In a sense, Sota Clothing is only seven years old. But its story is woven together over three decades, when our parents rescued a farmhouse from the wrecking ball and decided to root our family there.
Although the decision to purchase the deteriorating farmhouse was made by both of our parents, the vision for what it could be was admittedly all our mom. She saw past the rotted wood and a failing roof, and to a place where her six kids would find adventure, growth and rest. Likely, her most convincing case for getting our dad on board was the notion that the farmhouse would teach us kids how to work.
Saturday morning cartoons were not much of a thing for us growing up. Our Saturday mornings were reserved for whatever yard work the season demanded. If a friend was still on the couch from the previous nights sleepover, they were enlisted too. Fortunately, there were too many kids for our parents to keep a close eye on us the entire time.
We learned to make games and competitions out of most of the chores. We received five bucks for whoever gathered the biggest pile of sticks and dared each other to jump from the garage roof into leaf piles after a days worth of raking. Of course, the chores would have been completed quicker if we weren’t intermittently sneaking back into the house for snack breaks, or to just plain out hide in the bathroom for ten minutes at a time. Certainly, a work ethic was being developed, but it had a style that was unique to us.
It’s a work ethic that to this day, I can see in the undertones of Sota Clothing’s beginnings and culture today.
Like our mom with the farmhouse, Spencer was not afraid of dreaming bigger than his existing skillset. Upon graduating from the University of Minnesota- Duluth, Spencer moved home to continue tending to the designs he first sketched in the classroom. Gradually, rooms throughout the farmhouse began taking on new functions. The screen porch was used for screen printing, the basement resembled a photo studio, and our garage was housing bins of t-shirts and pop-up tents, rather than cars and lawn mowers. The farmhouse seemed to indiscriminately give to Sota Clothing what it gave to us kids growing up: a place to grow and expand as its first few chapters were being written.
Sota Caravan undergoing construction outside of the garage - Summer 2016
When it was time for Spencer to start gathering a team around him to see to Sota’s growth, it was natural for him to reach out to the first co-workers he ever knew- his siblings. We carved out our own areas of responsibility to oversee, just like we did with yard work growing up. Each person taking charge of an area that catered to their gifts.
Fortunately our stamina has grown since we were kids, as our livelihood now depends on it. We no longer catch each other hiding in the bathroom or taking excessive snack breaks, but we still hold to the importance of play and camaraderie throughout the day. Snack breaks have strategically turned into coffee breaks as we gather around the espresso machine to talk about the days work. Our lunch table intentionally converts into a ping pong table for spurts of energy when our creativity and endurance is running low.
And similarly to the lingering friends who were coaxed into working alongside us at the farmhouse on Saturday mornings, we have been fortunate to yet again turn friends into co-workers at Sota Clothing. They have brought with them skills and resources that have been invaluable to our growth as a company.
Our parents couldn’t have ever known the extent to which the farmhouse would teach us how to work, and furthermore, teach us how to work together. Neither could they have predicted the dreams it would launch. Surely, the farmhouse was faithful in being to our family all that our parents hoped it would be. And now, for the first time in over thirty years, a for-sale sign is perched upon the property’s limits. Signaling its readiness to see to the growth of another family, to weave together a new legacy. The kind of legacy that will be perfectly unique to them, yet totally unforeseen.
Johnson family farmhouse- Winter 2018
*If you're interested in learning more about the farmhouse's listing, click here.