Diary of a Fashion Designer: EMERGE Startup Milwaukee

Hello world long time no see. I’m excited to be back on my blog, sharing my journey with you once again. As I’m aqcuiring more and more copywriting and SEO clients, thanks to Copify, Blogmutt, and Zerys, I haven’t had as much time to keep my beloved blog fresh. Well, I’ve made a pivotal decision about my career. I feel like I’m running in circles. I’m working full-time, writing part time, and working on my business all the time. On top of that I have my family responsibilities. I basically have come to a point where I will either give up on my business and get a regular 9-5, or go 100% into the final push to the next level.  I actually got physically ill thinking about giving up, even a little depressed.

I had to think about my children, one in college, one in 3rd grade, and my little baby girl. I had to calculate responsibilities, weigh options, assess my situation and really think about the mistakes I’ve made that put me in a position where my business has not taken off. After about a month of contemplation and illness I decided that I’m never giving up. I refuse. TSX Design House is a valid venture. It’s solid, and meets all the criteria to become an established luxury brand. I’ve already laid the groundwork, and put over 10 years into the development. Through changing trends, and my own evolving aesthetic; I am still standing and relevant.

After some disappointing shows and collaborations with other organizations I’ve been off the local scene for awhile. Concentrating on my 2018 collection and raising the funds for a big show at MAM next year. But I have to get out here and show my face. Because I’m on a tight budget I searched on Eventbrite for small business events that were free. I came across an organization called EMERGE Startup Milwaukee.

I registered over the summer for a few events but I didn’t make it. I received an invitation for one they were hosting that was featuring fashion start-ups and I was thrilled. It would be a chance for me to network and hear a pitch from people within my industry, in my city. The speakers were representing 3 different perspectives, markets and positions in the fashion world.


The networking portion went somewhat smooth. I’ve always thought of myself as a social butterfly, but I was very nervous. Everyone seemed so professional and accomplished, I was in my element and excited. I talked to a few other entrepreneurs, learned about their businesses; but more importantly I wanted to now about their journey. What was their background, what were their fears when they took the jump into full time self employment?


The first pitch was Mark Kohlenberg, founder of Moral Code Luxury Men’s footwear and accessories. Moral code is a co-brand of WDM Footwear. 7 things stood out about Mark’s pitch were:

  1. The phrase “Look Big”. No matter how small your company really is, LOOK BIG.
  2. His tagline “Luxury starting at $195”, this pushes affordability.
  3. There are 3 legs to his business: 1. private labels 2. licensing by “Robert Talbot” 3. direct to consumer brand
  4. His company owns the manufacturing, which is a big deal for me. I strive to own my manufacturing as well.
  5. He went from building brands, to selling to retail, to now becoming a direct to consumer brand.
  6. You have to have solid samples
  7. Customers want to touch the product

His success was a process over many years.

The second pitch was Melissa Thornton founder of Milwaukee Home. I’m very familiar with her brand because my kids love her t-shirts. I liked her pitch because I could relate. She started out on zazzle  and my first store was on zazzle as well. To hear someone’s transition from that one store to now a brick and mortar was a story I needed to hear right now. 5 other things stood out to me:

  1. Her brand was built by the community
  2. She used her 401k to jump it off
  3. She’s a one woman show
  4. She filled a need for fashion that demonstrated pride in the city
  5. She figured out you have to be involved, up front and out in the community, show your face, and support other locals

Her story resonated with me because she was juggling being an entrepreneur and a mom like a pro, but she said it was a process she had to learn.

The third and final pitch was from Taylor Bohman of JaxxTaylor a men’s and women’s brand that ‘s not even a year old. This pitch was the most interesting. She talked about how new the company was, that she still lives at home because sh’e focusing on building the brand, she doesn’t hold inventory(which is something I’ve talked about in past blogs and my strategy), and she only does drop shipping right now. Once that was out the way she shocked everybody and switched gears. Instead of focusing on Jaxx Taylor, she pitched a completely new idea.

That was a brilliant strategic move and I give mad props to her for having the guts to do it. I won’t reveal what the pitch was, but I’m here to tell you it’s a smart idea. Other than that, there are 5 things that stood out to me about her pitch:

  1. She uses Shopify
  2. She is not a designer
  3. She wears all the hats
  4. She has 90% of sales from Instagram
  5. She pays social media influencers to tag her in posts and others about $50 per month to manage her social media


Whenever I attend industry events I always feel re-energized. I’m in my element. After talking to other women, who were once in my shoes and took the jump to full time entrepreneurship. After hearing the stories of the paths that my fellow fashion companies walked, I’m scared but I’m ready. At the end of the school year, I’m ging to quit my job.

Stay tuned, MUAH aaaaaaaaaaaand scene

TSX Design House “Transcend The Trends. Beyond New Style Where Fashion Is Art In 3d”

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Ebony is a writer, fashion designer, artist, substitute teacher, and mother of 3. She has over 150 published pieces of content on the web in the following categories: fashion, business, technology, and art. Adell graduated from Mount Mary University with a Bachelor Of Arts in Apparel Product Development in 2008.

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