Sessilie Tackett, clogger with Rhythmic Alliance, means business both on and off the dance floor! This award-winning dancer is the creator of Custom Designs By Sessilie, providing unique apparel options for cloggers.
I met Sessilie a couple years ago at the Stompin' Grounds (Maggie Valley, NC), where she was tearing up the competition during Shindig in the Valley. It has been a delight to watch her business grow. (Thank you, social media!) Custom Designs By Sessilie recently served as the vendor for Shendandoah Valley Connection, a new clogging workshop in Crimora, VA.
Ever wonder what it's like to be a vendor at these events? Sessilie agreed to share her first experience as a workshop vendor and tell us about her business.
When Sessilie first started clogging competitively, one of her favorite things was browsing all the vendor tables. "I loved seeing all of the designs and what I could have them make for me. Another thing I loved was that I could have clothing with MY name on it! Growing up, I never had souvenirs with my name, since it is so unique."
She was encouraged to go into the business herself after winning a tee shirt design contest for the 2016 America's Clogging Hall of Fame Nationals.
She comes to this being-your-own-boss thing naturally; Sessilie is a 3rd generation small business owner! Both her Nana and her mom run successful businesses. She credits these role models with teaching her about getting orders, keeping track of expenses versus income, how to create a customer base, etc.
"One thing I have learned is that I can't push things off until the last minute! I have to make sure I have time to make everything without being stressed. The way I see it, if you add stress, you add the chance of mistakes."
Sessilie takes inspiration from "inside jokes" of the clogging world. One of her most popular designs right now features our love of duct tape.
When inspiration strikes, the process typically involves drawing out the design on paper, transferring it to the computer, cutting it out using heat transfer vinyl, and using a heat press to secure the design to clothing.
Sessilie is careful to check for typos and creates a sample product to test the design. This is usually, very conveniently, something cute to wear herself...
I personally appreciate that many of her designs include little details to add visual interest without distracting from the message on the shirt. Sessilie has no official training in art or graphic design, but has always loved art in many forms, including drawing, painting, and clay. She even ran a gourmet cake decorating business while in high school!
"I love to add doodles to my products, just to make them more fun, and to make it worth people buying. I use picture designs, multiple prints, and layers to create unique and interesting designs!"
Sessilie is willing to take risks with her designs, too. Like every clogger, she gets asked about wearing wooden shoes or being a tap dancer. "I can tell you that these questions push every single button I have!" Apparently, she's not the only one who feels that way. She was initially concerned her design in reply might be too sassy for people, but she has received many positive reactions.
Sessilie reports her favorite design so far says, "Instant clogger, just add bluegrass." It features the silhouette of a bluegrass band. "I LOVE traditional clogging and I think it is important to preserve it. I feel that true old school bluegrass music helps us do that. No matter how contemporary a team or dancer may be, bluegrass brings us all together!"
She also enjoys the "custom design" part of her business - taking someone's idea and bringing it to life for them.
Custom Designs By Sessilie became an official workshop vendor when Rhythmic Alliance hosted the Shenandoah Valley Connection. Her first order of business was to design the workshop shirt!
She learned well from the businesswomen in her family and worked for 2 months in advance to set herself up for success. She pre-ordered materials for the designs she planned to offer and spent hours cutting out designs and organizing them into folders. She also built up a stockpile of clothing in a variety of sizes, styles, and colors.
"My mom has taught me that to be successful, you have to love what you do and have fun, so adding stress to the mix makes it harder to have fun."
Sessilie does take the "custom design" idea very seriously and did not make any products in advance - she wanted customers to choose the designs and clothing items for themselves. Her preparation of having the designs cut in advance allowed her to get items finished quickly at the workshop.
Sessilie found an excellent assistant for the workshop in 11-year-old Haven Dyson, who has 2 clogger sisters. Haven did such a great job, she is now booked to help with pre-event preparations in addition to working the vendor table next time.
Haven's help came in handy while Sessilie worked double duty as a vendor AND as an instructor at this workshop. Fortunately, the timing of Sessilie's classes worked out perfectly, taking place during hours when people were dancing and not shopping as much.
Things got super busy during the lunch break with a crowd of customers trying to place orders at once! She kept calm and just continued working with a smile on her face. "It's a simple thing to do, but it works."
Sessilie reports that overall, the workshop went as expected; slow, and then everyone comes at once. It did make her nervous when someone ordered an item and just stood there and waited for her to get it made, even if she had multiple orders to finish first. She didn't get frazzled, just kept on working.
With all that preparation, Sessilie did forget to pack one important item for the workshop: clogging shoes! Halfway there, her mother asked about the shoes, then didn't believe it when Sessilie said she forgot them. They had to turn around and get them because Sessilie was rocking the socks and flip-flops look, not so good for clogging! (I hope she was at least wearing a pair of cute custom clogging socks...)
I loved Sessilie's response when I asked about her favorite/least favorite parts of running this business:
"My favorite part about having my own business is being my own boss! I love having complete control over all of the decisions. I like not having to listen to someone else's demands all the time. It is nice to be in complete control of designs, contests to promote the business, and social media posts. I also enjoy seeing the smile on someone's face when they get the final product! On the other hand, I hate not being able to give everything away! It is a business, and to make a living, I do have to make money."
Is everyone prepared for my big debut as a supermodel?! Yep, I am the proud owner of TWO pairs of clogging socks from Custom Designs By Sessilie. I received many compliments at class Tuesday night with these socks, which stayed up very well:
Sessilie makes designs for any occasion, not just clogging. Sports, school, wedding, family events, birthdays - anything you can think of!
Visit the Facebook page for Custom Designs By Sessilie to check out more designs or send her a message!
Don't live in Virginia, but still want to place an order? Sessilie accepts PayPal! Her shipping charges are quite reasonable.
Many thanks to Sessilie for sharing her story!
What's YOUR favorite clogging tee shirt design?
Full disclosure - this is not a sponsored post. I received no compensation from Custom Designs By Sessilie.