Today we’d like to introduce you to Melanie Lloyd.
Hi Melanie, please kick things off for us with an introduction to yourself and your story.
“You can do anything you put your mind to.”
Growing up, my mom Juanita would say those words to me whenever I doubted myself. She had a way of always making me and everyone she met feel better no matter what they were going through. Momma met people where they were and encouraged them. She was always saying something funny or sassy so I began referring to her pearls of wisdom as Juanitaisms.
Momma passed away in March 2013 and sharing and recalling her sayings when I needed a boost has gotten me through some dark days. While sharing Juanitaisms with friends one suggested I do something with them to honor her memory. One of my favorites is “start out the way you can hold out.” I decided the perfect way to honor her would be making that my brand’s name and Start Out Hold Out aka SOHO was born.
I’ve always loved creating so launching a brand of accessories, clothing, and home décor was the perfect way to show I can truly do anything I put my mind to.
By day I’m a project accountant leaving a few waking hours after work to design items for the various collections featured on my site. Start Out Hold Out is the next chapter of my journey therefore I must make time even if it means sacrificing a few hours of sleep.
We all face challenges, but looking back would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?
The road has been far from smooth. One of my main struggles is finding time to develop and grow my brand. I work full-time out of necessity and genuinely love what I do. More times than not it’s hard-working 8 to 9 hours in the office, then coming home to design, spend time with my husband, cook, etc. My coworker Monique Rankin pushed me to start my brand. I can hear her voice saying, “you need to do something with all those Juanitaisms, it would honor her memory.” In order to maintain a healthy work, work, and life balance I try not to design on Monday. That’s my day off.
Another struggle has been getting my site out to the masses. Being a start-up small business I don’t have the capital for marketing and I’m still navigating the social media platforms. The silver lining in not being a recognized brand yet has allowed me to take a step back and reevaluate the vision I have for SOHO. In doing that I recognized I was getting off course and centered myself. I am currently revamping my site and staying true to my vision, which is to create clothing and accessories that give marginalized people the inspiration to take up space. Never make yourself small to make others feel comfortable. Marginalized people are not the background to the world’s foreground.
Appreciate you sharing that. What else should we know about what you do?
By day I’m a project accountant with a local engineering firm. By night I’m the creative director of Start Out Hold Out aka SOHO. Starting to feel a little like a superhero. Accountants are typically stereotyped as boring introverts, which could not be further from the truth with the team I work with. One of the things I love about working with them is they encourage and support my creative side. Even when I get over the top when planning events or holiday décor. I DJ in our accounting pod every Friday, complete with flashing lights. I coined it Feel Good Friday, which was the first T-Shirt I designed.
My manager Sandra Brown encourages and supports my business venture. I don’t know of too many managers that would encourage a member of their staff to do something that could potentially result in a resignation letter. Lol, she does, and it means the world to me. Sandra asked me to design shirts for a charity event the firm did in conjunction with Habitat For Humanity. While preparing for her wedding in Jamaica, one evening sent me a picture of a tote she wanted to give to guests. I expressed I’d never done that type of design before but let me see what I can do. Long story short, I provided custom totes and backpacks which she loved.
Being able to create décor for the office helps fuel my creativity when it’s time to design pieces for my site. I originally started with an online jewelry site on a large platform but wasn’t happy with all the changes in the fee structure. When I finally decided it was time to step out on faith and launch a website it was going to be just t-shirts. Which made absolutely no sense because I love jewelry design. Then I thought am I biting off more than I can chew which at times I tend to do. Then I remembered I can do anything I put my mind to.
I currently design jewelry, apparel, accessories, and home décor. I specialize in providing quality merchandise and excellent customer service. I don’t want to pigeonhole myself into specializing in this or that, it limits my possibilities. As my now husband Terrence Lloyd said to me when dating, “keep things light, the communication open, and the possibilities are endless.” Terry said that to me 15 years ago and I apply it to almost everything I do. That is so going to be a shirt.
What are you known for?
I suppose it depends on whom you asked about what I’m known for. Lol, my closest friends and family would say my sense of humor, event and trip planning skills, and creativity. My work family would likely say the same. My manager would say wreath design, she asked about her fall one yesterday.
What I am most proud of is stepping out on faith. Would it have been easier just rebranding my existing online store to incorporate t-shirts? Of course, but the goal isn’t for it to be easy it’s to be excellent. That meant creating my own online space. I designed and maintain my website, I’m extremely proud of that accomplishment. It was far from easy, and I did reach out to a consultant, the day before the appointment I found the perfect YouTube how-to video, and the platform used to design my site began to make sense. I did what I put my mind to. Knowing my mom was smiling down on me made every setback worth it.
What sets you apart from others?
I don’t focus on what sets me apart from others, I feel my time is better spent focusing on how I can be better than I was the day before. You can throw a stone and hit a plethora of jewelry-making, t-shirt-designing, and home décor entrepreneurs. Do I want my brand to be successful? Of course. What I sincerely want is to set myself apart from old ways of thinking and doing things. Clearly, they didn’t work so I’m trying something new.
Any advice for finding a mentor or networking in general?
I honestly have not had time to network except organically. I like to wear my designs when out, and if someone compliments them, I try to remember to give them a card. I traveled to Boston on Labor Day weekend and the TSA agent commented on my Selfcare Is Healthcare shirt after searching me.
At that moment I had some decisions to make. After being searched, did I want to rummage through my bag to give them a card? Is it even allowed? Felt it best to simply say thank you and keep it moving. Lol, I’m an outgoing person by nature so networking will come easy it’s just making time to do so. I’m working on that.