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If you like French bulldogs, funky & fun clothing, and positivity, then you’ll love Kendall Thomas Sandifer. The graphic designer turned business owner start Fringe Clothing almost three years ago, and since then she’s expanded to two other locations and become Arkansas’ go-to for festival-chic fashion. I met Kendall at the original store location to talk about her business journey, best advice, and how she manages it all. Spoiler: she has the best work ethic and attitude.
Name: Kendall Thomas Sandifer Location: Little Rock, AR; Fayetteville, AR; Jonesboro, AR Title: Owner Company:Fringe Clothing What it is: Women’s clothing store Educational Background: Bachelor’s in studio art with an emphasis in graphic design
What inspired you to start Fringe?
I was a graphic design major, and right out of college I got a corporate job. It was a super cool job, I loved the idea of a creative position in corporate advertising, but it was just designing inside of a box with so many rules. It wasn’t free design; you had a template, and I was just like this is not what I want. I don’t like the corporate world. I felt like I had handcuffs on, locked inside a little cube.
I’ve always wanted to open a store — I feel like every girl growing up though says they want to own a boutique — but [my corporate job] really pushed me to do it. I was like “I can’t do this anymore. I want to be creative. I have all these ideas and I want to do it.” So being so constrained for two years and locked up just made me say I can’t do this anymore I’m just going to do it.
My husband pushed me to do it too, and I don’t know that I ever would have done it [without him] because it’s so scary. You know you wake up in the middle of the night thinking what am I doing? So we just went out on a total limb. We were the first clothing store in downtown Little Rock so that was really scary. But it worked. So that’s what pushed me to do it. Just doing something I was totally unhappy.
That’s such an awesome story. It’s great that your husband encouraged you to go for it!
I know! I’m not a business person, I’m more of an art-person, and he’s owned his own business before so he knows all of this stuff that you don’t think about. You just think about opening the doors and telling people to come to your store. He handles the let’s-keep-this-business-going part.
What does a typical day look like for you?
Every day is so different since I own two of the three Fringe locations and I have a partner at the other one. So a normal day would be at one of my stores, we get here anywhere between 9 and 10:30 in the morning, we take all of the Instagram pictures, and then I’m on the phone half the day I feel like, with either my other store in Jonesboro or with people calling to ship clothes. My ideal day is being in the store. I don’t like not being here. It’s so much more fun to be in the store than working at my computer at home. So a normal day is being in the store from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
If you could have given yourself a piece of knowledge or advice when you started what would that be?
I’ve learned that every day is happy and good. Believe in yourself, because that’s one of the things I would wake up in the night over. Just believe in yourself and do it. If you enjoy it and you believe it, other people are going to. The main thing I’ve learned is you have to have confidence in what you’re doing and in yourself in order to get other people to believe in you.
Would you do anything differently?
I’m sure there are things I would have done differently. I think the thing I was worried about regretting the most was putting [the store] downtown. That was my biggest “What am I doing?” Downtown Little Rock was all new two years ago, but at this point I would sign a 20-year lease if I could because it’s been so great.
What’s been the hardest part of starting your own business?
The Fayetteville store has been really stressful. My home is really close to the Little Rock store, but with the Fayetteville store it’s really hard if someone gets sick and nobody can fill in. I haven’t been able to be as hands-on as I want to be.
What has been the most rewarding part of starting your own business?
The most rewarding part is seeing people in our stuff. Seeing girls come in and love the store makes me step back and go “Wow. I did this.” That’s by far the most rewarding part.
I’m actually wearing Fringe right now.
I know! That’s awesome!
How has social media helped shape your brand?
Social media has been huge. I don’t know what stores did before social media. We were the first clothing store in downtown Little Rock, and social media was our way to get people in the mindset of “oh, I can go downtown to eat lunch and shop.” I don’t know if we would have made it without social media, because we had to get people down here to shop.
Instagram has been the best. All we need is a picture. Instagram is targeted perfectly for a clothing store. I told the girls, “If you ever get in trouble it’s because you didn’t do well on Instagram.” I mean, it’s free advertising.
How do you make sure you stand out on social media?
We have a specific way to lay it out. I have a schedule the girls need to go by and I want a specific number of pictures I want every day. The other thing is being positive and showing that we’re having fun. We portray a positive attitude through social media. Like I said, if you’re having fun then other people want to be a part of it too.
How has expanding to other locations changed your time management? What has been the hardest part of tending to three locations?
That has been really hard. My whole thing is like to be here. I don’t like texting. I want to talk to you in person or on the phone. So that’s been really hard with having so many employees and having them spread out. And time management is hard because I’m very ADD and get very distracted. But I have to-do lists. I go every day by a to-do list. The girls have to-do lists.
So do you split your time with the stores by spending certain days there and the other days here?
Well, when I opened that store [in Fayetteville] I was there for six months. I have a little rent house there. Now, my home is here. My house there is not really furnished, so I’d rather be here. I’m there every two weeks for anywhere between one day to one week. I’m here more just because this is where my home is and my husband doesn’t go up there much since his job is here. I try to spend time up there, and of course I keep up with social media and check what they’re doing and how the customers are reacting on social media.
What’s the best career advice you’ve received?
My dad’s an artist. He’s an oil painter. He’s very free spirited, so when I was locked up at my corporate job he was like “just quit, and sell your art.” I’m an artist too. He was the one who drilled into my head that if you work hard at something it’s going to work. And I don’t know if that true with everything, but I really do feel like it’s true for me. That and to be super positive, don’t be scared, and just do it.
What are your hobbies? What do you do when you’re not working?
Well, I love to paint whenever I have time. That’s my biggest hobby. I love to be outside and walk. I’d love to do another art show. I used to do one every fall. It’s just hard to find time. Painting is like therapy to me.
How do you balance your work with your personal life?
Some days it’s hard. My husband and I will go to dinner on a date and end up talking about taxes or social media. But other than that, the job is so fun that it’s not that hard. Half the time this is a social life. You’re in a store hanging with girls all day, and I have my dog with me. I guess the balancing part is really just with me and my husband learning to talk about something besides work.
How do you define success?
Just working really hard and it paying off. I didn’t know what success was going to be when I opened Fringe. When you open a business, there are so many things you sign up for. So success for me then was being able to pay for it all. Being able to handle everything, be happy, and be in the store every day. Also, seeing people happy with the store.
What’s next for you?
I’m going to chill out. I know people want us to do an online shop, and I want to do that, but what scares me with that is not being able to be with the customers as much. We’ve been married for three years, and we opened Fringe 6 months after we got married. So it’s like do we want to take a break because we work all the time? I don’t know if the next step is we’re going to chill out and start a family or if we’re going to start another part of the business. I don’t really know. I’ve got to just breathe for a minute.