A solid idea: Austin entrepreneur stitches together "stripedshirt" business
Laura Beck grew up rooting for her hometown Boston Red Sox. Showing her true colors had its limits, though — she couldn’t find a “cute” t-shirt featuring the baseball team’s trademark red and blue colors. With a lack of female-friendly options, she had to don a man-sized jersey with a big Red Sox logo splashed across the front. Not exactly the fashion statement she was seeking.
Years later, after relocating to Austin, Beck fell into the same type of clothing predicament when she went in search of female-flattering Longhorns shirts for her two daughters, Thea and Amelia. What did Beck come across? Pink — not burnt orange — shirts featuring cartoon Bevo figures on the front. Again, not really the style she was hoping to find.
Rather than simply grumble about wardrobe inequality, Beck made her own fashion statement.
The shirts are aimed at what Beck says is an under-served market for women’s and kids’ “fanwear” — particularly shirts that aren’t emblazoned with team logos.
In 2010, following 18 years spent working at PR agencies — including a decade with Porter Novelli’s Austin office — Beck launched the stripedshirt line for women and children. The line features 14 combinations of two colors for each short-sleeved shirt; pairings include red and gray, dark orange and white, and maroon and gold. The shirts are aimed at what Beck says is an under-served market for women’s and kids’ “fanwear” — particularly shirts that aren’t emblazoned with team logos.
So far, Beck has sold about 450 shirts. She’s given away another 350 or so to spread the word about stripedshirt. Beck says women, who are the target customers, have embraced the concept.
“Men are a little irritated or curious as to why I don’t have shirts for them. They have enough options already!” Beck says.
Initially Beck envisioned that the shirts would appeal mostly to sports fans, but she has found that customers frequently buy the shirts to do such things as create matching outfits for their kids, keep track of their children at Disney World or celebrate a holiday.
As stripedshirt evolves, Beck plans to add more color combinations, as well as long-sleeved and sleeveless versions — and maybe even a collared shirt for men. Ultimately, Beck wants striped products to represent something that people care about — a team, a school, a charitable cause. She foresees expanding the stripe theme to items like water bottles, flash drives and beach towels.
Beck, who still does PR as a freelancer, is the only financial backer of stripedshirt. Not even her husband, software developer Brendon Cahoon, or other members of her family have chipped in money. The “headquarters” of stripedshirt is Beck’s home in the Allandale area of North Austin.
Self-funding this business venture has given Beck some breathing room as a budding entrepreneur, she says.
“I don’t have the guilt, pressure or worry to have an accelerated timeline to return money to investors. I can feel this one out,” Beck says. “This is my dream, my baby, and mine to make succeed or to admit defeat.”
One shirt at a time, Beck is earning her entrepreneurial stripes.