A conversation with Atlanta-based social entrepreneur Eryn Eddy Erickson is like a shot of espresso. Upbeat and open, she leaves you with a warmth and an energy that makes you want to get out and do something. Her clothing company, So Worth Loving, is a lot like that, too. The brand centers around a mission statement rather than a fashion one, printing t-shirts, hoodies and hats with messages that promote the simple idea that everyone, regardless of circumstances, is worthy of love. We talked to Eryn about building a small business (at just 28!), working within the Atlanta creative community and what's next for the So Worth Loving family.
On how So Worth Loving got started: So Worth Loving started in the midst of me working a full-time job. I was a musician by night and by weekend--I licensed my music to television shows and videographers and things of that nature. I had a music video go viral and I was thinking to myself, "Man, all my music is uplifting and empowering. If only I had a piece, a product, something that I could give to my fans that they could identify with--that they could wear of their own--and not be my name or my face, but something along the lines of what it means to them." So Worth Loving came to my mind, and I started spray-painting with stencils and spray paint "So Worth Loving" on people's shirts. I started doing it on my own, and then my friends' friends, and then their friends, and then I started a blog where I offered to do it for free for anybody who wanted to mail me their personal shirt, I would spray paint "So Worth Loving" on the back of their shirt and just mail it back. It just evolved and grew, and I realized that there was demand for people wanting to carry this message with them. They wanted to use it as a way to talk about the struggles of self-worth. I received so many stories in my inbox of people telling me, "Thank you for telling me I'm worth loving. No one has ever told me that." From there it just grew into a community and turned into a clothing company.
On turning an idea into a business: I dealt with challenges, even just being able to afford inventory. I would work on the side with contract jobs, because I was an art director as well, so I would do those jobs and I would literally just put it all back into the company. We're debt-free, and I don't have an investor. It's just grassroots, and as it's been snowballing all of the profit has gone back into the company. It's been three years now, and I feel like we're finally getting into a rhythm.
On Atlanta's small business community: There's a lot of really cool socially good companies coming out of the South, and I love seeing that. There's something even deeper than a product that they're creating here. I think if you can find that pocket--Plywood People is one of them, Foster ATL is one of them, even some of the co-working spaces--they want to help small businesses and nurture them. I think Atlanta is becoming known for small businesses and artists that are kind of rising up and doing really cool things that are sustainable. I'm really stoked to even just be a part of that community.
On what's next for SWL: We're actually pursuing wholesale now, which is really exciting. I hope to be able to partner with stores and boutiques who understand our message, see the importance in it and see the importance in spreading it. So we're actually currently working on our lookbooks and line sheets and we'll be having that finalized at the end of this month. For now, we're in the works of finding stores that we can connect with.
On SWL's big picture: My big dream, with So Worth Loving? Bottom line is that I truly believe that if you live your life through the lens of knowing that you have value and that you have worth, your decisions are different. You live your life differently. You have friendships and relationships differently than you would if you didn't believe that. And so, what I've always wanted with So Worth Loving is that we create products that you infuse into your everyday life--that are everyday reminders. It's not just a cause t-shirt that you wear when you work out, but [it's something] that you actually believe in and that you wear in your daily life as you dress up and dress down. We're just continuing to do collaborations with fashion agencies, editorial-type work, to continue to make our product the brand that promotes self worth and self love in your everyday life.
Dacey Orr is an Atlanta-based writer and editor covering music, travel and culture. You can follow her on Twitter.
Photo by Mary Caroline Russell