Can you tell us more about the inspiration behind starting Haywood Clothing Co. and how it has evolved since its inception?
When I first started the clothing brand, I actually began making clothing pieces from home. I began in 2020, at the height of the Pandemic, while sitting at home during lockdowns with my toddler. I was currently enrolled in nursing school, and really stressed out about the future and what was going on in the world. My husband told me to get a hobby because I was so focused on the negative, that I just needed to stop watching the News and find a better outlet. I began designing and making dresses. Over time, my hobby turned into a huge passion and a way to get my mind off of all of the negativity. When I felt stressed, I’d just sit down and start drawing up a new design. Eventually, I began doing pop-up events and festivals to sell my dresses, which really helped me get out of the house and around other people again. I even opened a storefront in Senoia, Georgia.
What sets your country-themed clothing designs apart from others in the market?
I think overall, the boutique and the clothing stand out on their own because there aren’t many country or farm-themed boutiques, especially for kids. My slogan was always “Boutique Clothing for the Country Raised Child.” The slogan and aesthetics truly represented my love of country life, and living on a farm raising my family. I also realized, that as long as there is a cow on it, people will indeed buy it! Haha We moved from the city of Atlanta to a tiny rural town, and I just fell in love with the country. People always see my work and ask if I’m from the country, and I always just laugh because I was born and raised in the city, but my heart was waiting for me out here. We live on a farm and raise livestock, and I love spending time with my kids outdoors learning to garden and homestead. You will find these themes all throughout my pieces and my marketing images.
How has being a mother of three influenced your designs and the overall direction of your business?
Everything I do and make, I have my three children in mind. While making items, I keep in mind, is it comfortable? Would my kids love this and personally wear this? Does it need pockets (My kids love to pick up trinkets while exploring outside, so of course we always need pockets!)? What can I do to make this fun while working with my kids? During the pandemic, I ended up leaving nursing school to stay home with my children, so everything I did revolved around them and their lives as well. The overall direction is eventually passing my business down to one of my kids, so I try as hard as possible to keep a good name and reputation so they inherit a truly great business one day.
Could you share some of the challenges you faced while transitioning from a hobby to a full-blown business, and how you overcame them?
Some of the challenges I faced involved time management. I think as a mom, I’ll always feel guilty no matter what my job is in life because it does take away my time from my family. I work at night or while they take naps so that I can give them more attention during their waking hours. Sometimes I definitely felt like I was being pulled in different directions wanting to grow and expand the business, but also wanting to focus more on the family. It leaves a sense of guilt when I spend too much time focusing on the computer, working events, and making dresses. That has been a major struggle as a mom business owner. I want to do more, but at the same time..do less. I hope that makes sense. I want the best of both worlds, but I am just one woman!
What strategies have you used to market and promote your clothing brand, both online and in your brick-and-mortar store?
I have help with marketing from brand reps, and I have had a fantastic team of mamas and their little ladies help me model. Personally, my kids absolutely loathe the camera. I think I have taken too many photos and asked for help modeling one too many times from my kids, so luckily, I have had help from the community, whether it be a local photographer or a mama wanting to help model. We sometimes trade services and barter which I have found helpful as well. I have been absolutely blessed with so much talent from the community to help bring my dreams to reality and to really spotlight designs and images. Like recently, I had a red Cars theme dress, and the mom just went above and beyond photographing the most perfect lighting and posing. I can’t take all of the credit in my business, because of moms like her and others, I have been able to grow and do what I do.
How do you ensure the quality and craftsmanship of your clothing items?
My dresses are all hand embroidered, each piece is handcrafted, and designed by me. There is a lot of time spent behind the scenes picking out every single piece from the lace to the embroidery patterns, to even the ribbons. There is not one detail in the pieces that has not been picked out. I always have a sample made, and I do give it to my girl to have her do what I call a “Test run” for me, which is her playing and spending time in the piece, and then me washing it, to ensure it can pass the test of a child’s wear.
Can you share any memorable customer stories or feedback that have made an impact on you and your business?
Having customers who have been beside me since day one is truly memorable. I have grown with families and customers, especially at our local Senoia Farmer’s Market where I set up a booth the past few years to sell my dresses. I have really gotten to make friends and be part of the community, and that strong connection especially during the Pandemic when everyone was social distancing is what made it so worth it for me. There were times I was dealing with postpartum depression, or just going through life events, and having those simple moments of seeing a familiar face and having a conversation and laughing just meant the world. My customers aren’t just “customers,” they’re friends, they’re family. It’s been a short 3 years, but it’s been so, so wonderful. I truly am so grateful for the sweet mamas and grandmas who have shopped with me. I couldn’t just name one person, because so many ladies come to mind when asked this question. All I can say is, I have been majorly blessed by them, and their impact, no matter how simple, has been something I will always be so grateful for in life.
What are your future goals and aspirations for Haywood Clothing Co.?
My future goal is to one day open a boutique where I can have just my designs in store. Right now, I have a boutique but I retail quite a few other brands as well. I think eventually, I would like my store to have its own custom appeal where I can make any piece of clothing, whether it be for a special event or just for fun. I’d love to have a special place where everything within that store was made by me. I would love to be able to have a super cute tea room as well. I think childhood is so important and we just grow up too fast, so I would love to have a place where kids can be kids. You can dress up, customize your dress, and have a tea party just because! No reason is needed, just dress up and have a treat. I hope this dream does become a reality. The recession and challenges from the market and inflation have made it a little difficult, but one day I know I will get there. I’m just waiting for the right time, and in the meantime, drawing up the plans.
How do you balance being a mother and running a successful business?
Any tips for other moms who are aspiring entrepreneurs? Finding balance is crucial, like I said above, I try to do work and pack orders during the times my kids are asleep. As a nursing mama, I have to sit a lot, which helps me focus on social media and catching up on Emails, haha! I try to set limits because at first, I took too much time away from my kids by focusing on work and stressing out. I realized time was going too fast, and that time with my kids I will never get back. I have learned a better balance, just working around their schedules. My tip would simply be to try and include family in as much as possible. Have fun doing it, and don’t spend so much time chasing the dollar that you forget what is truly valuable, because at the end of the day when I sat down and looked back at my pay at tax season, all I saw was the amount of time I spent. I have grown and learned from many hard lessons, so please do hear when I say, do chase your dreams and do what makes you happy, but don’t forget your babies. Money will come and go, there will be hard times and good times. But I don’t think you’ll ever look back and regret spending too much time with your family. I think the simple proverb, “If it’s meant to be, it will be” has really helped me. There were times I tried to force my business and wanted to grow so much and do more sales, but I just learned to sit back, relax, and if it happens, it happens, and stop stressing so much. Find that balance with work and family that fits you best, and create a healthy work environment.
Is there anything else you would like our readers to know about Haywood Clothing Co.?
I just love designing pieces, and if you ever do have a dress made by me, just know a lot of thought and love has gone into it. We live in a world of fast fashion, where pieces are made by the thousands, but my dresses are all made in very small batches, so there will only always be only a handful in the entire world. Thank you so much for taking the time to listen to me and supporting a small business.