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Inspiring Conversations with Amy Graham of Southcott Threads

Today we’d like to introduce you to Amy Graham.

Hi Amy, thanks for joining us today. We’d love for you to start by introducing yourself.
I started the business in Feb. 2015 after 22 years of my career with The Coca-Cola Company in sales and marketing. My dad is an entrepreneur and always encouraged my sister and me to be self-employed. I had no background in the apparel business, but one common theme with startups was people finding a “gap” in their own lives and creating a business to address it. While considering my own life and unmet needs, one thing that entered my mind was the inability to find a great t-shirt. When I get dressed every day, I want to look polished casual–a step above lulu lemon, even if I don’t have anywhere specific to go.

With ALL the t-shirt brands out there, why wasn’t I able to find the perfect tee? I started conducting my own research within my target market (women like me!). I quickly learned that other women felt the same way I did. I reached out to everyone I knew who had owned a business, worked in the apparel industry in any facet to learn. I went to multiple textile shows and interviewed women about their t-shirt buying habits and preferences. I hired a marketing company to help me design a logo and establish our brand position. Through networking, I hired a pattern maker and found a production company in LA to manage/oversee our manufacturing. We produced eight styles initially, and we launched the brand in September 2015 at a launch event hosted by one of my best friends in Dallas. We had an amazing turnout and we were off and running!

In October, I met with a friend who owned a showroom at Dallas Apparel Market. She loved our product and invited me to come to October market to show the line. We opened 16 wholesale accounts at that show and that was the start of our wholesale business. I learned as I went. I’ve made some mistakes along the way, but that’s the best way to learn. We grew quickly in the first years because we had a unique niche in the market: a great white t-shirt made of luxury bamboo cotton that you can’t see through–all made in America. Buyers loved it and they knew they could sell it. We expanded beyond tees to include t-shirt dresses and later, we added bottoms and outerwear. We sell online as well–but wholesale is our primary focus and still represents 85% of our business. We sell out products in the best women’s boutiques across the country. As we expand, our mission continues to be the same as when we started: Helping women 40+ look and feel their everyday BEST.

Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way. Looking back would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
The biggest struggle has been and will always be inventory management. When I got started my dad said to me, “If you’re gonna sell t-shirts, you gotta have t-shirts”. He was backing me, so I produced a LOT of t-shirts, confident that I could sell them. My husband was saying, “Might be good to actually sell out”. They were both right, but unfortunately, it’s impossible to predict what people will want and get the timing right.

As you know, we’re big fans of Southcott Threads, LLC. For our readers who might not be as familiar what can you tell them about the brand?
We started as a t-shirt company in 2015. While we have expanded well beyond t-shirts, this is still the core of who we are and what put us on the map. Our product is unique for a few reasons:

1. Our signature fabric is a bamboo cotton blend that is lightweight but not transparent (so you don’t have to wear a cami underneath it–even white!)
2. Our styling is varied specifically to appeal to different women’s body shapes (e.g., necklines, sleeve lengths, overall design) and
3. It’s all made in Los Angeles.
4. Our products are all machine washable and they don’t get holes in them when they are washed.

How do you define success?
My dad asks me all the time if I feel successful. Success can be defined in so many ways — happiness, financial reward, and personal validation. For me, it’s a combination of all these things.

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