When Taylor Chaney attended her first expo representing her clothing brand, she had to split a booth with a local police department.
“People had no idea who we were or what we were doing,” Chaney said.
In January, when the 23-year-old Polo High School grad returned to that same expo, 200 to 300 people were there to see her clothing.
Chaney started Free Spirit Outlet with her boyfriend, Ben Hogge. They have customers in 40 countries and hope to reach $1 million in sales this year.
The brand focuses on women’s workout clothing, but also has men’s clothing. Chaney and Hogge, who run it from Austin, Texas, have added two other partners to their business, Sarah Ackman and Johnathan Kuntzman.
Chaney attended Sauk Valley Community College in Dixon for 2 years, then Illinois State University for a year before dropping out to start Free Spirit Outlet with Hogge.
“We both wanted more out of life,” Chaney said. “We were both into fitness and decided to start the clothing brand.”
They packed as many of their belongings as they could into a four-door sedan and moved to Texas. They sold everything that didn’t fit.
“It was extremely scary,” Chaney said. “My parents were scared for me.”
Stacey Chaney and Perry LaGee are now proud of their daughter. Mom always asks Taylor when can she fly home for a visit; Dad understands the grind of the business side. They’re both supportive.
Starting Free Spirit Outlet was tough for Chaney and Hogge. After opening their site in July 2018, they lived off cash for the first 9 months, making no more than $100 in sales a day on average.
“Ben keeps it cool,” Chaney said. “I was thinking we’d do great, but I didn’t know when. I kept a positive mindset. Ben hid his skepticism. We couldn’t spend on things. I couldn’t go to concerts or get my nails done.”
They did $3,000 in sales in March 2019. That July, it bumped to $50,000, they acquired bigger endorsers and went worldwide.
Now they ship orders only once or twice a month because their inventory sells out so fast.
Free Spirit Outlet’s motto is “unapologetically you.” Chaney’, a first-generation college student, planned to graduate with a psychology degree, but she never really enjoyed school.
She had no idea what she wanted to do, but then she found it.
Outside of hitting the $1 million sales mark for the year, Chaney and Hogge’s goals include starting a flagship store in Austin and growing their network of ambassadors.
“The expos made me think that it’d be OK,” Chaney said. “We always made our money back and more. People had no idea who we were or what we were doing. And look at us now.”
Go to freespiritoutlet.com o find it on Facebook to check out their line.
For more local news, visit SaukValley.com at https://www.saukvalley.com.