Melissa Lay is the founder of the kids (and sometimes mom) clothing line SandiLake Clothing! After having two kids, being copied by a designer who sold to Target, and having a pressure filled segment on Shark Tank, we couldn’t even imagine what she had in store next! Check out our interview with Melissa and learn more about her, her story, and SandiLake Clothing!
Q&A WITH MELISSA LAY
You are the founder of SandiLake Clothing! Can you tell our readers what your company is and how you first started the company?
SandiLake Clothing is a modern and unique children’s focused clothing brand. We focus on keeping our items unisex, outdoorsy, and inspired by littles! The company started in April of 2014 for this very purpose. I have two little girls and I was over the whole pink princess look. I wanted something that fit more my style. I purchased a screen-printer, placed some designs on Etsy, and taught myself the whole process. We haven’t looked back since!
What were you up to before starting SandiLake Clothing?
I was a stay-at-home mom to a nine month old and one and a half year old. I was lucky enough to be able to stay home with our kids, but always felt like I needed to do something else. Something of my own, something to contribute.
What is your best seller? Can you explain to us how you first thought of the design of it and why it does so well?
The Elk tee is probably our best seller. I am from a small town and knew a lot of people would really like this one… little did I know that everyone loves it! We sell it mainly during the holiday season, but it’s a great one to last throughout the entire fall and winter season.
You were once copied by a designer who then sold their knockoff of your t-shirt to Target. What was that experience like and how did you stay strong through it all?
This was definitely one of the milestones in our story. I honestly still can’t believe that our story went viral and Target actually listened to our plea to take it out. We grew stronger because of it and smarter as well. I’m honestly flattered that so many people stood up for us and that someone liked it enough to copy us.
You have multiple products for both kids and adults. What is the overall vision for your company and how do you plan on expanding from here?
We are moving into a full line for children instead of just tops. I have learned that moms want to get the whole outfit at one place online verses paying shipping to multiple companies. We want to become a one-stop shop for those moms. I will always keep my matching adult designs for those awesome matchy-matchy mommy and me moments. I just love the photos from those!
Your customers seem to absolutely adore your clothes! What are some of the best comments you have heard from them?
They love that we are consistent and produce a high quality print. We also get a lot of comments about how interactive we are with them. We try to answer any and all questions, and allow for some customization. We would be nothing without our incredible customers! I love them all!
Just recently, you were on Shark Tank! What was that experience like and how did you prepare for it?
Preparing for Shark Tank is something that is easier said than done. You have to be ready for any scenario, and boy did we hit the books! We researched everything we could to make sure we presented our company in the best possible way. We feel like we accomplished that. Being in front of those billionaires taught me so much! I am a smarter business owner now and feel incredibly lucky that I got the opportunity. However, taking those first steps into the tank was intense!
Any female entrepreneur has had her fair share of backlash. How have you handled that sort of thing?
At first, not so well. After going viral, you read things people write and can easily go down this rabbit hole of second-guessing yourself. My husband has always helped me stay grounded and helped me push forward. I also always like to remember that I am still new at this and can learn from criticism. You just have to trust your gut and believe in yourself.
Do you consider yourself as a woman breaking the glass ceiling? Why or why not?
In some ways, I would like to think so! My husband is part of a big company and in the beginning, he would always give me suggestions that had worked for them. For some reason, I never agreed and wanted to market/design my way. Today, he always says he is glad I never listened. My marketing, ideas, and going against the grain of typical children’s attire are what have set us apart. I would be honored to be a small part of the incredible women breaking the glass ceiling.
As someone who wants to have it all, it’s sometimes difficult to figure out the right balance in life. Is it difficult for you to balance you career and personal life?
After the Shark Tank craziness I haven’t been able to get back to my balanced life quite yet. Right now, it is work, work, work… and sometimes sleep. However, I just hired new employees and took some risks to make sure I can still balance work and family. If I don’t, I know I will fail at this. My little girls are the inspiration behind SandiLake. If I don’t focus on them, nothing else will work.
Can you tell us a fun fact or two about yourself that we might not expect to hear?
My husband and I own a 1990 ski boat and try to spend every waking minute of the summer in it. I even wake-surfed on my due-date with my second born. (I delivered later that night). Also, years before starting a shirt company, I was spray-painting shirts and selling them to my friends and family.
What advice would you give to future female entrepreneurs?
Work hard at what you want to achieve. Never expect things to happen to you. You have to work for them. And when you succeed, remember every single person who helped you get there. Humility and hard work are something to be proud of.