Today we’d like to introduce you to Tonya Reid.
Hi Tonya, can you start by introducing yourself? We’d love to learn more about how you got to where you are today?
I grew up in Sewickley, PA, a small suburb outside of Pittsburgh. I was an only child with divorced parents & was raised by my mother. She was an avid reader & also loved to jot down quotes which resonated with her. These are some things that I picked up from her that helped draw me to my brand.
In 2002, I moved to LA for a change of pace & to get away from harsh winter weather. For years, I struggled to figure out what my life purpose was. My life just felt like a series of one issue after another. I was plagued with constant money problems to relationships not working out, and everything in between. I came across as a perfectionist who just had my whole life together, but privately I was a master at getting in my own way. I was deeply ashamed of the fact that I wasn’t where I thought I should be in life.
In spite of life feeling like a mess, I was comforted by wisdom & knowledge. I was prone to immersing myself in multiple books at once, listening to motivational speeches, sermons or podcasts, reading quotes, you name it. I was a sponge soaking up as much as I possibly could. One day while thinking about my potential purpose, the idea came to me. Wisdom. Celebrating wisdom. I’m a wisdom junkie. I knew that I couldn’t possibly be the only one. Other people struggle too. Others also search for answers and want to get out of their own way. I then fell in love with the idea of creating a t-shirt brand based on this concept, and Wisdom Junkie seemed like the perfect name.
In 2018, I had to move back to my hometown to take care of my mother, who had breast cancer and unexpectedly became an amputee due to blood clots. As an only child I had to take on all of the decision-making & caregiving responsibilities alone. While there, I worked only part-time & researched ways to start a t-shirt business affordably. I came across a course that taught people how to start for $100 or less, and I was sold. I found some free resources & utilized inexpensive freelancers to get the ball rolling.
After close to a year back home, I moved my mom out here to LA, where I continued my caretaking duties and the building of my brand. I decided to launch on 7/7/19 at 7p (that’s the time the website officially went live). My mom passed away in July of 2020, and my brand is dedicated to her.
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?
It has not been a smooth road, but I truly do feel like resilience is my middle name. I wouldn’t even have a brand had it not been for adversity in my life. Wisdom often comes from pain. I built this brand during one of the darkest periods of my entire life. Caretaking is not for the faint of heart. Even since I’ve been in business, there have been times where I felt like I was struggling to climb up the side of a mountain. There are times where I feel like nothing I did worked, including ‘winning strategies’ that worked well for other people. I’ve faced many growing pains and I’ve had to adjust my mindset. But I kept going. I told myself from the start that no matter what, quitting was not an option. I refused to give myself an out. I would make it work, come hell or high water, and incorporate as much wisdom, blood, sweat & tears as it took to do so. I still consider myself a work in progress & I’m so thankful & humbled by the love & support my brand has received!
Alright, so let’s switch gears a bit and talk business. What should we know?
Wisdom Junkie is a t-shirt brand for men & women that is geared toward helping people find & celebrate the wisdom in their mistakes, setbacks & life experiences. It includes brand elements that are bold, thought-provoking & humorous. I sell statement tees & other items with messages that feel near & dear to my heart such as “Not Gonna Settle”, “Everyone is a hot mess sometimes” and “Resilience is my middle name”. One of my best sellers reads “Self Validater”. That message stems from me finally valuing myself after years of playing small, caring too much about what other people think and dreaming big but being too afraid to take any action. Wisdom Junkie provides a style of self-expression that allows people to be true to themselves & know they are enough no matter what circumstances they have faced.
As a black woman, it was important for me to be the face of my brand, even though I’ll admit it took some getting out of my comfort zone to do so. How could I encourage others to step into their power & own their brilliance (these are more of my brand’s messages) if I couldn’t do it myself?
This t-shirt biz journey has been a fascinating one! I’ve worked & collaborated with amazing people worldwide, learned new ways of approaching my business and have expanded my horizons further than I ever thought possible. Throughout this process, I’m still, and will always be, a wisdom junkie absorbing & growing as much as I can.
Have you learned any interesting or important lessons due to the Covid-19 Crisis?
Luckily my t-shirt business is online, so I thankfully didn’t have any huge transitions to undertake there. Most people that I do business with were worked with online prior to the pandemic anyway, as I work with people from all over. The biggest struggle I faced was my mother’s health declining & her passing during the pandemic. We were separated with very little personal contact due to her hospitalization during that decline, but I got to spend her last day by her side. The most important lesson I learned is that letting loved ones know that you love & care for them is extremely important. From a more general standpoint, people want to be seen & heard, and want to know that they matter. That’s something that I incorporate in my brand as well as in my personal life.
- Website: wisdomjunkie.co
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/_wisdomjunkie_
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/wisdomjunkie
- YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCxBfaK7Bph5wMbmyDWZ9-Fg