After graduating with a degree in elementary education from West Chester University in Pennsylvania, Shelby Miske began working as a teacher, but she had a side job as well — helping her boyfriend, Sean Lowery, with the ladies’ side of his screenprinting business. United Tees really took off after some of its American-themed apparel items started pulling in orders from Twitter (where the company had 50,000+ followers).
As the company began focusing on this niche, which evolved into “Southern or country-themed items,” Miske started receiving constant requests for monogramming. She was surprised by the interest — monogramming does not enjoy the popularity in other parts of the country that it does in theSouth — and eventually Miske decided to explore that avenue, purchasing a $600 home embroidery machine. Initially, her offerings were simple, such as a plain sweatshirt with the customer’s monogram, offered in two lettering styles.
Soon, the business was growing at such a pace that Miske found herself taking sick days from her teaching job to keep up with demand, and she realized the monogramming was big enough to be a business of its own. After three years of teaching, she left her job to focus exclusively on the new business, dubbed United Monogramming. Today, the business has seven employees, four big commercial embroidery machines, and most recently added digital printing to the mix. (It also offers monograms on a wide range of other products.) As it did for the screenprinting side of the business, social media has played a huge role in the company’s growth, with most of it now coming from Instagram and Facebook — it surpassed 100,000 “likes” on Facebook during the first week in October.
The company has been running a Facebook ad for three months to the tune of about $800 per day — which is generating $6,000 per day in orders — and Miske says the company is on pace to hit $1 million in sales by the end of the year. She is bullish on the business because she has found that people in the South — from where 95 percent of the company’s business originates — like to monogram everything. “Even as apparel trends change rapidly, I think monogramming will always be relevant,” she concludes.