Hi, I’m Jessica, the co-founder of Buck & Doe Goods. My husband Trae and I work together to create unique accessories like journals, scrunchies, bow ties and now, lots of face masks. I taught Trae to sew when I was making quilts and he enjoyed it so much, we decided to join forces! Savannah, Georgia is a magical place to live and we’re always inspired by the history and culture that surrounds us. People still dress up to go out to dinner down here and the bow tie is a staple in a Southern wardrobe, so our specialty has become unique ties that work for men and women. Our overall goal is to create unique, handmade (sometimes upcycled) goods that spark conversation and bring joy into your daily life.
Was starting a business always in your plans or did a specific event or opportunity inspire its fruition?
Trae is a jazz singer and a few years back he needed bow ties for his entire band for a Christmas show. I hadn’t made a bow tie before but have been sewing all my life, so I thought I’d give it a try. They were a hit! I began selling them at a few local shops and our quirky fabric choices gained a bit of a following! I never set out to make a business out of the ties but people kept asking for more. Now we do custom sizing and even offer children’s sizing.
Did your idea for this business change at any point?
The business is ever evolving! Scrunchies started because I had a bunch of scraps from the bow ties that were too good to waste! Then when the pandemic hit, I realized I had all the materials needed to make face masks (elastic being most important!) so I changed focus and started making them and giving them away in our community. Now they are part of our product assortment and we donate to high risk individuals, businesses and organizations around Savannah.
What was your moment of clarity? When did you know it was time to make it happen?
Once we began getting consistent orders from our wholesale shops and some traction on our website, we started producing more every week. We both still work full time jobs so this side hustle took on a life of its own. Now we fit in production on nights and weekends and have a comfortable rhythm with our stores.
Were there things that delayed your launch?We have never really launched (ha!)! Most of our business is word of mouth, social media and die-hard bow tie fans.
How did you determine your target audience?
Savannah was the perfect place to launch an accessories brand with personality. It’s an artistic town with a great mix of students and tourists and locals and everyone wants to wear and share something unique.
Would you consider your audience niche or broader?
Bow ties is definitely a niche accessory. I am originally from Idaho and I can’t imagine anyone there wearing one! Putting on your Sunday best isn’t just reserved for Sunday around Savannah so it’s been the perfect incubator for our brand.
Did you have any challenges in the early stages of your business?
We keep our business very manageable and we also keep options changing all the time so I don’t often experience fabric shortages or material issues. Our biggest challenge is finding the time to grow business online as the majority of our free time is spent producing instead of marketing. We are working to schedule in more photo shoots and give more time to our online outlets.
What helped you overcome these challenges?
Allowing longer lead times has helped me focus on other areas of the businesses instead of stressing out about getting product out within 24 hours! Folks who buy bespoke products know there is time involved in making so giving us more time to refine other areas of our business.
What’s been the best driver for brand awareness?
Face masks put our brand into the spotlight most recently as we donated over 3,000 masks to our community in the last few months and continue to do so. Putting our name out there within the context of this effort has helped us gain recognition on TV and online since people love to share pictures and shout out to us in their posting on social media. Overall, we also have a lot of friends who actually wear bow ties daily and they point so many new customers our way!
How did you learn or discover this tactic?
Being adaptable is an important strength in small business! I didn’t set out to make masks but it fits within our mission as a company and felt natural to share with the community. We make what we like and usually someone else likes it, too! Sewing is a great love of mine, passed down from my grandmother, and she always had a thousand projects going on and I do, too! I just keep sewing and see what comes next!
How do you create appealing imagery or videos to showcase your products?
We love everything vintage so our website shows old photographs with our ties imposed on the images. Our styles change so often, we typically do on whites for the majority off our sales online and a few special photos for each collection.
Do you leverage basic technology (smartphone) or professional equipment?
All of our photos are taken on a smartphone.
Have you had to adjust your business or marketing strategy to remain competitive?
Our business is a passion project so we aren’t putting a lot of pressure on it to grow to compete with larger companies. We like to make things together and are lucky to have a fan base that supports us and shares our products with others.
Do you tend to put more emphasis on having a unique product or unique brand position in a market with many direct competitors?
If you have a unique product and a passion for making, you can pave your own way. I think the quality and customer service you offer as a company can set you apart from any competitor, no matter how small you are! Being true to your own vision and goals is much more important in the long run than worrying about the competition.
What has been your biggest accomplishment so far?
Seeing our products out in the world brings me so much joy. We run into people around town wearing our ties and it’s the best feeling in the world! Same for face masks -- seeing the end consumer wearing or using our products is incredible. Our biggest accomplishment is balance! We had a tremendous opportunity to serve our community with the masks but it was also so daunting with just the two of us and our regular 9-5 jobs but we were so motivated to make and share, time flew by and then, wow, before you know it, we made 3,000 masks!!!
How has having the right fabric supplier made the difference in your business?
I always wait too long to order fabric so reliance on fabric.com is key. Being able to see what is available for each fabric’s yardage is also helpful in planning collections months in advance, I know what I will be able to reorder or what might be limited stock. Fast shipping is also important and I often get fabric.com shipments delivered well before their anticipated delivery day which makes everyday feel like Christmas!
What is the most unexpected way fabric.com has helped your business operate or blossom?
The diversity and quality of fabric is the best part of working with fabric.com. I love the designer options like Kaufman and Cotton + Steel. I can easily make a mood board with all the fabrics I’m thinking about and see how they all work together! My mom and brother own a granite company and I was able to make some incredible masks for them out of the most beautiful marbled fabric from fabric.com, everyone asks about them!
Which top 3 fabrics do you recommend to owners in your field and why?
What piece of advice do you wish you had before starting your business?
Do your business at your own pace. There’s no finish line, it’s all one long journey and it will take you down so many paths! Trust your gut and make things you like so you will never get bored!
What’s the best way to get started?
Choose to make things that inspire you! The hardest part is always starting something new but it’s easy if you take one step at a time. I focused on refining processes for my products for a year or more before I felt they were ready for the marketplace and I also had a lot of feedback from friends and family about packaging and viability of products I was making for gifts or as prototypes.