pattern work begins. Prototypes are created, fittings happen, and adjustments are made. The patterns get graded into different sizes and production begins. As I’m growing, I’m now moving into my products being made by sewing contractors within Minnesota. This still ensures products are ethically made in the US.
Describe the process of launching the online store/business.
I tapped into some friends to create a website for my business. As time went on, I created my own to have easier access to changing my layout and products. I have an online presence, however, most of my sales come from brick and mortar and participating in events. My product falls into the contemporary market and price point, making most people want to try on the clothing. They are looking for an experience.
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
New collections are create twice a year. When those collections come out, my clients are excited to see what is new and their ready to update their wardrobe. My company retains customers through cut, quality, and fit. They understand the importance of shopping small, locally, and with independent designers.
My business is more personal. I have come to know many of the people that wear my clothing, so not only are they investing in my product, but they are investing in me personally. They know the person behind the brand and they have chosen to continue to invest in my company because what I’m creating and what my company stands for is working for their lifestyle. The women I dress know they are walking away with a unique and special piece.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
Right now Joeleen Torvick is going through a growing stage. Up until now, most of my business has been personal. I have acquired representatives to grow the wholesale side of my company. The future is looking bright. By using sewing contractors, I’ll be able to increase production, and keep up with the demand and the opportunity to grow both on the retail and wholesale sides of my business.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
Throughout my years in business, I have learned to rely on the people around me. I can’t do it all. It is also very important to have a large network. I’m not necessarily talking about a network such as LinkedIn, although that doesn’t hurt, but an actual network of people that you can visibly talk to. Also, never trash talk people in your industry (or people in general) because as large as you may think your industry is, it is smaller than you think. I’ve always maintained good relationships with people, and that has continued to serve me well today.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
As for almost every business, social media has been a great tool to grow an audience and following. You can find Joeleen Torvick on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. I also participate in various events throughout the year so it is always great to be in front of people.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?
Being an entrepreneur is not for the faint of heart. It’s ok to fail as long as you consider it a teaching lesson. You need to have tenacity and determination. If you take a look at what it is you want to do, ask yourself, “can you see yourself doing anything else with your life?”. If the answer is “yes”, maybe you should reconsider what you are trying to accomplish. If your answer is, “no, this is what I’m meant to do”, go give it hell.
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
Where can we go to learn more about you?
You can learn more about me through my website: www.joeleentorvick.com