It was either accident or kismet when Shirstie Gaylord’s young niece casually shuffled “going home” and “Montana” into “hometana”. Either way, that 2016 slip of the tongue sparked in Shirstie an idea, and within months, the Hometana® clothing and retail brand was born.
Gaylord is quick to acknowledge her professional background isn’t in traditional customer service. She spent 12 years as a (news) videographer in markets from Denver, Colorado to San Diego, California before transitioning to broadcast marketing and then moving to Big Sky Country.
“I consider myself one of the most lucky entrepreneurs in that my background is in photography and marketing,” Gaylord says. “In today’s digital and social media age, you’ve got to have a consistent brand and really great ‘creative’. That’s logo and design palettes and design, so I’m so lucky that I have that background. I got lucky.”
She adds her niece’s 2016 play on words was an earworm that grew to a hobby but taking the leap to private small business owner didn’t happen overnight. That fact is sure to be true for most of the 5.6 million small businesses operating in the United States that same year.
Gaylord recommends burgeoning businesspeople utilize as many online resources as possible while they begin their journey. For her, information through the Small Business Association and SCORE were helpful. But she didn’t stop there.
“The biggest asset we have as entrepreneurs in my opinion is YouTube,” she says. “Sit down and teach yourself everything you can possibly teach yourself.”
For her, it was one pragmatic foot in front of the other the whole way.
“We trademarked Hometana® and got lawyers before we even had a business,” Gaylord explains.
“Before we even had a bank account. Then we started printing. We did website (sales) for a year, then we started attending Farmer’s Markets and Trade shows.”
Gaylord credits her husband, Eric, as a crucial support system for her early tenacity.
“It’s always been me with my husband kind of one foot in, one foot out,” she says. “He’s been there any time I freaked out.”
The Decision To Go From Side Hustle To Full Time Business
Shirstie’s reservations slowly began to bear fruit.
“I did both (marketing and web sales) simultaneously for a year,” Gaylord says. “In late 2018, Hometana® was becoming successful. I was faced with which job to choose; which job do I want to pursue for my future. I chose Hometana®.”
Gaylord says leaving her reliable 9-to-5 position was not a carefree decision.
“It was extremely scary; to be honest it wasn’t fun.”
But pragmatism ruled once again.
“Everything Eric and I decide in life is very full of thought,” she says. “It took three months of conversation before we finally decided I was going to quit my job and commit to Hometana®. The first month of quitting is so scary and you feel a little lost and you’re changing your identity. I was a career woman, and now I’m an entrepreneur and it was so hard.”
Taking The Brand To Brick & Mortar
Hometana’s journey took another big step in September 2019, with the opening of a brick and mortar store in downtown Missoula, Montana. That development, plus the brand’s success to date, is not only challenging the statistics, it’s inspiring Gaylord to share her knowledge with others.
“I’m three years into this and for the first time I feel like I might have something to contribute,” she says. “I’m just kind of finding my way and finding my voice for offering advice to other entrepreneurs. When I started, I had counselors through non-profits, but those counselors are very generic. They talked about getting a website and they talked about getting production going. And they kind of talk you down off ledges.”
Take Business Growth One Step At A Time
Gaylord suggests sifting the broad strokes of traditional business advice into actionable step-by-step stages can help beginners see the forest for the trees.
“When you walk into the SBA and you want to start a business and they say, ‘Well, do you have a 50-page business plan?’ It can be really discouraging. I’d like to get in the mud with the young and upcoming entrepreneurs and sit down and start helping them type their business plan. Ask them what their wholesale prices are going to be. Like the seedy stuff. Because I didn’t have anyone to help me with the dirty details.”
Keeping new entrepreneurs from drowning in the potential quagmire of paperwork and legalese is just one of Gaylord’s visions for her future.
“My five-year goal is to get into more speaking engagements,” she says.
But that doesn’t mean she’s taking her eyes off the brand that’s brought success and an entire new career path.
“I always want to be an entrepreneur,” she says. “I always want Hometana® to grow. That is an infinite task. That will never go away. And Hometana® will continue to grow as long as I have ideas.”