A desire to express her faith led to a business for Sandy Holly, of Suamico.
“After I found Jesus back in 2008, I was so inspired with the realization that I was saved by grace, I wanted everyone to know it,” Holly said. “For years, I searched for fun, fashionable Christian clothing and jewelry, and for years, I was let down.”
Holly decided to make her own and started creating one-of-a-kind fashion pieces. She sewed crosses and hearts onto sweaters, jackets and purses. She used permanent markers to write scripture designs on her clothing. This was the beginning of what became, just a few months ago, Jesus Freak Apparel, LLC.
Preparation for the business was lengthy as she took what she learned from mentors to build a foundation.
“I wrote a jam-packed business plan and created a budget," Holly said. "I was in the process of writing a book and wanted to finish that first, so I stuck to a strict schedule while I finished the book and designed a product line.”
Much of the process was new, but Holly dug in and every day was a learning experience. She labored over the creation of a website for more than a month (www.jesusfreakapparel.com).
“I’m very hands-on and I wanted to learn how to do these things myself,” she said. “I had to decide what credit card companies I wanted to use and make sure the site was secure. It was good that the program came with 24-hour-a-day tech support so help was available.”
There were areas that proved to be more difficult than anticipated. Holly said she underestimated the complexities of shipping and how business discounts worked. Costs had to be accurate on the website and products had to be carefully weighed.
She said that a major challenge of e-commerce is how rapidly technology is changing and the importance of staying up to date. It is also gratifying because she says she is learning something new and different every day.
The product line also changes and she currently features books she has written, pins, bracelets, scarfs, logo stickers, handbags, necklaces and earrings.
“Since I am brand new, I have to determine what I think will sell," Holly said. "I decided to sell and make what I couldn’t find anywhere on the market and added my designs. There are quite a few e-commerce Christian clothing sites, but mine is the only one that does one-of-a-kind items; that’s how we stand out.”
Although she creates all of the designs, she hired a company in California to produce some of the items that she doesn’t handmake. Whatever the item, her goal is to bring joy to her customers with fun, fashionable merchandise that will allow them to show their faith. The books include her personal faith journey, a daily Bible reading plan and an interactive daily devotional called, “More Jesus, More Joy.”
For marketing, her strategy includes participation in Christian festivals and church events and a Route 66 ministry ride with her husband the last two weeks of May that can be followed on social media.
“We will drive the United States and hand out Bibles. Jesus Freak Apparel will go share and live the blessings,” Holly added.
While that will be a new journey, she considers her current road to have been an absolute joy and says she is having the time of her life. Her enthusiasm comes from the passion she feels, and she recommends that anyone starting a business have a similar purpose.
“If someone asked for advice in starting a business, I would ask first why they are passionate about it. It is the ‘why’ that makes the business,” she said. “Otherwise, it is just work.”
Tina Dettman-Bielefeldt is co-owner of DB Commercial Real Estate in Green Bay and past district director for SCORE, Wisconsin.