The Local Branch: Featured Brand

Mackenzie and Blaine run The Local Branch from their Airstream workshop

Tell us your story?


Sorry… this is going to be long, I don’t know where to begin, so I’ll start at the beginning.

We launched The Local Branch in 2009 out of our little mountain apartment in Northern California. We had just moved to CA from Upstate New York, and since the recession had just hit (and we were young 23 year olds right out of college), we couldn’t find a job in our industry. Etsy was really new and no one we knew had really heard of it yet — but we saw it as an accessible way to start a business using our creative talents. We knew how to sew and began dabbling in leatherwork, screen printing and hand sewing accessories like headbands and jewelry – all the while working our day jobs.

Eventually we broke into the creative industry with our full-time jobs and moved into San Francisco – but we kept The Local Branch going through Etsy, and a few weekend craft shows. In early 2012, we had this wild idea to travel full-time (but we knew we had to work!) – so we wanted to open a mobile retail shop with The Local Branch. We were just slightly ahead of this mobile retail/tiny house movement, which meant we really had no examples to look to for guidance. So, we started from scratch.

We spend a whole year working our full-time jobs — and also waking up at 4am/going to bed at midnight to squeeze in time to plan this next venture. We planned, planned, planned over the year… and did things like re-worked our logo, photographed, designed and launched (we knew we needed our own website by this point). We quit our day jobs (scary!) and launched our Kickstarter campaign from Thanksgiving – Christmas 2013. We raised $15,000 to help us launch our mobile lifestyle-traveling brand. We bought the Airstream in early January and spent 4 weeks gutting it, renovating and decorating it ourselves to be our beautiful workshop on wheels! Our initial idea was to travel the country full-time for a whole year — making and selling our goods out of the Airstream and at various craft shows, festivals, pop-ups etc. We spent the first year traveling to visit every little corner of the country (I think we crossed the country 6 times and visited 45 states last year).

After the year was over… we realized we had just started to get our footing and were embracing all of the challenges of living and working on the road full-time… so when January 2015 rolled around, we decided to go for another full year, with lots of learning under our belt and different goals in tow.

What is your favorite part about your whole story? The brand, traveling, meeting people?


Ohh, that’s a tough one, we love it ALL!

Looking back, I am proud that we just went for it. We had a wild idea and we worked really hard to make it happen… but beyond that, there was no way to be certain exactly how it would go.

We have met so many truly incredible people from all over the country and have traveled more than many people get to do in a lifetime. We wake up everyday and get to make something with our hands. We also decide if we’re going to work an extra long day in the studio – or if we want to go out on an adventure. We are really, really grateful for all of those things.

What advice can you give to people that want to do what you have done?


Just like anything that’s worth it… it takes a lot of guts, hard work, patience and confidence to make it happen for yourself. There are many times that you’re on top of the world, and many times that is hard – really, really hard. You just have to stay focused and keep pushing on!

What’s next, will you do another year?


Well, we’ll be finishing up TWO YEARS, which is really hard to believe. Next year we will settle down a bit more and hopefully on a bit of land… we’d love to grow the business in different ways, but keep the Airstream around to take us on many more adventures!

How did you figure out what to design/ make in your small space? Was there a trial and error of things that didn’t work?


We really designed the whole space to fit everything we needed, perfectly. Since we were already running The Local Branch before we moved into our Airstream workshop, we knew we needed our sewing machine, sergers, screens, inks, shipping supplies…etc.

We designed the whole space around a certain visual aesthetic, because it was important for us that it to look a certain way but it also needed to be highly functional. Living in tiny quarters, means everything for the business and for us personally needed to have its own home…  and really that’s the only way to make 200 sq ft for a growing business work!

Do you ever see yourself having an e-commerce site or opening a brick and mortar location or going back to the work you left behind?


We definitely see ourselves settling down in the next year on some land in Upstate New York where we can continue to grow our business. We’d love to have a lot of property where we can continue making our goods (maybe out of a cool old barn or something) and open up a shop there too. We’ll still take the Airstream out to some of our favorite festivals and shows of course!

To find out where The Local Branch will stop next or to buy some goods, visit the online store front.

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Oxblood Fashion Show Promo Video

Oxblood Fashion Show, the video

Last October Ansel and Opie styled and photographed the Oxblood Fashion Show in Des Moines. It was a great night and a terrific event full of entertainment. If you haven’t seen the images of all the looks, check them out here. Then watch the awesome video that was put together by Luminary Creative.

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Oxblood Fashion Show

Oxblood Fashion Show hosted by Royal Flooring

Oxblood Fashion Show was an amazing runway show with an impressive production. No detail went un-noticed. Hosted by Royal Flooring  and produced by Misty Blank. Ansel and Opie had the amazing opportunity to style every look and perform a live fashion shoot for the show. The best part was working with all the amazing talent, many of whom we have worked with before. Make up was done by the amazing Misty Blank, Shelby Stingley, and Tonae Monique. Hair provided Thompson & Co Salon Parlor. The illustrious models; Cecilia Adamski, Arjana Ejupi, Tamia Ayoki-Davis (keep posted for Tamia’s shoot), James Alexander, Jamie Henderkott, Meredith Torvik, and Megan Axne. Video provided by Luminary Video & Media Production. Dj and lighting by BCP Live (I’m sorry I forgot to turn off the projector at the end of the night) And a huge thank you to the all the volunteers and the Iowa State Fashion and Design Program volunteers, we could not have accomplished this without you. A huge thanks to Maxwell/Liebl for bringing all the talent to make this even happen. Special thanks to Velvet Coat, Francesca’s, Nordstrom Rack West Des Moines, Peplum and Paisley and The Boutique for providing all the apparel.

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Phoenix/Team Black Productions: Featured Brand

Phoenix: Cosmetologist and CEO of Team Black Productions

Can we start with how you got started as a make up artist?

Actually, I am a hair and makeup artist. I consider my self a true Cosmetologist. By definition I’m a Dr. of all things beauty related. On my about me on my website, I say I am a makeup artist with strong emphasis on skincare. I began at 15 in Chicago, being trained by top salons. Makeup came naturally; I worked as a makeup artist to pay for Beauty School.

What are three beauty items woman shouldn’t live without?

Three items a woman should never leave without is mascara, moisturizer and fragrance.

What are you favorite Fall/Winter 2015 beauty trends?

My fave beauty trends for Fall are skin, skin, skin. I hate when women wear a lot of makeup. I think it best to channel and devote that time and money into great skin rendering products like DECLEOR. A great color trend on lids is smoking your eyes with various colors from neutral to pastel to kohl.

Can you tell us what it is like to work in the industry?

As a Black Italian trans women, working in this industry has had her beyond nasty share of missed opportunities and having to work harder than anyone else. However, this has been a blessing from God and the Universe. I have also had to learn more than my peers. Which has led me to launch TEAM BLACK PRODUCTIONS. I have also channeled my triumph and wisdom to participate in widespread activism work. Mostly geared towards our future Trans Generation.

Let’s transition to your production company…

What influenced your production company to open?

TeamBlackProductions, is a collection of me and my business partner, Hadriel Gonzalez’s, hard work and various previous titles in the industry. Mine being director of an Israeli Modeling agency in Miami and Editorial Art Director of a magazine. The response of a Hybrid Production HAUS, has been astounding.

We launched May 19, 2015, 11:20 p.m. Our first ELLE Magazine editorial was out the following day. Followed by an international campaign for COCO JEWELRY, a Canadian Jewelry co. 4 months later. We have an ELLE Cover, 3 campaigns, certified and my working the Givenchy SS 2016 show. What influenced my launching of TBP was my magnificent mentor, role model and godmother, Tamera Fair. Who believes in me and taught me ALL things hard work and business. Most importantly, as a Trans Woman CEO, the lives I could inspire and potentially change. Gave me the strength to keep going at all cost.

What services do you offer?

What Team Black is an ALL in HAUS photography, retouching, casting, location and permits, visa & international travel arrangement, hair & makeup, wardrobe styling, video/editing. We also, provide comprehensive branding, which includes strategic synchronized social media uploads via high activity in various time zones.

What is next for the production company?

What’s next for us is another commissioned ELLE and Cover and my co producing the next issue of CRUSHFANZINE and the launch of American Numero!!!

To keep up with Phoenix and Team Black Productions, be sure to check out the website.

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Thompson and Co: Featured Brand

Kayla and Bobby Thompson, Owners of Thompson and Co. Salon Parlor

Tell us your story. When did you two decide to become stylists? I (Kayla) am from a small town in Eastern Iowa called Cascade. I went to cosmetology school at the Aveda Institute in Minneapolis before moving back to Iowa. I always had a passion for hair from the minute my mom let me get my hair colored for the first time.  I will never forget the experience and I said to myself that this is what I wanted to do for the rest of my life!  Originally from Chicago suburbs Bobby came to Iowa City after High School and graduated from the University of Iowa with a degree in health promotion in 2006.  After agreeing to get into the salon industry with his friend he started at La James International College in 2008.  We met at La James International College in 2009 as I (Kayla) had to attend a few months to get my license in Iowa.

We have both been working the past 6 years in a salon.  Kayla working at an Aveda salon in Iowa City. Bobby working at Blaze in Coralville, Cedar Rapids, and William Wesley Grand Salon in Davenport.  We both have a wealth of education and experiences over the last 6 years and really feel blessed on our beginning careers. Bobby has traveled the country a lot working and teaching with many different salons and stylists. Teaching is something that he really loves to do and we will continue to get more involved in.

What services do you offer? Thompson & Co. is a full service hair salon.  We also have an esthetics room, which we are looking to fill a position for at the moment.  What is unique about our location is that we have a space for both men and women to feel comfortable.  We have a beautiful space for cuts and colors in the front half of the salon and then in the back half we have a barbershop feel to cater to our male clientele where they can watch TV, talk, and relax with their stylists and fellow patrons. We do also offer makeup services and we use Jane Iredale Cosmetics.  Our products that we have are Davines, which is a line out of Parma, Italy. They are plant based eco friendly products that are designed to perform and we really feel that they do just that!  Our color line is also made in Italy as well, it is called Artego and we love this line and all that it has to offer.

You recently opened a new salon together; tell us about it. We opened Thompson & Co. Salon Parlor on April 21st, 2015.  We always talked about opening our own salon, but never really took any initiative on it until this past fall, when everything just kind of fell into place.  We just had our son, Logan, in September of 2014 and we also have a daughter, Lola, who will be 3 this September and we felt like it was time to set some roots down and call Iowa City home, where we can raise our family.  The space and location is something that we just couldn’t pass up and we just felt like it was now or never.

What is your favorite thing about being a stylist? Photo shoots, clients? What we both love about our job is that we can meet so many people in one day and really connect to our community though them. You meet people from all over and get to know them and that is what we really strive for is to connect with our guests and make them feel comfortable and at home with us. In the first 4 months we have been open we have been so blessed to work with a ton of amazing and talented people. We love to be involved in community events and community artists whether it is fashion shows, photo shoots, fundraisers, blogs we just can’t get enough of it all!  We currently have an amazing staff of 5 but are definitely looking to expand and grow our team!

Where do you see the salon going? Any other locations, or cities? We are really excited about the future of Thompson & Co. and can’t wait to see where it takes us.  At the moment we don’t have any plans of expanding, but its something that we would keep and open mind to in the future.

For your full service salon needs visit and book an appointment.

We have had the privilege to work with this team on multiple occasions. To see a few more images of their talent…

click here.

or here.

and here.

Also, as mentioned in the Q&A, community is a big deal. Check out all the amazing hair-do’s supplied for the Almost Famous Fashion Show.

Thompson & Co Salon Parlor

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Krochet Kids intl: Featured Brand

Hannah Rosen, Digital Marketing Coordinator for Krochet Kids intl.

Tell us the Krochet Kids intl. story?

One of our Co-founders, Stewart Ramsey, went to Uganda in 2006, and saw the potential for great impact. The population was vulnerable due to rebel violence that had taken place over the previous 20 years, however, the people there desired to work and to pave their own path forward. Through listening, we began to understand that they wanted to work and be self-sufficient. We provided a skill – crocheting – and an opportunity. We also recognized the importance for supplementing that job with education and mentorship, in order that we can holistically empower people.

What is a typical day at Krochet Kids intl. like?

It really depends if you are at our Costa Mesa HQ or one of our empowerment projects in either Uganda or Peru! The work we do varies from person to person and location to location, but our goal remains the same: we want to empower people to rise above poverty.

What’s next?

As for what’s next, we look forward to being able to expand, but we definitely have our hands full with the current communities where we work in Uganda and Peru. Our program is designed to graduate women, thus allowing for more women to be a part of the program in our existing locations as well!

What was the idea behind mixing fashion and cause?

Our goal is to empower people to rise above poverty and that is our bottom line. Creating and selling our products definitely work to support our goal of empowerment and allow us to create further impact, but it’s important to understand these priorities.  We have been able to successfully do both thanks to an amazing staff that sees the full picture of our impact and the need to conduct great business.

What have been your favorite products/stories?

We have a series hosted on our site that’s called “Stories of Change”  where we feature some of the women in our program. One of these is the story of Beatrice – when she first came to our program she was quiet, and lacked confidence in herself and her work.  She was earning less than a dollar per day through the inconsistent work she did. Four years later after graduating our program, she owns land, her own small store and motorcycle-taxi business. In addition, she employs 12 other Ugandan women to help maintain the farm on her land. Her success is an example of why we do what we do every day!

Take a look at the Fall 2015 lookbook. To support the cause, visit Krochet Kids intl. and shop the e-commerce site. Each item is hand-signed by the person who made it!

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