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Southern Doe looks for Small Business Saturday boost

Southerndoe founder Kristen Ostow, center, with wholesale manager Chelsea Ostow and studio assistant Olivia Sipos at the clothing line’s new facility in Lutz.

DANIELLE HAUSER | Special to the Times

Southerndoe founder Kristen Ostow, center, with wholesale manager Chelsea Ostow and studio assistant Olivia Sipos at the clothing line’s new facility in Lutz.

LUTZ — Small Business Saturday, set for this Saturday, might turn into a big business bonanza for Southerndoe clothing line founder Kristen Ostow.

Ostow, who recently opened a studio and office in Lutz, ships merchandise from her new location to more than 250 stores in 19 states, including Westchase's Simply Elegant Boutique, 12219 Linebaugh Ave.

"It's a big day for us," Simply Elegant manager Dori Hathaway said. "I'm expecting a big turnout, bigger than Black Friday."

The Lutz expansion represents another key step for Ostow, whose business has gone from a spark of an idea two years ago to a thriving success that's likely to help boutiques enjoy heightened sales Saturday.

The Ocala National Forest might not seem the most likely place to find inspiration for a new business, but that was where Ostow found her Southerndoe idea.

In late 2013, Ostow and her husband, Justin Ostow, went "jeeping" through the rugged forest terrain, something they do often. When Kristen Ostow began lamenting about the lack of women's clothes for active outdoor lifestyles, her husband suggested that she create her own T-shirt.

Southerndoe arose from the impromptu brainstorming session they had in their Jeep.

"I was always wearing my husband's T-shirts when we would go wheeling or hunting," said Ostow, the creative director. "Southerndoe was born out of just me wanting to make a T-shirt for myself."

Southerndoe features stylish T-shirts for women and young girls with a variety of sayings such as, "Jeep Hair Don't Care," "Keep Your Soul Clean and Your Boots Dirty," and "Chase Adventure."

In January 2014, Kristen Ostow came up with one design then had a local screen printer make 30 shirts. After putting them online to gauge interest, she was surprised to see that they sold out overnight. Two weeks later, she got a call from Russell's Western Wear in Tampa. The manager told Ostow girls had come in asking for the shirts.

"Russell's kind of opened the door for us with retailers," Ostow said.

From that point, Southerndoe expanded into more retailers across several states. Initially, the company was run from the Ostows' home, but as their product line grew, they ran out of space. They opened the new studio and office in June.

Now Southerndoe ships merchandise to over 250 stores in 19 states, including Simply Elegant, where Hathaway said the line rates as one of its most popular.

"I love it that she's local," Hathaway said. "We love supporting local artists and designers."

New this year is a special Southerndoe Christmas collection that debuted Nov. 9, and immediately started selling out in stores and online. Ostow recently displayed the new line at the Junior League of Tampa's Holiday Market.

In 2014, Ostow was named the winner of the Junior League's Young Entrepreneurship Program, and had her merchandise prominently featured at the Holiday Market.

Ostow plans to keep expanding Southerndoe's product line while continuing to follow the company's mission.

"Our mission is to encourage women that strength is true beauty," Ostow said.

To locate a Southerndoe retailer, or to order online, visit thesoutherndoe.com.

Contact Danielle Hauser at hillsnews@tampabay.com.

>>Fast facts

Small Business Saturday

Small Business Saturday, led by founding partner American Express, has grown into a national phenomenon. According to American Express, shoppers spent an estimated $14.3 billion at small businesses on the Saturday after Thanksgiving in 2014. This week, U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Tampa, met with Seminole Heights business owners to promote the day. The South Tampa Chamber of Commerce and Hyde Park Village will partner to present live music, giveaways, in-store events and special deals. The chamber will give official "Shop Small" tote bags to the first 200 shoppers. The Ybor City Fresh Market at Centennial Park also will commemorate the day. For more information, go to tbtim.es/s3q and use the site to find participating businesses in your area.

Southern Doe looks for Small Business Saturday boost 11/25/15 [Last modified: Wednesday, November 25, 2015 10:53pm]
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