The Short of It
Folklabel was birthed when life and passion collided. After being laid off, I decided to turn adversity into opportunity and dive head first into my latent talents and passions in pursuit of my dreams. The result was Folklabel, an inspired creation built around the idea that we are all characters in the story of life. Everyone has a part to play, whether they realize it or not. As a reflection of this ideal we create designs that serve as context in the story to inspire hope, passion, purpose and belief. We strive to provide aesthetically pleasing products infused with life. It is our hope that through the power of context our products will help enhance the stories of those who resonate with them.
The Long of It - A Seed Planted Long Ago
When I was about 6 years old I saw a commercial on TV for Zipps shoes. A boy in the commercial put a pair on his feet, laced them up and zoomed away like a bolt of lightning (we’re talking the ’80’s here so make sure those special effects you’re envisioning are uber cheesy). Immediately I WANTED A PAIR! Not based on how they looked or how comfortable they might be, but I wanted a pair because I believed they would make me run faster... like a superhero!
Well, I never completed any time trials with my Zipps on to confirm whether or not they made me faster, but because I BELIEVED so intently that they would... I BET I DID RUN A LITTLE FASTER WHEN I WAS WEARING THEM.
That concept has stuck with me all my life. Not that I could find a pair of shoes that would turn me into a superhero (although, let me know if you come across a pair of those), but the idea that what we BELIEVE in can have a powerful affect on our performance in life.
The Entrepreneurial Spirit
Another big part of the story is my family. My family is full of entrepreneurship. Both of my grandfathers started their own automotive businesses after coming home from WWII, which lead to lots of family employment over the years. My grandmother on my dad’s side ran a women’s apparel store when I was a kid. I remember playing hide-n-seek in the store with my cousin while my grandma ran the store. They had those round clothing racks with nothing in the middle... made an awesome place to hide! Then, there was the florist on my mom’s side. My grandparents started a florist in Lilburn, Ga that spanned a couple of locations over the years until they sold it back when I was in college. It was awesome to have a florist in the family because any time I went on a date I would just stop by and grab some flowers to take with me... great first impression!
My father joined the family business after a short stint in college. He would take me to work with him on Saturdays sometimes, so we could spend time together (although I would normally just hang out trying to watch cartoons on a crappy 13” TV in the waiting room while he worked). Eventually, he and his brother took over the business from my grandfather.
Aside from the example of entrepreneurship these businesses provided me they also instilled a great work ethic. During my teenage years I worked as a gas station attendant, a floral delivery boy, and a parts delivery boy. I understood early on what it meant to earn a dollar and worked hard to do so. I would ride to work at my grandfather’s gas station (better know as “the station”) with him at 5AM and work until 6:30 PM... for which he paid me $50 = about $3.70/hr. Not a ton of dough these days, but when I was 14 it was awesome!
Now, understand these businesses were successful by the standard that they provided my family with a way to earn a living, but they were not windfalls by any means. Most of my experiences in “the family biz’s” taught me what I knew I DIDN’T want to do for the rest of my life by process of elimination. I DIDN’T want to pump gas all my days and I DIDN’T want to drive a delivery vehicle for the rest of my life. However, I also learned that it was possible to CREATE your own job by starting a business and not just TAKING one created by someone else… but the entrepreneurial seed that was planted would lie dormant until later.
We are relational creatures that learn by observation. As children we learn to walk and talk by taking in what’s going on around us and trying to imitate. Later on we continue this mimicry when we begin to search for who we are and where we “fit in” in the world. However, we don’t generally find just one thing we identify with, we find lots of things and create our own mashup of all the things we like. This mashup of things we incorporate becomes our life experience… the journey. The journey is always changing, ever-evolving, and often never what we expect because we assume that what we want out of life now will be the same in the future, which generally does not turn out to be true (i.e. we are not very good at predicting what will make us happy).
When I was younger I envisioned myself one day working in a big office building, wearing a suit, driving a nice car, and going out to lunch with my colleagues. To me that was a vision of “success”, so I took the steps I thought I needed to take to get there; graduated from high school, went to college, studied hard (most of the time), got an internship, obtained my degree, hired on full-time, and began my career. Okay this was what I had longed for and worked so hard to become. Time for happiness, right… well, not yet. I need to tackle a couple rungs on the career ladder, get a house, and fill it with furniture… then I can be happy… well, not yet… I need a newer car… and so went my life for several years until I got to a point that I said “is this it?” When does the passion come? When do I get to enjoy all the things I’ve achieved? I’m not quite as satisfied as I thought I would be those many years ago as a young lad trying to create a vision for my life.
It was at that point I began to think back on what I had enjoyed along the way. What was the point of all this? What is my purpose in life? As I thought back through all the projects I’d been involved with and all the tasks I’d undertaken, a couple themes became clear… creativity and meaningful work. A unique assignment where I had to figure out how to make it happen, the opportunity to do things a new way, a chance to create a new experience, a strong feeling of being a part of something bigger than myself… these were all times I really enjoyed my work. There was one problem though, I was not in a field that rewarded creative passion or sense of purpose. Instead, what was rewarded was conquest and schmoozing and try as I might I could not connect with that.
The Perfect Storm
So at this point I had a strong foundation of entrepreneurialism combined with a season of discontent. What beautiful thing can we make of that? Well, just mix in a troubled economy and a career layoff and I’ll let you know.
One Monday, at the end of June 2010 I received an email from my boss near the end of the day that just said “stop by and see me before you leave”. Sounds easy enough, right? That’s what I thought. Well, I walk in, plop down in the chair across from his desk ready to chat and the conversation starts with “well, there’s no easy way to say this…” as time seemed to slow to a standstill I thought “Uh-oh, that doesn’t sound good”. He proceeded to finish that sentence with “we’re going to have to let you go”. At first I honestly thought he was joking, but as I read the severance letter he slid across the desk to me, I realized this was no joke. After 11 years of service, my career there came to a close.
Over the coming days and weeks I was thrust into an intense period of self reflection and discovery where I contemplated what I would do with myself. Fortunately, some months before I had been introduced to the idea of thinking about my life as a story, which was very intriguing to me. The idea is that we are all characters in the story of our lives and the things that happen to us, good or bad, will one day just be a story we tell, so you have to constantly think about what story you want to tell tomorrow about today. This gave me some new perspective with how to approach my new-found predicament. What is the story I wished to tell about this experience? I didn’t know at the time, but that’s the thing about the story of life… no time for writer’s block.
And So It Begins…
A couple of years ago I had an idea about starting an apparel company, although I have never had any experience in the apparel industry (other than being a customer) and no formal design training. The idea was as much a curiosity/fascination as it was a business idea. I wondered if it would be possible to take that experience I’d had with Zipps shoes as a child and build it into a “grown-up” version. Not necessarily a pair of superhero shoes, but clothing with a message that affects people when they wear it. But, like most ideas, it was put on the back-burner due to day-to-day life getting in the way. However, as my story began to shift into another chapter I decided I wanted to incorporate the pursuit of that dream into the story I tell.
Could I really infuse a product with hope, passion, purpose, and belief that would be transferred to the wearer? I don’t yet know the answer or the end of the story, it’s still being written… will you help me write it?
At the end of the day I don’t think it’s really about whether or not we can prove it, but more about the experiences we have BELIEVING we can.
The name’s Tyler, but you can call me T
I’m by no means an expert… just really curious
I love to hear great stories and am inspired by people living passionate lives. A great story has the power to transform hearts.