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.
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.