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Recently I had the chance to get to know Eryn Erickson, founder of the lifestyle apparel brand So Worth Loving. SWL is a retail business, but it’s also an extension of Eryn’s love of people. Her goal is to marry community and commerce. Based on my interactions with Eryn, I’d say her personal brand is infectious enthusiasm, positivity, and an obsession with French bulldogs.

Eryn hugs Meg as she enters the store.

Most people start a company because they have an idea for a great product, or they want to work for themselves. Eryn is probably the only person in history who started a business after her viral music video spawned a legion of fans who formed a community based on self-love and acceptance — and wanted a unifying slogan to wear on t-shirts.

Eryn and Meg behind the counter

Eryn started selling shirts printed with the slogan “So Worth Loving” via her Tumblr, and pretty soon she started getting requests for more than just tees. That’s when she decided to expand her merchandise to a full line of SWL apparel and launch her e-commerce store on Cyber Monday of 2011.

Maintaining momentum is hard, but Eryn stayed vigilant. She knew she had to engage with her community to keep building her brand, so she hired a digital staff, expanded her items on hand, and came up with new ways to stay connected with her customers on a regular basis. One of those ways was a community-funded trip around the country to meet the brand’s fans (she calls them her #swlfamily) in person. When they returned home, Eryn was desperate to make face-to-face interactions a regular thing. So the team got serious about brick and mortar and opened a retail store here in Atlanta in 2016.

Since then, she’s been barreling full speed ahead. She turned the back half of her space into a coworking environment, complete with an in-house photo studio and room to gather the community for movie nights and meetups. She also rents out desks and the photo studio to provide extra income and collaborate with folks in the neighborhood. Eryn really does think of her customers as family, and she truly values their opinions. But she doesn’t just guess as to what they’re looking for in her brand, because she’s learned from experience that she has to ask them. She told me a story about a time when she created a co-branded T-shirt to benefit a non-profit she had been wanting to work with. She thought these tees would fly off the shelves…but they just sat there. Although her customers appreciated the charity angle, it turns out they really only wanted to wear the So Worth Loving brand name. Now, she’s more deliberate when getting customer feedback and insights.

Eryn created So Worth Loving not because of her community, but for them. Having that connection has given her some of the most loyal customers a business could ever hope for.

-meg

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