Lloyd and Maccie Varnado of Tees2UrDoor — as an entrepreneur, you must have instinct and ability to self-learn.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Lloyd and Maccie Varnado.
Lloyd and Maccie of Tees2UrDoor sells T-shirts with on-trend designs, high-end embellishments and fun graphics at an affordable price. The company cuts out the middle-man and buys directly from the mill, offering customers better prices for trendy, fashionable and quality T-shirts. They specialize in a variety of designs for every type of T-shirt wearer, with customizations available too. Tees2UrDoor doesn’t just sell T-shirts, they also offer other clothes, footwear and accessories. Based in Nederland, Texas, the company is family owned and operated and has full design, printing and distribution teams.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
We are a family originated printing business. Ironically enough, I have an art degree and had no idea what sector of the “art world” I would land in. My husband worked in an environmental role, but knew he possessed many more skills, which his current role was holding him back on. When we met, he was in the beginning stages of the screen printing business, aside from his full-time job with DuPont. I found this remarkably interesting!! I did not have any formal training in digital art programs, such as, Corel Draw, Adobe Illustrator or Adobe Photoshop. My interest in this process, coupled with his struggle with artwork, sparked me to dive into these programs. With my background in art, and his in chemistry, it was a perfect fit for us.
Can you tell us a bit about your family business and your role in it?
Our family business started locally in a very small portable building. It evolved with the acquisition of a small shop in Nederland, TX in 2002. Laughing, I will never forget, I was 7 months pregnant and my husband came home and said, “I found a small shop for sale. A husband started it for his wife who wanted to get out of the house. Now he’s trying to run it and he wants out. I bought it, and I’m resigning from DuPont!” My thoughts went crazy at 7 months pregnant. No insurance and self-employed… sounded like a disaster. With many ups and downs, and attempts with different product categories, here I am today, the President of Imprint Studios, LLC dba Tees2urdoor. In the beginning years, I designed and created the artwork, helped print it on garments, invoiced it and did all the photography for it. Since then, my role has shifted to manage the development and implementation of all the creative efforts. Once an artist, always an artist, so I still create pieces of artwork for the website today.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began this career?
Through these almost 20 years, there are so many stories I could tell. Probably the most interesting and important, is how we decided to build our first website and enter the ecommerce arena. Our children were young and beginning Christmas Break from school, so we decided we would take a two-week vacation to Colorado. We are extremely frugal. A two-week trip skiing would be expensive, so in true fashion, we hooked on to our 5th wheel and pulled it to Breckenridge, Colorado. We reserved a trailer spot at Tiger Run for $50/night…. Score!! Once we were underway on this 24–26 hour drive with two small kids and a stressed husband, thinking about pulling this trailer in the ice and snow, he looks over and says, “We’re going online”. Online is the future of the world. We need a website and I need you to build it”. I had absolutely no clue how to build a website! I am an artist. A little research along with a couple of phone calls and we locked down the domain. I began teaching myself Wordpress and from Texas to Colorado, Tees2urdoor was born and the site went live!!
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
With our business model of controlling all or most components of the manufacturing process internally, with the most technological equipment, we stand out with the quality, price and the “wow” of our product. This model enables production to be changed immediately on a dime to meet what I would call the “trend demands”. This model also allows us to offer lower prices with us being the manufacturer and the vertical retailer.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now?
We are pushing to brand Tees2urdoor. We are hoping this push will open a different customer set which would allow us to expand in different apparel categories. Along with this we are considering another website under a different name and cart. This will allow us to test different technologies at the cart level as well as method or campaign types for advertising. Although this is in the preliminary stages, it looks promising.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
As an entrepreneur, you must have instinct and ability to self-learn. Lloyd and I are both very resourceful. Where one has weakness, the other has a strength. Even though much of our success came from trial and error, if I had to put a name down for a resource, I would say Evan Johnson. We hired Evan to do artwork, and print based on his resume. We quickly realized his excitement for IT work such as programming, computer repair etc. Evan glowed when we discussed the website and was soon incredibly involved with the upgrading and functionality. Today Evan is our IT Manager and is our management layer for the artist and all 3rd party apps or integrations. It is so enjoyable to watch our staff mature and assume roles that are so critical to our success.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
We Give Back! We donate back to local underprivileged students and other organized school groups through sponsorships of fundraising campaigns. We have also ordered disposable mask and donated to families and the hospitals when they were running low. Our largest giveback through the website has been creating a shirt for the front line workers. Regardless of the line of work, people recommended or nominated businesses on our social media channels, and we donated shirts to them. We’ve donated approximately 15,000 shirts.
Ok thank you for that. Let’s now pivot to the main parts of our interview. How do you define a family business? How is a family business different from a regular business?
A family business is defined by me, as a private company with family members directly involved in maintaining, funding and involved in its daily operation. In more down to earth terms, it is knowing or having a relationship with all or most your employees. You are located onsite or nearby and are seen daily and involved in the operation. Some refer to it as a “mom and pop” business.
In your opinion or experience, what are the unique advantages that family owned businesses have?
I believe relationships are the biggest advantage of a family owed business. We speak and socialize with our employees daily. Acknowledging their presence and commitment to Tees2urdoor kindles a caring, compassionate, open relationship with them. As a role model or figure of success, they often open up to me asking opinions about situations they may be facing or experiencing. Regardless of how busy I am, I always stop and give them my time, letting them bounce things off me and free their mind to focus on work while at work. As small as this seems, it packs a huge punch. Allowing this time creates a bond or trust factor with myself and husband to know we care about them and their situations. Many of these situations are financial. While we cannot help every situation, we do make the effort to help within reason. This bonding assists with employee retention.
What are the unique drawbacks or blindspots that family owned businesses have?
Having a daily task in the operation, or working “in the business”, handicaps me from working “at the business” at times. While working “at the business” it creates the drawback of the lack of resources. This lack of resources does not allow for the rate of growth we wish to grow at.
What are some of the common mistakes you have seen family businesses make? What would you recommend to avoid those errors?
A common mistake in our family business is to make unthought through decisions. As I have identified with lack of resources and time, we are forced to do this occasionally. At the end of the day, we adjust and make these right, but at the expense of time and money. To avoid this, we have understood we have to slow down and take the time to round table 3–4 minds to get different mindsets of what we are trying to accomplish.