Happy Sunday, Style Mavens! With the election adding stress to our daily social media scrolling, I thought today would be an amazing opportunity to take a much-needed break. Mommy and Maven, Kelly Hardy can handle it all. Beginning with just a single idea for a T-shirt she envisioned, the brand has expanded to something more than her wildest dreams. With three years under her belt, Kelly has proven that patience + listening are key. I had the opportunity to speak to the owner of The Chic Shirt Shop with some help from her “little boss baby,” aka her daughter, Rhyan! That said, let’s get into this interview of how Kelly’s tees have become a staple piece from one “Fly Girl” to another!

Kelly, owner of The Chic Shirt Shop

Row A Seat 1: Tell me about the very first tee you designed.

Kelly Hardy of The Chic Shirt Shop: The very first t-shirt was Summertime Chi. That was actually the only vision for starting this business. I was like I’m gonna make this one t-shirt and become a millionaire. Obviously, being local to Chicago and by us having all four seasons we really celebrate the Summertime. It just made sense. I figured it would be a good way to introduce myself to the market, and it was the only way. Thankfully, God gave me a bigger vision than I had for myself. 

I love to see how your designs empower your consumers! Was that a goal of yours or did that energy manifest itself?

After the ‘Summertime Chi’ tee, I quickly figured out that I needed to listen to my customers and figure out what they wanted. A mass of what I thought was special plus what people would resonate with, versus what my customers wanted. So right away, it was empowering women which were birthed out of those two things. 

As a businesswoman, what lessons (good or bad) have you applied to the blueprint of your company’s infrastructure? 

Trial and error. Don’t be afraid to try things, don’t be afraid to fail that’s a huge one. I know it’s cliche, but it’s so true, our biggest lessons come from failure! I would say get out of your own way. Sometimes I may really love something that customers don’t love. Because I think it’s amazing, I’m holding on to it. You have to tell yourself ‘no if you can move past something that isn’t working. Then, there is an open door there for things that will!’ So, definitely been working on getting out of my own way.

Good lessons would be to start! For a lot of people when they’re thinking about starting anything, it takes a while to get the energy together to get started. You want to make all these plans, which is fine, but you want your Instagram a certain way and you want everything to be perfect. It’s really just another process of getting started. Once you do, that’s when you’ll learn what your business will turn into. It definitely won’t be what your initial thoughts and plans were.

For me, I’m a Virgo, I want things to be perfect the first time or I will throw it in the trash *laughs*. That stops me every time from doing things. The more you try and fail, the closer you get to figuring it out! I tell people especially at the beginning, no one knows who you are. If you fail 15 times and you don’t find the right product until product number 20, there’s no reason to be embarrassed because no one knows you! 

You have to tell yourself, ‘No if you can move past something that isn’t working. Then, there is an open door there for things that will!’

Vintage tees ranging from 90s concert paraphernalia to early designed Dragon Ball Z tees are in high demand and ridiculously priced… What do you think about the market increase for the vintage tee trend? 

I think that because of my age group, they’re not wearing tees. You grow past it and move past it. I totally think that’s why young people gravitate to them. Everything was amazing ten or twenty years ago and they want to be a part of it. I’m here for it, it makes perfect sense for me!

If you could choose one CSS tee to describe your personality, which would it be? Why? 

Good question, a big thing about me and my customers is that they’re bold and make big statements. Sometimes they can’t figure out a way to be bold and make statements themselves, I can relate to that myself. They let the clothes do the talking. For me, it would be the ‘Feminist’ tee! I’m all about women, equality, I’m all about empowering women and taking us places we have never been before. The underlined theme of everything I do is supporting all those things.

Last, but not least, what is some advice you would give to your younger self?

You don’t have to figure everything out right away. You can try things and that will be your learning process. Throw perfection out the window and your authentic self will take you further than anything else.

Amen to that one! Kelly’s energy was so amazing and we love to see Black women using their platform to promote positivity. It says a lot about a person when what they love turns into what they do and it says, even more, when consumers reciprocate that same energy. She went from t-shirts to now bags with her brand name! So many opportunities can come from staying focused, in high spirits, and taking that leap of faith. If you would like to Support The Brand follow her business page @thechicshirtshop and SHOP THE BRAND here: website. Also, do not forget to follow us on Instagram @rowaseat1. Ciao, Bellas!