Hi friends! So excited to share with you this post! I’m introducing Riley the creator/founder of Wind & Water Apparel! I personally have one of the beautiful shirts she’s made and its one of my favorites, ( you can even spot it on the my youtube intro video). I love everything handmade and supporting small businesses specially when they are created by women who pour so much love into their work. Riley makes all of her shirts on her own, she even takes time to customize them for you. It truly is a work of art! I wanted to interview Riley so she could share with us her experience in starting her own clothing line and the mission and passion behind her brand. She is a creator but also an entrepreneur. I hope this inspires you as much as its inspired me! If you want to purchase a shirt for the holidays or a special custom as a gift this is the perfect time to get in contact with Riley 🙂
Keep dreaming big Riley, you’ll go far!
Hi, I’m Riley! I’m a dreamer and creator. The combination of those two have led me to this point, starting my own business. I recently graduated with a degree in advertising and graphic design and started working full time as a graphic designer. After a lifetime of being an artist and thinking that could never be a realistic career goal I find myself here making that happen. I started this business with my love for creating and nature at the forefront. I hope that my passion shines through and that Wind & Water connects with others and inspires them to create their life worth living. Aside from creating and running this business I love to kayak, go to concerts, snowboard and explore new places.
How did you come up with the name Wind & Water Apparel? What does it mean to you?
This name was actually in my mind for a solid year before I even had the idea to start my own brand. I’m a designer and I was mocking up some logos. I needed something fitting for an outdoor brand. Then Wind & Water just popped right up. Along with my brand mantra: A Life Worth Living. I didn’t know at first why this just came to me. But it quickly became apparent why this idea was already living and manifesting itself in my mind. I was lucky enough to grow up with parents who valued nature and spending a majority of our time outdoors. Whether that be camping in the woods, swimming in countless lakes, paddling through miles and miles of rivers, or strapping my feet to a snowboard at 7 years old on a snowy hill. And the common thread for all of my favorite memories, everything that made my life worth living, were these elements of nature. Air and water. So I lived with this idea for a while, and thought wow this would be a great name for someone. And then it hit me. Oh, that someone is me.
What inspired you to create this business? How do you find inspiration?
The idea for this business came into mind fairly quickly, I saw one t-shirt online someone had drawn on with Sharpie and I just thought that was so cool and I had to try it. I loved the idea that when people usually get permanent ink on their shirt they desperately try to wash it out, but this was intentional. So I drew on one shirt and I was hooked. It could have just been a hobby. I could have just drawn a couple of shirts and moved on. But I have always dreamed of creating something on my own and nourishing it and watching it grow, and this was my chance. Even though I was going into this completely solo, I had no knowledge of running a business, I was starting a full time job in a couple of weeks, none of it really mattered to me. I knew I was capable of working hard and making it happen. So many amazing women have done the same and that drove me to make them proud and gave me inspiration to join their ranks. I had done an advertising project in school for the clothing brand Deer Dana, which was started by Dana Veraldi. She started her business just like me. Printing on cheap t-shirts in her living room. And now her designs have been worn by some of the biggest names in the world. I doubt anyone thought that would happen when she was just starting out. I see myself in that position now. I don’t think anyone realizes how big my dreams are. And that’s what keeps me going.
What was the first step you took to get things started?
I drew a few shirts, set up my Etsy shop and created an Instagram within a week. It really all happened in the blink of an eye. I didn’t have a clear vision of where I was going but I was going full throttle. I was continuously pumping out new designs, taking custom orders, spending hours every night drawing and constantly forcing my friends in my front of my camera for photoshoots. This was all happening when I was operating under the name Inked by Riley. Then I started my full time job. That kind of threw a wrench in what I was doing and forced me to reevaluate my flow. I couldn’t continue growing if I was limiting myself to hand drawing every single shirt. I was burning myself out getting home in the evening and then drawing until my hand cramped and my eyes were tired. I knew it wasn’t sustainable. So my first real step to creating Wind & Water was teaching myself how to screen print at home. Printing my shirts would lead to higher quality products and more time to remind myself of my own mantra: creating a life worth living. So I spent my lunch breaks at work watching tutorials on how to screen print at home and after a few trial and errors I created my first successful screen. This felt like a significant accomplishment and will always signify the first big step into truly making this dream a reality.
Did fear and limiting thoughts come up at all? If so, how did you deal with them?
This brand has made me the most confident I’ve ever been, but it also has birthed some of the biggest doubts I’ve had about myself. Running this alone makes me feel so incredibly proud of myself, but there are times when it feels like that could be the downfall of it all. When I’m sitting at my office desk during the day and I go through the list of all of the things I have to do when I get home my brain can start feeling like an endless scroll. Something I can never reach the end of and I feel defeated. That leads me into this spiral of why are you doing this anyways? You have a job. You don’t need this. You will survive without it. But that thought shakes me out of this funk by reminding me of my mantra once again: create a life worth living. I have always told myself that no matter what I do I will not settle with merely surviving. My life will not be a continuous countdown to Friday, my life will be worth living every day. So anytime I feel like this could be all for nothing, I remind myself what I am creating for myself and why I started everything in the first place.
What are some things you’ve learned in this process of creating your own business?
Well, I’m still learning every single day and I love that. I studied advertising and graphic design in school, so I know how to make the shirts and how to tell the story of my brand. But when it comes to the analytical side of numbers and statistics and algorithms I was a total fish out of water when I started this. So I’ve learned a ton of technical things about running a business and selling online, but more than that I’ve learned a lot about myself as a creator and a businesswoman. I mean just learning that I am a businesswoman was an epiphany. I’ve had that spirit in me since I was a child and decided to create my own fashion magazine at home with my sister and design clothes, have business meetings and make deadlines for ourselves. Here I am twelve years later designing clothes and making deadlines for myself. Coming into myself as an entrepreneur has forced me to try to understand why I even think I can do this. Why should anyone believe that a girl from a tiny town in rural Michigan can become more than that? I’ve come to the conclusion that I truly believe if I put my energy toward what I want to achieve, then that determined energy has no choice but to move forward.
How do you balance out the creative aspect of your brand with the business side?
I started this because I love to create. But making a successful business can’t happen by creating something beautiful and hanging it up and walking away. So I’ve had to establish how to distribute my efforts between the creative components and the more analytical components of starting a business. Sometimes I can get sucked into the trap of watching my numbers on Instagram and Etsy and wondering what I can do technically to improve those. Which is important if I want to grow. But I’ve never really like numbers so I always find myself attacking the statistical issues with creative solutions. I try new designs. Different styles. Experiment with photography. Test new products. Then watch the numbers and learn what works and what doesn’t. It’s really a marriage between the two. One can’t exist without the other.
If you were to give advice to other girls that want to take their passion/ hobby to the next level what would you say?
Start now. It may seem crazy or naive to jump into something when you don’t know what to expect. But that creates the best circumstances to learn. I started this journey without really knowing what I was chasing, but just doing it was exactly what I needed to find my way. Enjoy the bumps and stumbles, because those will give you the experience you need to grow. And always remember the fire that ignited your journey. It’s easy to get caught up in the cycle of what’s next? But in order to ensure that every movement forward is authentic you must take a step off of the treadmill for a moment and look back at what got you here. Think back to the first time you picked up a pen, or learned that tricky melody on the guitar, or nailed your favorite yoga pose. Those moments of passion will keep the fire burning and prevent your hobby from becoming a burden.
-What is a goal you have with this business?
When I’ve thought about my goals for the brand I kept thinking how in school we were always taught to make our goals SMART. Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound. But I personally don’t connect with those categories. They might work for a more technical aspiration, but this dream really has no bounds and no rules to follow. There’s no right way to do this. There’s no book with an exact formula. So my goals are never really quantifiable. Of course I have dreams of growing and getting the chance to bring more passionate people onto the team. I’d really love to be able to give a fellow creative a shot at following their own aspirations. I think what I want most is to make an impact on someone. It could be just one person. I want Wind & Water to inspire someone out there to take a leap and create their life worth living. That would be the ultimate goal.
What do you provide ( don’t share prices)? Links to website? Videos? Pages?
I create hand printed apparel for humans, babies and puppies of all sizes. All designs are original artwork inspired by mother nature. Every shirt is printed individually by hand with my homemade screens. Each shirt is totally unique and no two will be 100% identical. And they’re super soft and cozy! The brand is born out of passion and hopes to ignite that passion in others.
Intro Video: https://youtu.be/gq-Bjwn-_S0