Eryn Eddy personally spray painted shirts for fans who supported her music as a way to spread positivity and connect with those who connected with her work. Evolving from a personal passion project, Eryn launched So Worth Loving, an apparel and lifestyle brand to facilitate a supportive community that embraces the past and empowers for the future. In this episode of Shopify Masters, Eryn shares how she found her drive, runs a purpose-focused business, and builds a supportive community.
Regardless of history, past mistakes, career choices, or relationship status, So Worth Loving continues to grow with its community to help individuals to find their worth. Sold in 50 states and 30 counties, Eryn has even more in the works to share her story and connect with the community that she's built.
- Store: So Worth Loving
- Social Profiles: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram
- Recommendations: Privy, ShopSync
How spray painting started it all
Felix Thea: Can you tell us a bit more about So Worth Loving?
Eryn Eddy: So Worth Loving is a lifestyle brand, we use products, accessories, t-shirts to bridge the gap between not talking about the struggles that we have in our daily life with self-worth and talking about it.
Felix: You mentioned that this all started with music and a music video that took you down into a darker place before you came out of it?
Eryn: I was actually an art director for a large organization and by night I was pursuing music. I decided to release a few EPs, did a bunch of music videos, I started licensing my music to television shows and commercials. I had some contracts with some large networks, like Lifetime, VH1, and MTV. When I had a music video go viral. I realized we might all want something to go viral because the glamor of being seen instantly and quickly, we equate that with success, which isn't always true. When my music went viral, a lot of people that loved my music and a lot of people didn't. They didn't like the way that I looked or didn’t like my voice or my songs. I was torn apart.
But then, there was the other side of it, the silver lining of people supporting me and speaking up against people that were talking bad about me. It was really interesting. And music is such a vulnerable thing to pursue in general and then let alone when something goes viral and people either like it or don't. When I decided in that interim of having a music blog, for the fans that loved my music, supported me, and believed in me and I wanted to reciprocate that back. I decided to put my home address on my music blog and offered to spray paint strangers' shirts for free. If they wanted to mail me their personal shirt, I would spray paint that you're worth loving and I would mail it back to them for free. And that's how the very, very early beginnings of So Worth Loving started.
Felix: How was the response of putting your address out there? How many people were sending shirts to you?
Eryn: I thought that I'd receive four or five shirts and they'd be all from my mom or my sister. But it ended up being strangers from all over the country. I had people from Hawaii, one person from Ireland, one person from North Carolina, I received a few hundred shirts within an eight-month span of people sharing their stories with why they felt unworthy of love. They would write a letter in with their t-shirt and it'd be a t-shirt that probably like one that you're wearing right now or one that I'm wearing. Just something that they found in their closet that they've maybe had for a while and they would mail it to me.
When I started getting these stories and these t-shirts, I felt a call to action. A sense of responsibility because all of the stories that I started receiving, whether it was emails or handwritten letters, they were people feeling alone in their struggles. And I thought if they all knew that they weren't alone, they would be able to work up the courage to talk about some of the things that they're going through. It was a beautiful response.
Felix: Going from spray painting on people's shirts to making your own apparel, that's a pretty big job. What made you take this up?
Eryn: Yeah, great question. I again, it was a passion project so I never even set out to pursue a business, to pursue a lifestyle brand. It was truly just a passion project, wanted to love on people. They were loving back. It was just like a really beautiful mutual exchange. What really took me to the next step and wondering where I should go was when I started receiving questions, emails of people saying, "Hey my girlfriend is going through a divorce right now. I want to buy her something to remind her that she's not this circumstance. She's worth so much more than the circumstance she's going through." Or, I have a friend that's going, they just decided to pursue rehabilitation for sex addiction or alcohol addiction and I want to get them this reminder that they aren't their addiction.
I started receiving requests to buy a t-shirt. It was the demand of people wanting to carry this message and purchase it. I didn't have a lot of money to invest in inventory so I'm just going to screen print a small batch of shirts and I found a mom-and-pop shop. It was a mother that had a screen-printing business in her basement and she could do small quantities and she had her license to be able to get blank t-shirts for a decent cost. And so I decided I'll just try this out.
Felix: So a lot of people were buying it or asking to buy it as a supportive gift and not for themselves?
Eryn: That's right. It was the majority of our customers turned in from what I thought would be for them, ended up purchasing for somebody in their life. It's a 40/60. 40 would be for themselves and 60 would be as gifts
Set yourself up to quit
Felix: When you were getting these requests, you had a day job, you're running a music blog, you're focusing on your music. How did you find the time to start?
Eryn: I'm honest, I feel like I quit my job too soon because I think that you can have a full-time job while pursuing your passion if you map everything out and you have an end date. I think that that's where I went wrong. I think a lot of entrepreneurs fall into this trap because the thing is when you start to pursue something you're really passionate about, that's all you think about. But on the practical side, you have bills to pay and you have responsibilities, and there are pressures in your home life.
And we want to make it a dreamy circumstance where I was so passionate and I quit my job and then I pursued it and everything was wonderful. But truthfully, the first few years, you would get your waves of momentum and then crickets and then momentum. And you need that financial stability during the time of the crickets because the crickets are hard on your self-esteem, and you question if you should do it or not. So for me, if I look back, I wouldn't have changed my story because it definitely created thick skin, and I was able to develop and be scrappy. I quit my job quickly when I decided, man, this is what I really want to do. Then I did some contractual work with them that allowed me to have a little bit more freedom, which was great. I think that you can do both. It's just figuring it out.
Felix: So you took this on the transitional way, the middle ground. A lot of people will say to quit as soon as you can. You had this kind of transition phase where you are doing contractual work. How did you bring this conversation to your employer?
Eryn: My employer knew that I was pursuing So Worth Loving and music. I am just so thankful that the CEO was passionate about other people on his team having passions. So he actually encouraged me to pursue music. He was the reason I pursued music because he asked me if the sky's the limit, what do I want to do with my life? So when I came to find that I wanted to pursue So Worth Loving, and I told them, and I was honest, I said, "I love my job here. I love the team, I love the leadership, but I love this community more, but I want to be a good steward to my commitment to you guys. And so I'm wondering if we can find a middle ground where I can still work and learn and be under leadership because I value and I respect you, while I'm able to pursue this thing that I feel called to do."
Fortunately, that was received well. Some bosses will say no way. You know, they'll say like you're either all in or nothing. So it depends on the company that you're with. And I think it depends on how you position yourself. If you communicate to your boss you want to use your talents for him to still win while expressing that the thing that you love is life-giving and gives you energy, and you want to figure out what that looks like, I think you can do it in a way where your boss feels respected, but you're also respecting what you feel called to do.
Felix: So looking back, what would have been a better time to cause less stress, to cause less kind of pain for you over the beginning years, if you had to choose a better timing for when to transition out of a full-time job?
Eryn: I think that I would have decided what amount of nest egg do I need financially for emergencies or three months worth of my rent, and just like I would create a better financial nest egg so that you're not driven by money when you pursue your passion because it's easy to be driven by money, and money becomes the focus instead of your mission for why you are doing what you're doing. But entrepreneurs, man, we're risk-takers, and so sometimes we run off the high of taking that risk and not having any sort of thing to fall back on. But I would have developed a nest egg of some sort, financially, before diving in and putting that pressure on my home life. Yeah.
Take time to find a rhythm
Felix: So how long before you felt like, okay, now, I'm at a steady ground, between the time that you kind of quit the full-time gig until you felt like you were okay.
Eryn: I think it was probably five years in. Honestly, in three years, we were able to define our culture and our mission and our company values, and then within five years, it is really when we started developing a strong rhythm, and we'll be eight years in November. So I feel like it was five-year mark was when we started hitting our strive and you know, being able to sell to 30 countries and 50 states and grow on college campuses and gain momentum, and magazines are featuring us, and Headline News and CNN's featuring us, and Southern Living and NBC and MSNBC, and so it was the five-year mark was really when we started getting our footing.
Felix: You know five years is a long time. Most people would certainly give up. What were the things that you were doing to keep on the path? How did you make sure you weren't going to give up four years in?
Eryn: Sometimes you want to quit every day, even if it's successful. "Man, why am I doing this again?" You have to die to yourself every single day. You die to yourself to pursue your dream. A lot of people think that your dream is all about yourself, and it's actually the complete opposite. You have to die to yourself, to serve your staff well, to serve your community well, to steward everything financially well. And you learn a lot about your even your upbringing, and how you view finances from your upbringing, to what you view them now.
Lean and mean is how I did it. And I think our community, we see lives change, we see people struggling with depression. We see people that have gone through their first of life, their first break up, their first job loss, their first file for bankruptcy, their first F in their class, their first divorce. It's the first of everything we like to say, "So Worth Loving shows up in your first, because the first are the things that can damage our self-worth and our identity. We can either bounce back from them or those things can define us and eat at us and we spiral from them." Seeing people's lives change is what kept me going and being in the mission, being focused on, I know that this is changing lives so it's just semantics and I'll keep failing until I figure it out. I will keep failing until I get what the secret formula is. It was my mission that kept me going for those five years and dying to myself every day.
Finding the reason to keep going
Felix: How did you find your why? Was it something that you knew just inside yourself or did you discover along the way?
Eryn: My why started with spray paint and wanting to empower people to live their life through the lens that they're worthy of love. That was my why from the beginning. Then it was trying to figure out how to do that, so my how was probably a harder question to answer then my why. But my why overtime was consistent. It was seeing people, our community affirm it over and over again and seeing the need and this is why we do what we do. Because we are very community-driven, our community affirmed our why and then we started to figure out how to make our why better by understanding how we can do it.
Felix: Put yourself kind of mindset before this ever started, did you'd feel like you wanted to start this kind of community or that you just stumbled into it and it resonates with me so much that I want this to be my life purpose?
Eryn: My personal why has always been I want to be used as a vessel to be in light and dark places. I kind of knew it since I was in middle school and I'd always been that way. I repeated fifth grade, I was terrible at school. I didn't go to college, but I was editor of the yearbook and I was president of the student body and president of the honor system. I was people-driven and I wanted to tell stories and empower people. At a young age, I was already doing that so it was just a matter of evolving my skills and listening to it and then figuring out how to do it financially.
Felix: What questions people should be asking themselves to find their why?
Eryn: I think it's honest conversations with your mentors. Surrounding yourself with a lot of people that can be a mirror to you when you start to get,, because entrepreneurship, in general, is like a tidal wave. You're swimming in the water and you don't know if you're swimming down to the sand, or swimming up for air, or you're just continuing to swim sideways and not making any impact. And I felt that way for five years. The motivator for me is seeing the impact it's making. So, I think it's asking yourself the question, what motivates you? Do you see the impact? Everything else is semantics. And it's surrounding yourself with the right people to go, "Okay, this journey might be long and hard, but the reward is going to be worth it".
My parents manufactured furniture for 35 years and I watched their resilience. They failed so many times. They have their factory burn completely down to the ground and it wasn't covered in insurance, and they bought a building and rebuilt their furniture company. And they were an extremely successful, 100,000 square foot factory, over 120 employees and their furniture were in so many people's homes. And they didn't have like a mission or a movement behind what they did, but they created the most beautiful product. And I think that at the end of the day, again, it goes back to, what is your motivator? What do you love? What are you passionate about?
Felix: So five years in you finally felt like you're on steady ground. What were you putting in place that led up to that? What were the strategies?
Eryn: I'm not a systems person at all. I'm definitely a visionary free spirit. So, I knew that if I wanted to think through the lens of sustainability, I had to keep thinking, "Okay, Erin, I know right now you're not selling thousands of shirts. But when I do start I need to be prepared for that, so what systems in place do I need?”
Whether it's onboarding interns and understanding the laws of internships. What software do I want to use and payroll? What accounting companies do I want to work with? How do I want to read my profit and loss statements? So I had to challenge myself to think forward, even if my finances didn't look like that. I think sometimes we just want to get there, but we have to create systems and processes in place for when the success hits. Because when it hits, you want to be prepared and you want to have the culture and the community and the financial structure when it does hit and not scrambling.
Felix: Yeah, how do you know how far ahead you should be learning and how far ahead you should be building a system?
Eryn: Monthly check-in with yourself on your motivator. How hungry are you? And are you allowing your appetite to drive it or are you allowing the mission to drive it? Your appetite I think can look different than your mission, your appetite for success, for financial freedom. You'll start building on the short term goals instead of the long term goals if you're being driven by finances.
It's hard for me to answer that question because I didn't have a five-year plan. I mean I've made a plan every year and it continues to look different. So, I've had to check in with myself and with our team and go, "Okay, at the pace that we're growing now, what goals do I want to set that are realistic and what goals do I want to set that are big? And can I meet in the middle? And can I push the envelope just a little bit to where people don't feel like they're exhausted? I don't want to develop a staff culture like that. So, what do I need to do that's healthy for everybody? Healthy for me? That's pushing it just a little bit of healthy pressure. I think asking yourself that question, what's a healthy pressure that I can apply? And then just doing check-ins with yourself monthly on what that looks like.
How to find mentors and build a community
Felix: How do you find out if you were focusing on the wrong things?
Eryn: I learned that the hard way. It was when I started hearing people's stories and I was numb to it. Like it didn't impact me. It didn't give me chills. It didn't give me ... It didn't move me. When I learned that I had... It was almost like apathy kind of. And I know it was a lot because my personal life was going through some hardship. So I was just exhausted. So, my personal life was going through some things. My company is growing at a rapid pace. People are demanding things from me, from business and personal, and I was exhausted and I was spent. So anybody that shared their story with me required energy, an emotional response I just couldn't give. And it wasn't because I didn't care, but it was because I found myself saying yes to everything and everyone and I experienced burnout. And so, I guess my indicator was recognizing, man, I don't have emotion to this anymore. There's something wrong here. Like you started this out of passion, why aren't you moved by this anymore?
Felix: How does someone out there that has no support system, begin to find a mentor? How did you find yours and how would you recommend other people find their mentors?
Eryn: There are few organizations that I found in Atlanta that I got connected to. However, I have one mentor in Oklahoma City and another mentor in San Diego. So not everybody was local. And it's a small group of people. Quality over quantity. With social media, you can find a business that you look up to and you shoot them an email and you say, "Hey, I would love to get on a 30 minute Skype call with you. I'll pay $50 for your time." Most will not accept your $50 or $100 but it just shows you're serious and you value their time and you're not going to waste it.
Looking through social media, scope them out a little bit on LinkedIn and on their personal Instagram page and their website to get to know them more and see if something aligns. And sometimes it won't. Sometimes it's a good phone call and that's it. And then other times it's a gem that you're like, goodness, I'm so thankful that I found this person and that we really align and they process the way I process. And so when I'm in the dumps, I can call them and I can text them and I can say, "Hey, I'm feeling off-kilter here," and they can speak life back into me.
There was an organization called Plywood People, and they reach people outside of Atlanta, but they are Atlanta based. And they were definitely my support system. I think, yeah Plywood People was one of them. There's another place called Atlanta Tech Village. That pours into people. But there are tech villages where they help with startups that do meetups and social hours and happy hours. Just start going to those places. It's scary sometimes if you don't know anybody, but if you go and you show up, you will connect with another person. And by networking and connecting with like-minded individuals, you'll find those people that you want to continue to pursue and that you want to continue to ask for advice, and then a beautiful relationship can be made out of it.
Felix: So community has been really important for you, for your own development and of course also that the backbone of what you want to create and what you have been creating with So Worth Loving. How do you transition from just being an apparel brand into a community?
Eryn: We have a blog: blog.soworthloving.com and we share people's stories of struggles of self-worth. We also partner a lot with Dr. Henry Cloud, where we're able to encourage people to go over to Dr. Henry Cloud to learn about codependency, addiction, boundaries, safe people. We like to align ourselves with partners that have the same values as ours. So while we have our product side, which is the shop.soworthloving.com or soworthloving.com. We have our blog that houses all of the partnerships and the storytelling. And then we also share podcasts. We share books to read. If you know somebody... We'll share books like Option B by Sheryl Sandberg. It's a really great book on grief. So we try to lock arms with other organizations, instead of being the only organization that does it because there are other people that do it better and that's their sole focus.
Goals for the future
Felix: What needs to happen for you this year for you to consider the year a success?
Eryn: We're turning eight, which is really exciting. And I'm actually in the process of writing my book. My manuscript is due at the beginning of January. The biggest success for So Worth Loving are two things. One, I finished my manuscript and I do our community justice because it's based on what I've learned in the eight years of walking alongside and seeing people's lives change with this message. So representing the community well in my manuscript and then our biggest goal is to have purchased a Mercedes Sprinter van to tour the United States and do more meetups or get it sponsored. We're trying to figure that out right now. That would be a huge success. That's a big dream that I think that it can happen.