Hello everyone! ^ This is me, my name is Nicole and I, along with my Dad, started Rudder USA.
Oh, and happy February. I have a love - hate relationship with February. On one side, it's my birthday month (yay), but on the other side it feels like the longest month out of the year. Ironic, since it's actually the shortest, but it's around this time when Punxsutawney Phil seeing his shadow becomes increasingly more legitimized by the day.
It's during this time of the year when St. Paddy's Day festival advertisements start to pop up, Spring fashion is everywhere, and Target rolls out their gardening section - ultra exciting for those with an eager green thumb like myself. But, all of that aside, right now is an in-between time, making it perfect to sit down and answer some of your questions. Think of it as a comfortable fireside chat with a full glass of Cab and nowhere to be.
Thank you to everyone who submitted their question(s) either on the Google Forms document or via social media. I feel as though I can write, post, and tell you what I believe you want to hear, but knowing your own personal questions is a lot more exciting to me, and hopefully to you all as well.
I want to preface, before we get in, that if you have any questions after you read this, throw them in the comments below! Also, I received quite a few questions that are similar, so I've grouped those together where I saw fit. Now, onto the questions.
How long did it take from coming up with the idea to making the first product?
I started the ideation phase of Rudder USA the Summer of 2016. That's when I decided, "I am going to create a boating-inspired clothing and lifestyle brand." After that came a long process of creating the external branding face.
The logo was developed and our slogan, "Honor The Boat", was unintentionally created by my Dad as we were watching an old sitcom on Netflix one evening that Summer.
I then went abroad and lived in Rome, Italy, for 5 months (if my family is reading this, YES I am still talking about my study abroad experience) and when I was overseas I found a business in Minnesota that could help take my product ideas from ideation to creation. I started the process while I was there in 2018.
My first product, the Captain's Crewneck Sweater, was in my hands April 15th, 2020. (Pictured in photo)
So, I came up with the idea of Rudder USA Summer of 2016 and had my first product in hand the Spring of 2020.
What are your favorite Rudder USA products, and if you could only have 3 products, what would they be?
I feel like I shouldn't say I have favorites, but I do.
My favorite product I have released is the Captain's Crewneck Sweater. It was my first product made, I spent the most time making it, and it has been the most loved by all of you. I know, I know, why don't I restock? Without saying too much, I am really trying hard to bring them back.
Other than that, it would have to be the Old Glory Crewneck and a tie for third being the Slogan Hat in Beige + Pink and the Co-Captain's T Shirt. I know that's 4, but like I said previously, it's hard to choose.
If I had to sell 3 products, more strategy and thought comes in. It's important to keep the All American - nautical - boat apparel aesthetic while also going with what you all like. With all of that in mind, I would only sell the Original Weathered Hoodie, the Old Glory Cap, and Co-Captain's T Shirt (photo).
What's the most exciting thing to happen since starting Rudder?
Oh man... There are so many exciting things that have happened and I feel incredibly lucky to have that be the case.
Different events have transpired since the beginning of Rudder USA which have excited me in the same way, but have gradually grown as time has gone on. At the beginning, having my first customer who I had no friend or family connection to was easily the most exciting thing to happen, and honestly, thinking about it now still puts a huge smile on my face. Now, expanding my brand in broader ways like getting into new stores, is something that excites me. But that being said, I still get the same excitement when I get new customers, I receive a new review, or I get comments on my blogs.
I guess there is no one event that has been the most exciting, but rather many events that have all excited and motivated me to continue the excitement.
What's your favorite part of being a small business owner?
^ My boyfriend, my dear friend Claire, and I exhausted after a photoshoot.
My favorite part of being a small business owner is having a direct impact on the success of the business. The lows can be deep valleys, but the highs are monumental. Having the free range and ability to build this business how I want excites me and motivates me to keep moving forward. With that, though, comes great responsibility, but I like that responsibility.
To narrow that broad statement, my favorite part about being a small business owner is having something I created, whether that be an ad campaign, an anxiety-inducing email, or a new product, get a positive response. The feeling of success, no matter how small, is easily my favorite part of being a small business owner and I never want to stop chasing that feeling.
What does your day-to-day look like?
Another thing I love about being a small business owner is that no day is the same. Some days are packed with meetings, other days I work at my other job, but for now let me take you through a full uninterrupted day of Rudder USA.
I am a morning person through and through. I love to get up early and start my day between 6:30 - 7. Some days I go right to "The Lookout" a.k.a. where I keep my inventory, and other days I sit at my desk and do computer work. Today is one of those computer-work days. I keep a running list of things I have to do long-term and short-term and I always write everything down. My life is on my wall calendar while my iCal only consists of dinner reservations and Google Meet invites. Totally not Gen-Z of me, but it's just how I work.
Utilizing my fresh productivity in the morning is essential to having a successful and fulfilling day. I crank out everything I need to in the morning. Mondays usually consist of writing emails to go out for the week, adding to social media auto-posting applications, switching up content on the website, and responding to emails. Then, once my motivation dims down and my my eyes get tired from looking at a screen, I head to "The Lookout" to package orders, shoot social media content, and do whatever else needs to be done.
Depending on how much time has passed at The Lookout, it's around now when I hit my lull and I workout. I like to workout in the afternoon because no one is there and it's a nice outlet for the pent-up stress that has developed throughout the day. It's a much needed break.
After working out I usually come home, shower, eat a late lunch, then sit back down at my desk and work until everything gets done.
To unwind, I cook. I love to cook. In fact, it might be what I look forward to most during my day. Like building my brand for Rudder, cooking is creating, and creating is what I like. Since my mornings are for working, I value decompressing in the evening and even like to go to bed early (yawn, I know).
What's your "Big Picture" for Rudder?
When I think of Rudder's "Big Picture" I don't think of an end. I can sit here and tell you, "Yeah it would be great to sell down the road.", which it absolutely will be when that time comes, but I am not done yet and that thought isn't really on my mind. What's on my mind now is the building, the creating, the conversing, the everything that helps me get to that point sometime in the distant future.
My big picture is to create a brand people relate to. I want it to be something people can bond over when meeting likeminded people out on the water or at boat shows... anywhere, really. We're a clothing brand for people who love boats of all kinds, it's as simple as that, and I want to find my fellow boat people.
The big picture includes big smiles when people receive their orders, big thank-yous when our items are gifted, and big feelings of happiness when you're wearing your favorite hat or t-shirt. There are plenty of big things that'll piece together this big picture for Rudder along the way.
Thank you for reading, it has been fun. Cheers!
^ Me at the Gull Lake Classic this past year
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