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 www.TheLocalBranch.co (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!