BY SCARLET SALEM — Mandy Sheffer’s life is a mix of art, entrepreneurial spirit, and education. Sheffer, a Hyattsville resident, said she finds the flexibility of an online business particularly appealing. She co-founded The Curated Tee, a subscription based t-shirt company, with her business partner, Vanessa Ragland. In addition to running the business, she is a full-time mom to her son, Atlas, who is nearly 2 years old.
Sheffer, who originally hails from Australia, formally launched The Curated Tee with Ragland, a Los Angeles resident, in January.
Ragland adds, “Mandy and I have been friends for years and have gone from fun-filled college days to being mamas together — and we’ve loved every incarnation of our friendship. Starting this business together is so exciting.” Ragland’s son, Oliver, is almost 10 months old.
Each monthly t-shirt features a unique design presented by a guest artist. “We have a great line up of artists for the year, with new people approaching us almost weekly saying they’d like to be involved. We started out by asking friends and family, and from there we were introduced to loads of other people,” Sheffer said.
Subscribers sign up for a three month, six month, or ongoing subscription, and the target audience is children aged one to four. Those who prefer to purchase a single shirt have to wait until the first of every month, when the remaining shirts from the previous month are made available to non-subscribers.
“At this point all our sales have been subscribers only because we haven’t released any shirts for individual sale yet,” Sheffer said. The t-shirts are printed by Triple Stamp Press in Richmond, Va. and orders are packaged and mailed by Sheffer and Ragland.
The t-shirts come with a digital download of the design, accompanied by educational activity ideas that parents can do with their children. For example, a medical illustrator designed the picture of a heart on January’s t-shirt. They recommended parents identify where the heart is in the body on stuffed animals (stethoscope optional), or parents can print out the design and color in the heart with their child.
Atlas helps his mom by trying out all the activities that are written for each month. For Sheffer, “It’s been really fun to see the way the designs have provoked his interest. [Because of January’s t-shirt design,] we now spend a lot of our day using a stethoscope and playing doctor,” she said.
“My background is in early childhood education. I have worked in childcare and preschools, and was the director of a little school right before having Atlas,” Sheffer said. “Being able to bring an educational element into the business was really important to me. It’s been wonderful being able to use my background to create the downloads and to find ways to inspire young children to connect with and learn from the art on their shirt.”
The two work hard to produce a quality product. “[Triple Stamp Press] uses a water-based ink, which is what we really like. If [a printer] uses a standard screen print, you can feel the plasticy feel because the ink doesn’t sink into fabric,” Sheffer said. “With water-based, it does sink in, so it is soft and doesn’t have the plastic feel. You want kids to feel comfortable and feel free to move around.”
The duo uses both domestic and international artists for their designs. Currently, most of the subscribers are in the Washington, D.C. region and Los Angeles, but they hope to expand their consumer base.
“I’m so excited by the positive response our company is receiving on both coasts,” Ragland said.
Sheffer is enjoying the local support. “[Hyattsville] is the most amazing community,” she said.. “The Hyattsville mommy’s group is life saving and there was so much support when we first launched. I feel like I’ll see kids running around the park this spring with these t-shirts.”
For more information or to purchase a subscription, head to the www.thecuratedtee.com/ and check out their Pinterest, Facebook, and Instagram pages.