The White T-Shirt Company

Penny Jones talks about the brand and why there will always be a market for iconic white t-shirts.

The White T-Shirt Company is the place to find a small but perfectly formed collection of this wardrobe staple in pure organic cotton, available in a number of different classic t-shirt styles. Founder, Penny Jones tells us about the last twelve months.

We’ve just celebrated our first year of re-trading... We originally started way back in 2004 but when our original organic yarn supplier closed in 2010 we couldn’t find an equal alternative. We’ve never compromised so closed our door until we found a new spinning technique that could reproduce the beautifully quality of organic cotton that we had become known for. It’s been a great year, which I’ve just realised we’ve not celebrated yet!

Anecdotal evidence suggests a down turn is often a good time to launch a business... and for us, I think that has proved to be true. We were fortunate to have our old customers but also our re-launch came at a time when we are all being told to buy less, but buy better which is exactly what we are about. So I think sticking to our principles, quality and focus has been the right thing to do.

As for social media influencing the way we promote the business... Goodness this has been the biggest learning curve since our re-launch! And one I personally have had to embrace kicking and screaming – thank goodness for teenage children! Twelve months ago I didn’t even know what Instagram or a # tag was. We still have a lot to embrace but we’re learning fast. For a new business it’s a great way to build brand confidence. A ‘behind the scenes’ invite helps build trust and endorses the personal aspect to the business.

I don’t think the entrepreneurs I feel inspired by would class themselves as entrepreneurs actually... They are strong women who have broken the mould and made social impact an integral part of their business. Safia Minney for example who founded People Tree and Katherine Hamnett, who actually designed our Danish manufacturers first organic t-shirt in 1984, are women who have shown that business can be different; it can give back and not just take.

We have all experienced products looking great online and then disappointing when they arrive... One of the big issues is fit. We do provide exact garment measurements on each product page but we’re all such a lovely mix of shapes and sizes, it’s difficult for the fit to be right for everyone. So we’ve introduced a complimentary ‘Tailor Your Tee’ service which allows customers to request specific hem and sleeve lengths. The next step is a full bespoke service!

As for time management tips for a better work/life balance... I wish! In the past I’ve worked around the children’s agendas but now I can work more to my own agenda, I’m dreadful! What I have found very helpful though is going back to a ‘proper’ diary. Putting the virtual diary away and actually putting pen to paper somehow makes me plan better. I’ve found a Paperchase diary which has a monthly planner which I find fabulous for visually seeing what’s ahead and ‘blocking’ time out if I need to!

As for apps that I use regularly... For work, I’m completely reliant on three. Tweetdeck to help plan our social media. Bloglovin which is perfect for keeping up to date with all the blogs and newsletters I follow and lastly Evernote which is fantastic for quickly grabbing articles to keep for our own blog or sharing on social media. To help with a personal New Year resolution though, I absolutely love MyfitnessPal. It’s exceptionally user friendly and takes the grind out of diet and fitness planning!

Our brand in three words... Quality Ethical Basics!

An original customer told us recently that he still has two t-shirts tissue wrapped for best... and shared this story. “They have always been very nice T-shirts. Was sitting in a field at a picnic a few years back, and a friend said, completely out of the blue, 'That may only be a white T-shirt you’re wearing, but it looks like an expensive one.' I had no idea how she could tell, but they are obviously good, even to others.” This somehow encapsulated us.

A highlight of the last twelve months... When we were forced to close in 2010, it felt like unfinished business, as if we’d not finished what we’d set out to do. So I hope this doesn’t sound flippant but just being back with great feedback from customers and the press has been enough! We focused on re-establishing our online business last year but I’m now really looking forward to developing wholesale and working with some great retail outlets this year!

I have been to some great local seminars and workshops but I find I’m not great with podcasts... I am, however, an avid reader of business tips – especially when they are offered as sound bites which stay with you much easier. I’ve just reading David Hieatt’s Why Brands with Purpose do Better & Matter More and have just finished Don't find customers for your products, find products for your customers by Seth Godin, which I loved.

To be honest when you love what you do you don’t need much motivating...But my adrenalin pumps a little harder when I can get engrossed in new design. My background is design so I love seeing something emerging from just a rough idea, to see it on shelf and then in someone’s bag! I’ve generally found people involved in the making processes are the nicest people and great fun so there is motivational enthusiasm all round!

As for advice I would give myself if I could go back in time... This is a difficult one as it relies on hindsight a bit but I’m a big worrier and a perfectionist so I would say, 'Don’t worry so much – just do it!' This reflects what a friend told me recently, 'Done is better than perfect!'

As for exciting things in the pipeline... We’re just about to launch a grey marl which I’m personally excited about and we have a number of new styles about to be launched which will fill some of our classic design gaps. We’re also in the middle of a fabulous photography project; the white t-shirt is such a design classic so we’re capturing how people wear theirs and what they feel it says about them!

My best trait... Oh dear! I guess work wise I am a definite ‘finisher’, but remembering the quote above, it can lead to procrastination. I have also been described as a gentle Rottweiler on more than one occasion as I’m very determined and won’t let something go until sorted. Again though you could apply the 'Done is better than perfect' principle to this - as you can see decisiveness is not my best trait!

And websites that I like to browse... The daily postings from The Women's Room blog are my great escape for ten minutes. The blog is aimed at 35+ women and Amanda and Jane who run it gather an electric mix of insightful inspiration, musing and observation for us women of a certain age!

March 2015