2018 Minnesota Nice Project- Cancer Kids Fund

In 2017, Sota Clothing inaugurated the Minnesota Nice Project. This initiative is our way of serving those around us by doing what we do best: designing t-shirts. In 2017 we added new apparel, warehouse shopping events and a 180-mile bike ride to raise money for cancer research at the University of Minnesota Masonic Center. At the beginning, we weren’t sure what our contribution would be- but we were committed to our best. Because of the generous and compassionate community that stands behind Sota Clothing, we were able to generate over $15,000 to the researchers at the Masonic Center.

For our 2018 Minnesota Nice Project, our ambition of being a healing presence in the world of cancer remains. While touring Children’s Minnesota hospital in Minneapolis, we were reminded of the numerous trials that multiply for a family post diagnosis. The daily demands involved in a fight for life can leave a family’s emotional, physical, and financial resources nearing depletion. We learned that priorities that once lived at the top of a parents list may get left by the wayside as they come to terms with a new reality. 

In light of this, Children’s Minnesota established the Cancer Kids Fund as a means for meeting emotional, spiritual, and financial needs for both the patients and their family.

The Gillespies are just one family who were assisted by the Cancer Kids Fund when their seven-year-old son Teige was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL).

Through the fund, Teige’s family was able to experience some reprieve from the daily demands of life that do not get put on hold when cancer enters the story. Resources like parking passes, meal vouchers and assistance with two mortgage payments were made available to them through the Cancer Kids Fund.

In our 2018 Minnesota Nice Project, we want to invite the Sota Clothing community to join us as we rally for families shaken by cancer. By supporting Children's Minnesota Cancer Kids Fund, we can come alongside families whose hearts are tried and tired, and give them some reprieve so that they can focus on what is most important: championing their children through the fight of their lives.

 

 

Some ways to jump in on Sota's 2018 Minnesota Nice Project

  • 100% of proceeds from our MN Nice Project caps will be donated to the Cancer Kids Fund. Purchase your cap to rep over the spring and summer season (will be available in both adult and youth sizes). 

  • Lumber Jack 5K on February 24th- a portion of the proceeds will be donated to Cancer Kids Fund 
  • Summer Solstice Warehouse Shopping Event (keep watch for event details)
  • September Campaign- #ShineBrightforKids
  • The Sota Clothing team will be serving meals at the Ronald MacDonald homes over the spring season, sign up your own family or workplace to serve a meal at their Minneapolis or St. Paul locations. 

 

 

Children's Minnesota Cancer Kids Fund donation page:

www.childrensmn.org/cancerkidsfund

February 05, 2018 by Mckenzie Johnson

The Table and its Seasons

Spencer’s initial intention was to have a space he would work from, a place a bit more permanent than his pop-up offices at local coffee shops. He had recently left his job at Spacecrafting to give his full attention to freelance photography and graphic design work. Above the room he was renting was an empty attic, rectangular and narrow in shape. Spencer was making plans for it to be his first office.

He already had most of the equipment a young twenty-something needs to furnish an office: a computer and a printer. What he didn’t have was a table. With the attic being at the top of four stories of switchback, narrow stairs he decided he’d design a table to be built right in the attic itself.

Over Thanksgiving dinner he explained the layouts of his design to the most able and willing handyman we knew, our Uncle Dick. To no one’s surprise he volunteered to help Spence. He showed up at his front door the next day with our Uncle Joe, a fully-equipped toolbox, and a full head of ideas to make sure this table was built to last. A few weeks later, with the help of our cousins Ryan and Kelsey, and his roommate Roy, the table was standing and Spencer was ready to start playing office.

Cousin Ryan, Uncle Dick, Uncle Joe- fall 2014

It didn’t take long before his friends, who were also in the beginning stages of building their own businesses, got wind of the attic-office table. It quickly became a gathering place for them; like boys in a tree house. Except, this was a mature group of young men who found support and encouragement from one another as they laid the groundwork for their dreams.

Jackson Mann spoke about what the times around the table meant to him as he was in the  beginnings stages of founding his high-fidelity earplug company- Vibes.


"The table served as home base for a motley crew of creativity - bringing different perspectives, experiences and businesses to one place. In a weird way, it felt like the “Wild West” at the time. Everyone embarking upon their own independent adventure into the unknown, with the support of others to keep them pushing though the growing pains we all commonly shared. In some ways it was an incubator, in others it was a fraternity but mostly it was a support system for a group of soon to be friends who had all recently left the linear path of the 9-5 to pursue their passions.”


Ahmed El Shouragy, Co-Founder of the pet goods and apparel line Lucy and Co., was also a regular around the table. He recalled,

 “Every one of us was still in the very early stages of our individual endeavors. It feels like somehow those sessions were the spark we all needed. Friendships were formed and hearts were inspired. We all signed our name somewhere on the underside of the table as a way to immortalize those work sessions. I was so honored to be part of something like that.”  

 left to right: Andy Blaschko, David Chang, Roy Son, Jackson Mann- winter 2015

Naturally, as their businesses grew, the space required to run them did too. The gatherings around the table grew sparse as leases were signed for the budding businesses. The tables first season— as launching pad— had run its course.

The table would be disassembled and reassembled twice over the next year. Once down a flight of stairs into Roy Son’s photography studio (also a dining room), where it functioned as a prop for photoshoots and to hold gatherings of people sharing meals. The second move was in October of 2016, this time across city limits to Golden Valley, MN. It was then assembled into its third and current role as Sota Clothing’s first official conference table.

Golden Valley office- fall 2016

The gatherings held around the table look quite different from its early days of hosting entrepreneurs in hot pursuit of their dreams. Yet the energy upon its panels, emitted from ideas being explored and ambitions tended to remains. In any given week product is developed, collaborations are formed, interviews are conducted, conflicts resolved, and next steps are spoken at this four-paneled table. 

On Sota Clothing’s horizon is yet another move to find a building that will accommodate this past year’s growth while also providing extra space to grow into. As we explore our options we have plenty to keep in mind. Questions like: How can we re-work the warehouse? Whose office will be where? Which walls can come down and which ones cannot? This next move will give us more square footage to play with than we have ever had before. Yet, it is difficult to visualize how to best optimize the space. Perhaps we will defer to what has served us well in the past. We will let the table claim its space first, serving as our point of reference, enabling the rest of the space to follow suit. And as its next role is claimed we will all be anticipating the fruit that is yet to be born atop our cedar planked, four paneled table.

 

 

Early gatherers of the table:
Jackson Mann - Vibes - @discovervibes
Roy Son - Roy Son Photography - @roy.son
David Chang - Cafe Racer of Instagram & CROIG - @caferacerofinstagram + @croig 
Ahmed  El Shourbagy - Dogs of Instagram & Lucy & Co. - @dogsofinstagram + @lucy.co
Andrew Blaschko - Blaschko Builds - @blaschko.builds 
Chad Olsen - ByME - @getbyme 
Darrell Kramin - SipDark - @sipdark 
Ryan Martínez - @ryanisca 
Peter Janelle - The Liquor Cabinet - @orbeq 
Bryan Piatt - Kare 11 - @bryanpiatt

 

January 10, 2018 by Mckenzie Johnson

Marketing with Stuff

When Spencer was growing up, he simply loved stuff. He loved his bikes, rollerblades, electronics and even the portable TV he snagged from the front hall closet to stow near his bunkbed. He personalized all his things by putting his favorite branded stickers on them. Shortly after his sixteenth birthday, he convinced our Dad to let him buy his own car rather than sharing with our two oldest brothers. It was important that he drove a car that reflected him, even if it meant blowing all his cash from his short-lived, part-time job at Dairy Queen. 

Fast-forward twenty-some years and here he is with a company called Sota Clothing, were he gets to use his love of buying stuff as a tested and effective marketing technique. His first big purchase with company money was the 1972 Chickadee camper, now known as our Sota Caravan. Having purchased it in the spring of 2016, we were able to renovate it in time for the summer season. We hauled it around to pop-up shops all around the Twin Cities, with its biggest stop: a spot at the Minnesota State Fair.

When Spencer was initially dreaming up this mobile store ambitions of getting into the State Fair were already in mind. He knew the camper would help set us apart from the other numerous vendor applications. He drew up layouts to make it both unique and functional and hopefully something anyone would fall in love with. When these dreams became reality with the Sota Caravan, the business picked up new steam and it reinforced the way he wanted to do marketing. 

 

 Sota Caravan at Art-A-Whirl in NE Minneapolis

Then came the 1969 F100. Spencer was in northern Minnesota when he drove by a creamy-white pickup on the side of the road with a for sale sign on its window, he dreamt about how cool it would be if it became the company truck. A few moments later he found himself pulled-over on the side of the road searching for its listing on Craigslist; he made arrangements to purchase it the following day. Spencer branded the truck to look like Sota Clothing's very own forrest ranger vehicle. The F100 now serves as a significant player in Sota's various marketing efforts, including photoshoots in the Northland and also a staple for our display during the State Fair. It even brings people to our booth who really have no interest in our clothing but just want to know how much we'd be willing to sell the truck for!

 

F100 incorporated into our booth at the State Fair

Most recently Spencer's buddy sold him on the concept of a fully branded Sota Cafe Racer Motorcycle. Spence started with a 1974 Honda CL360 purchased off of Craigslist for $800, then his buddies at CROIG spent the next few months customizing it to fit our brand. We debuted the bike in a recent fall shoot up north, and were amazed to see those photos be amongst our most liked and shared to date- allowing us to gain exposure with new audiences that we wouldn't have reached otherwise.  In addition to the F100 and Sota Caravan, the Cafe Racer has proven to push Sota Clothing forward in ways that traditional advertising rarely achieves, giving Sota Clothing new ways to express its values and lifestyle.  

Little did Spence (or our parents) know growing up, that his love of stuff would have the potential to serve him so well in the job he would one day hold. Fortunately he has matured some in his buying choices since his teenage years, but his employees still joke that if they would let him, he would buy a TV for every room in the office.

 

November 09, 2017 by Mckenzie Johnson

Chainbreaker Ride

I can’t speak for the rest of the team, but the usual thoughts I have the night before a race I hadn’t adequately trained for were circling around my mind. It’s simple and basically goes like this, “If I could just sleep through my alarm, I won’t have to do it.”

We had been planning—not necessarily physically prepping—for this August bike ride since winter: Chainbreaker’s inaugural ride for cancer research. A cause that hits so close to our family and sota clothing as a whole. Right when we learned of the ride, we wanted to sign up for the distance that would raise the most money and decided on the two-day 180-mile ride. Riding this distance meant we were required to raise $14,000.

I think our hearts were in the right place, but surely our legs and lungs were not.

Most of us bought new bikes. Lauren printed out a training plan that was supposed to prep us for the ride, and we verbally committed to group training sessions throughout the summer. Spencer even initiated some bike to work incentives to add to our training regimen.

As August came and we knew we were only a few weeks out from the ride, we scurried to get in a few more long training rides. On the morning of the race, we met before sunrise to carpool to the start line in Eagan. From Eagan, we would pedal 100 miles to St. Olaf College in Northfield. From there, we planned to spend the night in the dorms, and wake up for another early morning to finish the second leg of the race- the 80 mile cycle to Exclesior.

Throughout the duration of the weekend, we would learn that the ride would be as rich as it was challenging. We discovered that each person pedaling alongside of us had their own unique experiences with cancer, yet shared the familiar ache it leaves in the heart once affected. We learned that sore butts ebb and flow, and that while “drafting” behind a bike is a thing, “drifting” is not. Upon crossing the finish line after two hours of pedaling through the cold rain, we all recognized that no amount of lactic acid build up, sweat in our eyes, or sunburn on our shoulders would compare to the challenges our heroes living with cancer face everyday.

Chainbreaker served as sota clothing’s first candidate for our Minnesota Nice Project. This campaign is a philosophy that urges everyone to take whatever it is that they do best, and do it in a way that brings restoration to the brokenness around them. Even if it just means finding ways to support those who have already dedicated their lives to being on the front lines of issues like disaster relief, fixing broken school systems, or cancer research. With that in mind we looked to what we do best— designing t-shirts— to create the Minnesota Nice Project Tee. Though only a t-shirt, it is our way of standing behind a local charity, generating funds to strengthen their momentum while also exploring ways to work beside them. We believe that as their support grows, their effectiveness and impact will, too.

 

Day two start line: St. Olaf College in Northfield, MN

 

 Sota Clothing Peloton approaching finish line in Excelsior, MN 

 

Cousin Ryan Langlois (left) researcher at U of M was the one who informed us of Chainbreaker's Ride & bike courier Robbie Polinske (right) joined our peloton along the way, braving the whole ride on his fat bike!

 

Our inspiration.

 

 

*Though Chainbreaker’s ride is over, the Minnesota Nice Project Tee will continue to generate funds for cancer research at the U of M Masonic Cancer Research Center for the remainder of 2017. See below for links to purchase the Minnesota Nice Project Tee, contribute to our goal of $14,000, or learn about how you can get get involved with Chainbreaker!

 

Photo credit: TBM Images
October 19, 2017 by Mckenzie Johnson

Meet the Team

Rebecca Rudduck

This is Rebecca, we call her Bex. Bex has acquired a wide variety of retail experience in both Australia and the U.S. Quick witted and hard-working, she is a welcomed presence in all areas of the office, using her diverse skill set to lift up the team as a whole.

"Everyday is different. I get to work on future planning projects and daily tasks, color/trends forecasting for upcoming seasons, participating in events, and packing orders in the warehouse." 

 

Melissa Miller

Melissa joined us in September of 2016 after spending the summer interning with us. She was wrapping up her final coursework for graduation when she learned about sota clothing's first internship opportunity. 

"My sister tagged me in the PR intern post on FB during my finals week, so I didn't study for my last final and put all my effort and time into making my resume look appealing so I could get an interview!!! I failed my final, but I got the internship!!"

After completing her internship she agreed to stay on as our Event Coordinator, taking the lead role in organizing kickball tournaments and 5K races, while also managing pop-up shops and most recently becoming a Personal Shopper for sota clothing customers. Melissa is an absolute delight, bringing laughter with her wherever she goes (even if it's unintentional). 

 

Lauren Johnson

When Lauren joined in October of 2015, she brought the skills necessary to keep the momentum going that was generated during the summer of 2015. Having worked in corporate retail for four major companies, she was well-equipped to help sota clothing develop the back-bone it needed to withstand the retail industry. Laying down sustainable systems for sourcing, tracking inventory, and managing the growing wholesale accounts.

“One of the first things I did was look at our current inventory situation, and realized that we were not keeping enough inventory on hand to keep up with orders, which is a great problem to have but also hard  when all we had to work with was the attic for warehouse space, and then carrying all the inventory up 4 flights of stairs.” 

  

McKenzie Johnson

This is me, Kenzie. Upon graduating from Winona State University I chose to immerse myself in several part-time jobs before locking into one job full-time, knowing each line of work contains lessons of it's own. I was working in geriatric home care while spending my evenings as a barista when Spencer asked me to help him with order fulfillment in his attic warehouse. I continued to balance the three part-time job thing for over a year before finally deciding to come on full-time as the lead for Customer Care and Shipping. 

 

Spencer Johnson

I have often thought of Spencer as an idea generator, often churning up his best ideas when something that ought to be demanding his full attention failed to grab his interest. Such was the case during his senior year at the University of Minnesota-Duluth, when he etched his initial designs for sota clothing during geology class. Little did he know where this design would take him, now seven years later overseeing a staff of seven and still seeing to its potential. He does a good job keeping his staff happy too, incorporating espresso machines and "gym class" into our workday.

 

Kyle Kunzmann

Kyle joined us this June to help in the warehouse. Detail-oriented, caring, and efficient, he's strengthening Sota's values of serving our customers with timely shipments and follow-up service. He's well on his way to being the quickest packer we've ever known, as well as being the closest thing we've ever had to a forklift! 

"I get to work in several different areas within Sota Clothing and it gives me new perspective about the opportunities and challenges that exist within small businesses. People are always willing to help out in different areas depending on what is most pressing."

 

Kristin Carlson

Kristin arrived right in the brink of time. As we've been growing and expanding sota has been needing assistance in merchandising and wholesale accounts. Having experience as an Executive Team Lead at Target and a Planning Analyst at Best Buy, we are excited for all Kristin continues to bring to the table.

"I'm excited to work for a small company, knowing I will get to wear multiple hats and help wherever is needed. Working with sweet people and an awesome brand that cares about helping people, at the same time giving suggestions and seeing them come to light." 

 

Gabe Pattison

Gabe is the most recent addition to sota clothing, but it hasn't taken long for him to leave his mark. He spent over seven years in the ad agency world before joining us, and his skill set and zeal for the northland manifests itself instinctively in his graphic design work. He is tending to the designs already established by sota clothing while also exploring new ways of expressing Minnesota's lifestyle and culture.

"I love thinking about design with a holistic view of how our customer will be interacting with the brand. Its more than just a shirt they buy online, it's all the little touch points in between [...] being able to design that overall experience is something I love."

 

Margaret Johnson (sota mom)

Meet our mom, although not actually an employee she joins us as at her leisure to assist in the warehouse while simultaneously acting as our consultant for all things decorating. Rare is the occasion that we embark on an office space project without first seeking her advice. Since she is not an employee, she says her favorite part of the job is it's flexibility. She enjoys making it a point that she decides when she comes and goes. 

September 27, 2017 by Mckenzie Johnson

Introducing... The Minnesota Nice Project

Most people don’t need to look very far to feel overwhelmed by the countless unmet needs around us. It’s easy to feel discouraged, wanting to help but also afraid that some problems may be too big to approach. We wonder where the ordinary person fits in with things like disaster relief, fixing broken school systems, or engaging in the fight against cancer.

One solution we’ve landed on at Sota Clothing is to do whatever it is that you do best, in a way that supports those already in the fight. This is the whole idea behind Sota Clothing’s Minnesota Nice Project. We want to hone in on what we do best, designing t-shirts, to support those already on the front-lines of such issues. To do this we will be debuting our Minnesota Nice Project Tee this June. Although only a t-shirt, we hope it serves as a reminder of a value so deeply embedded in our state: that you don’t need to know someone before caring for them, that all people are worth fighting for.  

Proceeds from the Minnesota Nice Project Tee will continually be going to various charities in our state. Its first stop being Chainbreaker, a two-wheeled grassroots movement chasing down cancer through cycling. Originating in Ohio, they will be bringing their race to MN this summer to raise funds for the Masonic Center at the University of Minnesota. Where there resides a group of researchers on the brink of cutting edge cancer research and treatments. Diligently doing what they do best in order to care for generations to come. 

 

*Click here to see what else we are doing to support Chainbreaker and how you can join us on the ride!   

May 10, 2017 by Mckenzie Johnson

Superior Goods

Roughly this time last year Superior Goods, a premium American-made line birthed from Sota Clothing, was breaking it’s way into the public. For most its introduction came through our kickstarter campaign, which was our way to fund the first product of the line: the North Star hoodie.

Having design elements inspired by Minnesota winters, this hoodie was purposed for much more then just special occasions. Whether it was down hill skiing or shoveling the driveway, we wanted the North Star Hoodie to be versatile in many conditions. Making it the go-to grab from the coat rack as you walked out the door.

Early January of 2016, the kickstarter video was released. On average only 10% of kickstarter campaigns are successful. We hadn’t the slightest idea how we would fair. Between fabric, working with our technical designer Jeanna Palkowitsch, and hiring sewers, the amount we needed to start breathing life into this project was set at $30,000. Kickstarter operates in an all-or-nothing fashion; if the goal was not reached in its entirety the donors would receive their full donation back, leaving us at square one.  

In just eight days our goal was reached, it was clear that there were plenty of like-minded people who also wanted to see this project come to fruition. Each donation came with some kind of reward. The average donation of $85, called the early bird special, was rewarded with a North Star Hoodie from the very first batch. The largest donation was set for $1,000. This amount was rewarded with a North Star Hoodie as well as a personal lifestyle photo shoot with Spencer. Only three donors fell into this category, one of which was our mother.

Our original plan for production was to contract the work out to the sewers at the women’s prison in Shakopee, MN. It wasn’t until the campaign was completed that the women’s prison realized how technical the hoodie would be, and advised us to seek production elsewhere. 

The funds were raised, the fabric had been ordered, but our sewers were yet to be found. Spencer received a couple contacts for local sewers from our hat guy, Roddy, and Lauren followed up on the leads. One of which got us in contact with Kathy and Houen Seng, both tailors out of Monticello, MN. 

In time, we learned that Kathy and Houen first learned to sew in elementary school in Cambodia. As teenagers Kathy and Hoeun were forced to flee Cambodia to a Thai refugee camp because of the war. After spending two years in the camp, Kathy and Hoeun married before heading to the U.S., where they eventually honed the skills they first learned in grade school and earned their living as tailors here in the states.

After Lauren explained the concept behind the North Star Hoodie and all that it involved, the Seng’s agreed to partner with us in its production. They worked closely with the patterns our designers made to establish each step involved in production. Seng built a 8x15’ table to start in on the various cuts that would need to be made. Each step of production provided challenges of its own. Extensive conversations between Spencer, Lauren, Jeanna, and Rebecca Radduck, one of our consultants, were had over aspects of a hoodie that the average consumer might take for granted; things like zipper sizes, the fit of the thumbhole along the wrist, and how to tweak the cuts for the hood so that one didn’t look like a knight heading into battle. The Seng’s produced several prototypes in each size before the final product was achieved, each time being analyzed for adjustments by our team. The early birds who so generously supported us back in February would receive their hoodie as their size was completed, between August to October of 2016.

Spencer and I went to the shop this winter to get more familiar with the production process. We saw the table Hoeun built to cut the fabric, the sewing machine he uses to topstitch, and the machine across from him Kathy uses to surge each piece of the garment together. Since the final version of the hoodie was established, the Seng’s have produced over 900 North Star Hoodies for this past winter season.

Having come from Sota clothing, Superior Goods has made it a point to design each garment with one of the four seasons in mind. We hope Superior Goods will inspire both the avid outdoorsmen and those reluctantly on the sidelines to take their next step into greater adventures. By providing them with clothes that they are proud to wear because of it’s production, style, and functionality.

Superior Goods has since expanded to include the Split Rock Henley, Two Harbors Puffer Vest, and a line of finely designed graphic tees by 10,000 Designs.

March 06, 2017 by Mckenzie Johnson

Why I Like Sota Clothing

My love for Minnesota goes so deep I think it flows through my blood. From the pine trees of the Iron Range’s Northwoods to the sprawling metropolis that lies in the confines of the 494/694 loop, I can’t get enough of our incredible state. Though there is one problem, I don’t quite love any of our sports teams enough to rep their gear. Don’t get me wrong, I love sitting in Target field and cheering on our Twins, but at best I’m a recreational fan. And when it comes to the Vikings, unfortunately I’ve been seduced by the dark side of football since childhood and the only team I’ll ever have true love for wears the dreaded Green and Gold. 

That being said, for years I had the dilemma of not knowing how to display the pride in where I’m from, without the struggle of defending the merits of whatever team I have on display. And let’s be real, our state is way more than just sports teams. Other states have to rely on their teams to have any sort of cultural identity, but from my experience we Minnesotans have a unity beyond a common team. Just the way we talk causes us to stand out! The amount of times I’ve been called out for being Minnesotan just for stressing the letter “O” or saying “hafta” instead of have to. And even though this caused me to be the butt of some jokes, it never gets to me because I just have too much pride in where I come from for it to ever be used against me. And I’ve seen that as a common attribute of Minnesotans; we have pride in where we’re from, and we’re not afraid to show it.

 

 

Which is where sota clothing comes in. Instead of having to represent only one particular team associated with our state, I get to show my love for the whole state. Minnesota love goes well beyond sports, but expands deep into the beautiful nature we are surrounded by. Having lived both in the Twin Cities Metro and the Northwoods I’ve seen firsthand much of what our state and fellow Minnesotans have to offer. And what we have is exceptionally diverse. Our Twin Cities is a hotbed of artistic and cultural energy. We are the O.G. Hipsters. The originality, and creativity of The Cities are exciting to be a part of. But up north the outdoors shape the culture. Everyone is excited by camouflage and fluorescent orange, and that’s a great thing too! So even with such a diverse populace, sota clothing appeals to it all. I am excited to rep my MN Paddles wherever I go. I’ve worn it out camping on the north shore of Lake Superior, fishing for walleye on Mille Lacs, and hammocking in the peaceful pines looking out over Big Sandy Lake. The design connects me to the nature that defines what being a northerner is about. But I’m also more than comfortable wearing it out on the town. Whether I’m just sipping coffee in one of the fine coffee shops of NE Minneapolis, enjoying a show at the Excel, and even screaming my lungs out cheering on our Twins I know I’m expressing what is best about our metro life: We support and care for our own. I have the joy to say that I know the owner of sota clothing, Spencer, and his family, and I know their love for our state, and for creating designs that connect with all of us. And I am proud to support him in his endeavors to continue to give us opportunity to express our deep love for the place we call home.

 

 

*To read more from the author visit his website at www.lukestocker.wordpress.com

February 03, 2017 by Luke Stocker

Let's See How This Goes...

I was walking up the steps to the attic on the 4th floor where Spencer was already on his laptop waiting for me. We had spent a solid two weeks working on the space. Painting the discolored wooden floors a sleek matte black, making desks out of white sawhorses and wood doors, and turning yellowish walls into crisp white ones. It was my first day on the job at Sota Clothing. As I made my way into the attic, where the office and inventory was housed, I was already laughing to myself. I was feeling a mixture of emotions. Overall I was not feeling so sure about adding a third job to my work schedule, or navigating the iffy territory of having my brother as my boss. When I turned the corner into the office space, I noticed we both had this nervous-awkward disposition. Neither of us knew if this was really a good idea.

 

Attic office - 2015

Since it’s beginning at the University of Minnesota-Duluth, Spencer had regularly taken leaps into the unknown with Sota. His latest leap: taking order fulfillment into his own hands, rather than contracting it out to a fulfillment center somewhere else. After dinner one night at our parents house he asked me if I could come by a few times per week to package orders and then deliver them to the post office downtown. Without thinking about it too much, I quickly agreed. Thinking even if it doesn’t work out, I’m sure I will at least learn something worthwhile through it.

Inventory Room Attic 2015

Attic inventory room - 2015

With the uneasiness in the air at the attic office space, Spencer and I decided we would give this at least the month of July. He made it clear that if I didn’t take the job seriously, he would surely hand it off to someone else, like his roommates girlfriend downstairs.

As July passed by and orders came in at a rate we were both pleasantly surprised with, Spencer started to think about other areas of the business he would need help with. Our sister, Lauren, recently moved back from Boulder, CO. Having an extensive experience in corporate retail, she had helped Spencer shortly after he started Sota with planning and analyzing sales, but in many ways it was just something she did as a favor.

Knowing Lauren wasn’t quite thriving in the job she currently held, we started scheming for how we could bring her on as well, knowing she had the kind of experience that would be invaluable to this new stage Sota was in. As September approached, Spencer was pleased with the packaging, shipping, and customer service work I had been doing. And I was enjoying it too! It was looking like this would turn into more than just a part-time job. Furthermore, we had sold enough Raglan Baseball Tee’s and MN Paddle Mesh Snapbacks that it looked like Sota could take it’s next leap: bringing on it’s first Merchandiser/Wholesale-Vendor-Inventory Manager (AKA our sister, Lauren).

 

Lauren taking inventory - 2015

I still remember the first morning when the three of us (actually four, our mom is regularly at Sota and ready to help wherever she’s needed) were in the office together. Lauren and I rolled onto Humboldt Street simultaneously and our mom pulled in shortly after… with muffins! Spencer was already waiting for us with a pot of coffee made, as his apartment is right underneath this attic office space. We all enjoyed our morning coffee together, verbalizing a rough game plan for what our workday was going to look like.

In so many ways it proves true, that the greater the challenge, the greater the reward. Many people are deterred away from getting involved in a start-up. Especially when the time commitment demands walking away from the day job, which provides the consistency of health benefits and a reliable salary.

Furthermore, many might suggest not adding to the challenge by going into this pursuit with family, a fair caution for sure. As I am writing about these beginnings over one year later, I can recall many instances in which we have certainly been tested. As decisions have been made it has been difficult to make the shift of approaching these situations through our job roles, rather then just three siblings bringing each of their own opinions and feelings to the matter, much like how it was at the dinner table growing up.

But, so far it’s working. And I think truthfully, we are all pleasantly surprised with what has happened and what has been built since Sota’s team of one turned to two, then three, and now four with the addition of our energetic Iowan farm gal who is an integral part of growing sota’s presence as our Event Coordinator.

It is my hope that this post gives insight into what, or rather who, is involved behind Sota Clothing: behind the instagram page, the product, and the brand. We also want to extend a sincere thank you to those who have given us their support over these past couple years. All of you have allowed sota clothing to grow and expand to what we have become, and who we are becoming.

December 21, 2016 by Mckenzie Johnson

We Moved

Hey folks. I know there has been a lot of silence on the blog, and we are hoping to break that… starting now. You can expect fairly regular posts from us a few times a month now. To kick things off we wanted to share our latest happenings with you.

We recently made the move from NE Minneapolis to a fairly sizable office park in Golden Valley, making it Sota Clothing’s third home in one year. As soon as the hustle of the State Fair had wrapped up we quickly switched our focus to searching for a new home, having had only one month left on our lease! With the continual stream of inventory growing larger, and the addition of our Superior Goods line we were growing cramped in our shared suite. 

After hunting and striking out on our own, Spencer contacted a realtor, Collin, to help us find our new space. We were hoping to stick with our friends in NE, where we were spoiled with plentiful coffee shops and breweries, enjoying the unique character of the Thorp building and being in close proximity to our new friends. After learning about what was available, we realized we had to choose between the “sexy” and “functional” spaces. Taking the more mature route, Collin led us down the path toward functionality to a warehouse/office complex that used to house a homebuilding company. It was about three times the square footage we had previously, with three offices, a conference room, kitchen, and a sizable warehouse. Amongst our first look, we weren’t so enthused as it was far from offering the charm of the industrious, old brick building we grew to adore with rustic hardwood floors, Diamond’s coffee shop below us, and Tattersall Distillery on the west end of the building. But, as we learned from our mom who scours decorating magazines instead of the newspaper in the morning, you can bring charm to anything. So knowing this new place would provide the room to grow that we needed, we signed some papers. 

And, nearly eight weeks and a dozen projects later, we are really liking it here. We miss our suite mate Lucy & Co. dearly, and Dan the accordion guy next door, but we know this move was a much-needed next step for us.

Take a look at the rooms we tackled first:

November 23, 2016 by Mckenzie Johnson