“If you approach something with fear, or doubt yourself, it won’t work”.
“The more time you try to push something that’s not working, the more money you’re wasting”
“That didn’t work, but I’m going to fix it and take what I learned to make it better”
“It’s been mistake, after accident, after mess up, but now we are up 300% this year. And then I think, what if I would have quit in January?!”
These are just a few of the truth bombs that were dropped when I sat down with the multi-talented, Blake Alfstad, creator and owner of Jean & June (Graphic Tee’s for babies and kids).
Blake’s journey to success has been a roller-coaster and I greatly admire her drive and perseverance!
Her journey began during art school in Portland, but she quickly found that school was really conceptual and discovered comfort in print making. “It was really process-based and cut and dry” she said. During this time she also worked an internship with Chelsea Heffner, artist, designer and owner of Wild Craft Studio School.
Blake learned a great deal about design from Chelsea and had the opportunity to work on some amazing projects, one being making silk-screen scarves that were featured in Real Simple Magazine. The most valuable lesson she learned from Chelsea Heffner, was how to start and run a small business.
Before her thesis year, Blake came home for the Summer and got pregnant with her daughter Paloma. She spent the next while learning how to be a mom and soon welcomed another baby, this time a boy named, Orlando.
At this time she was a new mom of two with a background in retail business (Nordstrom), art, design, and textile design skills. She started following brands on instagram run by moms who were balancing motherhood and owning a creative business, so she decided to go for it.
One thing Blake has always been really good at (and it’s why I think her business is so successful) is listening to her customers. She cares a lot about the quality of her t-shirts, the print quality, and keeping things simple. She started out working in small batches so she could really control the quality of her products.
In February 2016, she designed a Valentines Day shirt that said “Love you like.. XO”, and it blew up on social media. Blake was working with influencers to build her brand before influencers were really a thing. She believes that “making the right connections is still of utmost importance”.
When you own your own business you have the highest highs and the lowest lows. Blake has had them all. She got into making her own clothing, wanting to make more than just tee-shirts, working with printers in LA, etc and it all became a little bit overwhelming. She finally had to ask herself, “Is this sustainable? No. Is this working for my customer? No. Is this working for my brand? No.”
December 2017, Blake finally got Jean & June back to where she wanted it to be… making her own product. She had to start over but learned valuable lessons in the process. She strongly believes that “you manifest your destiny.” She has some amazing mentors and supporters that believe in what she’s doing and help her make it happen. January 2018 she figured out how to do production, printing, and shipping, all in LA and this changed everything.
“It’s been mistake, after accident, after mess up, but now we are up 300% this year. Then I think, what if I would have quit in January?!”
Why did you start Jean & June?
I wanted to be able to be at home with children and do something that was creatively fulfilling.
Where do you get your inspiration?
I’m a very visual person in general. I pay a lot of attention to fashion. I’m always on instagram because if I don’t know my market, then what am I doing? I also love watching brands that are killing the game and figuring out why. (And I do a lot of online shopping)
Where do you like to shop?
Most of the time I live in a t-shirt and jeans (Rag&Bone) or Lulu Lemon align pants. As much as I order online, I’ve realized that trying on in person is really important so once I find a style that I like, I order a ton of it.
What is your favorite thing in your shop / best seller?
“Tiny Girl Gang” is our best seller. I like the tongue in cheek, fun messages that empower girls.
What can we expect in the future?
New styles: Sweatshirt, boy styles, (maybe a fun food-pun collaboration with Spokane Eats). If kids sweatshirts do well, she will add Womens.
Where do you like to eat in Spokane?
I’ve always loved Central Food. I appreciate where they source their ingredients from. I also love Vien Dong and I pretty much ate Pho my entire pregnancy.
What is your favorite cereal?
Peanut Butter Captain Crunch