There are plenty of cute shops to go around, but only so many of them can claim that they actually set out to spread some good. Culture Flock, fortunately, is one of the few. Started in 2013 by Brittany Bilyeu and Summer Trottier, the LGBTA+ owned brand and retailer is committed to selling inclusive products ("for every shape, size, color, gender, and orientation," their website reads) and having fun while doing it.
I've been following along with Culture Flock for a couple of years now, and it's always struck me how passionate Summer, Brittany, and team are. In a world where brands with "personalities" have become a thing, Culture Flock always manages to remain truly authentic. It's obvious that Summer and Brittany are passionate about creating a community, carrying thoughtful products, and creating cute and colorful items while they're at it. Enjoy our interview!
Q: Let’s start from the beginning. Can you tell me a little bit about the process of starting your business? What made you want to do this and how did you turn your idea into a reality?
A: Culture Flock was born out of Brittany and I both going through career transitions at the same time and looking for new starts in the creative realm. It was a lot of trial and error in the beginning as we navigated the normal challenges of starting a new business and the specific challenges of launching a creative e-commerce company.
Q: What was your first product to take off or find enough success that you were encouraged to do more?
A: In the beginning, we made a lot of designs with sloths and snarky words - things that are relatable like “don’t tell me what to do.” The sentiments and designs reflected our own independent spirit, but sloths seemed to be popping up on merchandise all over the place, so we let those designs sell out and retire. We still are doing snarky words and sentiments, just a lot less sloths.
Q: Did you work another job while you were starting? How long did it take you to turn this into a full-time venture?
A: I was in the midst of looking for a new career path, while Brittany was still working part-time as we got things up and running. We were able to turn this into full time work in under a year - something we’re very thankful for!
Q: Can you tell me a little about the decision to put a focus on being an inclusive business? What do you think others can be doing (whether as business owners or shoppers) to be more inclusive as well?
A: As an LGBTQ-owned business, we’ve put a focus on being inclusive from the very beginning. There was a bit of fear in the beginning about being “out” as a company, but as we continued to grow, we decided it was important to use the reach and voice we have in a positive way. Those who would disagree or no longer shop with us for the wrong reasons weren’t people we needed as customers, honestly. One of the tenets of Culture Flock is encouraging individuality and empowering others. It doesn’t cost anything to do that and can only serve as a good example to others, so why not shout about it? One of the very first things we did when we opened our brick and mortar shop was hang a poster welcoming all races, genders, orientations, religions, and nationalities.
Q: Do you prefer selling in your brick & mortar store or online? Have you noticed in differences between the two types of shoppers?
A: Selling on either place is always exciting, but we prefer the interactions with people in our brick and mortar shop. It’s nice to be able to connect with someone in person, learning about them, and hopefully turning them into a regular shopper. Since we’ve opened our brick and mortar location, we notice more people in the area who were frequent online shoppers have starting coming by in person, which has definitely strengthened our ties within the community.
Q: Part of what I love about your store is that you’ve been building a community. Can you tell me a little about some of the events and workshops you host?
A: Hosting workshops and events has been such a fun new facet of our business. So far we’ve hosted a DIY tie-dye shirt, candle-making, embroidery, needle-felting, Risograph printing, and DIY succulent workshops. We also host a monthly drawing club and board game night which helps us bring in a more diverse crowd.
Q: How do you look for and decide on what brands to carry other than your own?
A: We look for other brands with a similar voice, sense of humor, and ideals. We also gravitate to women or minority owned brands as well. We focus on carrying unique things that other stores in town aren’t carrying, so that helps narrow things down as well.
Q: Favorite item in your shop currently?
A: We just released a new shirt in our fall collection called “Artemisia AF.” If you aren’t familiar with Artemisia Gentileschi, she was an Italian Baroque painter in the 1600’s and was an early feminist icon. Unlike other artists of her time, Artemisia was notable for her artistic narratives that portrayed women in positions of power. We’re really excited to be able to hopefully bring some long overdue attention to an underappreciated feminist!
Q: What goals do you have for your business going forward?
A: We want to be able to continue to expand our reach online and grow more on the wholesale side of our business. Locally, we’d love to be top of mind as a place to get the perfect gift and the most unique workshops.
Q: Lastly, let’s spread the love. What are a few of your favorite small shops owned by women that you personally shop from?
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