I'm a dreamer. Always have been, always will be. I've been an artist most of my life and have started and stopped a few businesses in my lifetime.
When I began Tulusa 6 years ago, I did it one step at a time. I've bootstrapped this baby into existence and have really loved every minute of it. I turned off my questioning monkey mind more times than I can count. I've turned off the people who have asked me "when are you going to stop?" or "what if you got a real job?". They were hard questions to turn away from, but I knew this was going to be the one idea that was going to stick. This business, this incarnation of myself as an artist would be the thing that would make me grow as a person, as an artist, and as an entrepreneur. Sounds kinda lofty when I put it down on paper, but I truly had no idea what I was doing. I plotted along, step by step, my monkey mind shut off. I had my blinders on and just kept going, growing bit by bit, and learning everything I could about how do create a path forward.
Then, bam! March 2020 hit and like so many people with small businesses I thought, well s%&t, what now?
I like to be busy, probably to a fault. So with no orders coming in and most of my wholesale orders put on hold, I started to ask around about making masks to donate to our local Alexandria, VA community and my friend Amy Smucker and I quickly jumped into making masks. In no time at all, we had more and more people asking for masks. I thought I should recoup some of my investment and on March 28, 2020 I printed a mask with a butterfly and popped it up on Instagram.
They say timing is everything and the next day the CDC suggested that we should all wear masks. Almost instantly I had a tidal wave of orders that came in via email, DMs, text messages, etc. My sister helped organize all the inbound requests into a spreadsheet for me (because at that time I didn't have one mask on my website...lesson learned!). By day 4, we had orders for 700 masks.
That day, I called my business savvy friends, Meg and Andrew, and asked if I should hit the pause button. They both said "No way! You need to ride the wave." Okay, ride the wave. I can do that. I can dig in. I handed over my website password to Meg and she got our masks up on the site. Then, what my husband and I thought would be a two to four week surge, turned into 15 months of mask making.
That's not all that happened in the last 15 months. Over these past months, I really learned how to really run a business. It was trial by fire. People were lovely and, for the most part, very patient. I was in deep and must have looked like someone who just came out of a tornado. Actually, I think I was the tornado. I literally worked 18 or more hours a day for 3 months straight. We had to reboot Tulusa and learn how to ship dozens of packages a day and how to keep the flow of mask parts going. By the time April 3rd came around, we had orders for over 700 masks. In. One. Day.
I can tell you that the biggest lesson I learned is that you can't run a business on your own. I needed people and I am grateful for every single person who stepped up to help. My amazing neighbor and I would meet on the corner at 1am to trade mask parts, another friend would sew and get packages out to the post office, my kids were cutting and wrapping, and the list goes on and on.
Fast forward to today and we've produced more than 14,000 Tulusa masks. Now, here we are at what we all hope is the end of the pandemic. The new masks will remain on our site until they are gone and the rise of The Mask will forever be tied to the year that was 2020. For me, although I would have been happy to keep on keeping on the way things were, growing step-by-step I finally feel like I've proven to myself that it really is okay to dream the crazy dreams. The people that I've met in this journey prove that the dreamers have cheerleaders, friends, and clients who support in so many ways. It's such a warm feeling to be backed by such kindness. I'm a lucky gal.