Emily Roggenburk was recently voted (by the people) the Best Local Fashion Designer in the Cleveland area! She once had a corporate gig with aspirations of doing something amazing with her own two hands. She’s now the founder + chief designer of Emily Roggenburk Studios that creates apparel celebrating hometown pride and camaraderie. Her online shop and storefront also features her photography and one-of-a kind upcycled apparel. Without further ado, here’s Emily’s story about starting her business and the challenges and successes that come with it.
Hi! I’m Emily and I’m a Clevelander by way of Indiana. I grew up in Indianapolis, studied Apparel Merchandising at Indiana University, and moved to Cleveland for work after graduating college. I fell in love with Cleveland’s camaraderie and have been here ever since!
How did you get the idea for your business?
My business started when I decided to rent a helicopter on the day of the 2016 Cleveland Cavaliers Championship Parade. I had been a fan of other aerial photography and thought that would be the perfect day to capture the city from above. Since then, we’ve expanded our product line to include apparel and other artwork + accessories, and continue to grow and evolve.
How would you describe Emily Roggenburk Studios?
Emily Roggenburk Studios is a modern art + apparel company founded with the mission to unite others through camaraderie and shared passions. I aim to celebrate who you are, where you’re from, and what you aspire to be through my unique product line of artwork + apparel.
Were there any challenges you faced when getting your brick and mortar started? If so, how did you overcome them?
Absolutely! There are always challenges in entrepreneurship. I would say the biggest challenge we’ve faced so far with the shop is managing inventory levels. Our core online business is primarily print on demand, which allows us to keep costs down and eliminate waste. Having a brick and mortar store means doing the opposite of that, which can be challenging and costly to supply a large amount of inventory up front.
Walk us through a typical day in the life of a business owner.
Of course it’s cliche to say, but every day truly is different. However, most days I spend in my warehouse (separate from my shop; where our production happens), printing t-shirts and fulfilling orders. I usually have time to grab coffee in the morning with my husband and am able to leave in time to make it to the post office and grab dinner in the evenings. While I’m in the warehouse, though, all of my time and energy is there, doing as much as I can during that time. Because of this, I often leave emails and social media management for the evenings, and will work on those things while watching tv or late night in bed. Really, that’s about it – probably not all that glamorous!
What was your biggest ‘A-ha’ moment?
I can’t pinpoint an exact time, but I do remember realizing early on in entrepreneurship that there really is no substitute for hard work. When I was in my corporate career, I guess I believed that different skill sets amounted to various role placements and promotions, and while I’m sure that’s true to an extent, when you are the only one (or one of the only ones) running every single aspect of a business, you really just have to work really really hard. That’s the only way to make it work. There is no elevator. No magic formula. It’s just a lot of hard work.
What are your favorite tools that you use for your business?
Social media is probably the greatest tool small business owners have right now. It is truly unbelievable that we have access to so many people, so many analytics and data, and that all of it is FREE (unless you want to pay to promote your business, which can work as well). Investing time and energy in my social media platforms is one of the greatest decisions I’ve made as a business owner.
What sets your store apart?
It always feels a little braggy to talk about yourself or your business in this way, but I do think it’s the sense of community and inclusivity that I aim to create among my customers, followers, and friends. I truly believe in a world where we can all get along and build each other up, and I try to make sure that comes through in everything I do, from my products to my social media posts.
What are some of your top-selling items?
Anything Cleveland related and the Sisterhood band-style t-shirts!
What goal(s) are you working toward?
A huge goal for 2019 was to open our brick and mortar location, which I am happy to say we did in January! A couple of my other big goals for the year are to expand into other midwest markets and to set my business up so that it can eventually run without me being so involved in every little detail.
What’s one piece of advice you’d give someone who’s looking to start their own business?
Just jump in! Just do it. Take one step toward it. There is no right time, no formula, etc. If you have an idea you believe in, take the first step. If you don’t know what the first step is, Google it. 😉
What do you do for fun in your down time?
Honestly, because of the fact that I’m so go go go all the time, I keep it pretty simple in my downtime. I like to exercise, take my dog for walks around our neighborhood, and spend time with my husband and stepson. My perfect night would be pizza + ice cream on a hot summer night with my little family.
(Photos by Diana Galay)
Are you a brick and mortar who wants to be featured in our Independent Business Spotlight? Send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org – we’re looking forward to meeting you!
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