For California business owner Chanel Stovall, creating a space for small businesses to purchase custom screen printed and embroidered products online has been a dream for over two years.
Her retail background, paired with her love for graphic design, has helped make that dream a reality. On March 29, Stovall launched Tee Guru USA as a one-stop-shop for all things imprintable, from apparel and scrubs to soft accessories like backpacks, towels, aprons, and totes.
Through her full range of offerings and simple eCommerce platform, she hopes to “support the underdog.” Her goal is to help small businesses order custom apparel and accessories in 10 minutes or less.
A one-woman show, Stovall has all hands on deck and looks to fill a need and take some of the headache away from small businesses needing branded items.
Thinking back on her love for graphic design and how that played a part in starting Tee Guru USA, Stovall tells GRAPHICS PRO she dabbled in graphic design during college as a hobby. At that time, she only experimented with some basic photo editing but wanted to learn more about Photoshop. Because she only had access to the program at school, she spent her time in the school computer lab learning what she could.
“My time in the lab got me to the point where I actually got some freelance work, which solidified my interest. Time went on, and my busy schedule forced me to place my newfound hobby on the backburner. So much so that I honestly forgot about it,” she says. “Life just took over, and I chose to focus on other career goals. It was only until a few years ago when I decided to be intentional about how I spend my time that I went on a pursuit to find things that bring me joy, and graphic design reappeared in my life. To be quite honest, many people that know me don’t even know how much I enjoy it.”
This joy, along with her retail experience, is what sparked the idea for Tee Guru USA.
“Deciding to create a service driven to support the custom apparel needs of small businesses was a no-brainer,” she explains. “Small business owners are usually people wanting to break the 9 to 5 mold; dreamers that decide to believe in themselves. I can relate to them; I know them, I am one of them. So basically, I want to help my peers.”
For her, the custom apparel world and her graphic design experience create the perfect marriage. It allows her to merge her gifts as an artist with a solution she knows her peers need to take their brands to the next level.
“This is my way of joining them along the journey in an effective and influential way,” she adds.
There are two ways to experience www.teeguruusa.com:
- Small businesses can browse the roughly 1,000 apparel and accessory items available and pick the products they want, or
- They can take a short quiz to determine their needs and get Tee Guru USA’s top three recommendations based on their answers.
After choosing the products, the business can upload their desired design, pay, and checkout.
All items Stovall offers are printed or embroidered in-house at Tee Guru USA’s Torrance, California headquarters.
Although Stovall is the CEO and founder of Tee Guru USA, she makes special mention of the people in her life who have mentored her on the path to entrepreneurship.
“It’s impossible to pinpoint one person. We are a culmination of so many people that we encounter throughout life,” she says. “My dad was an entrepreneur. My grandparents are as well, but my tenacity comes from my mom. She is relentless and very smart. As far as custom apparel, my mentor Barry has been a gem. He is humble, has a great sense of humor, and a wealth of knowledge in the industry. He gives me just enough information to point me in the right direction, but I always had to do the work, which was what I needed. I think he and my mom might even be a little shocked at how far I’ve come.”
Thinking back to 2019, when her business idea was just that, an idea, she reflects on how what she’s created today differs from the visions she had for it in the beginning.
She says, initially, she wanted to offer her services locally to bring in some extra income. However, those first thoughts faded quickly, and her plan began to change after digging into the industry and finding she could help more small business owners if she took the business online to a national level. “And here we are,” Stovall says.
When asked what gaps she hopes to fill in the custom apparel eCommerce space, Stovall confidently says there’s no one like her on the national level because she brings a new perspective to the table.
“I hope to fill the gap by providing a fast and user-friendly ordering experience and quality service,” she explains. “I want people to know that we are here to listen and partner with them during the ordering process to delivery. We work every day to improve the functionalities of our product recommendation quiz, which provides a curated purchasing experience.”
And for other women entrepreneurs looking to start a business, Stovall offers some words of advice:
“The odds might be stacked against you, but don’t let them become obstacles. Keep going and always pray.”