May 18, 2016
The Local Branch
At every Renegade Craft Fair they attend, The Local Branch booth offers up nomadic, outdoorsy vibes that make us want to stop by hour after hour. Mackenzie and Blaine’s adventurous aesthetic is just perfection.
Where did your business name come from? Is there an interesting history behind?
The Local Branch was started in 2009 when we were living in our little mountain apartment outside of San Francisco. We knew we wanted to start something creative together – and when brainstorming a name, it was actually all a mistake! I thought Blaine said something and he mis-heard what I said… and viola, we accidentally came up with The Local Branch. It ended up working out perfectly because a few years later we’d decide to take this part-time thing into our full-time venture…. so we’d say, “Well, now we’re local everywhere!”
Have you always been passionate about design?
Yes! We were born creatives. A foundation of our relationship is our shared love of design and we often find ourselves discussing aesthetics of the world around us – from fashion to interior design to architecture and everything in between.
When/Why did you start working in this particular craft/field?
We’ve always been passionate about the arts for our entire lives… but after school, figuring out the direction that we wanted to go in was a little bit of a challenge (especially being a recent graduate in the dawn of the the recession). So, we decided to just start our own thing. We figured out a way to use our art as a way to connect with people in an accessible way.
We knew how to stretch canvases, so we decided we could also make our own silk screens. Blaine is a very good fine artist, so he’d spend hours upon hours delicately hand painting our designs right onto our screens. We knew we wanted everything to be USA-made (which hadn’t quite caught on back then, but people were starting to become more aware), so we bought some wholesale USA made shirts and hand printed our first batch with what little extra money we had at the time. From there, we started sewing using canvas and leather… and over time kept adding, subtracting, adjusting, shifting and honing in on who we are as people, designers and as a brand.
What do you think sets your designs apart from others?
Everyone has a story – and I think our story really adds another layer to our brand. Most of our goods are handcrafted by just the two of us. We’ve spent the last 2+ years on the road in our Airstream workshop, so we’ve tagged every item with where we were in the country when we made it, giving everything its own unique heritage. We also share our travel experiences + adventures on our blog and in social media so you can see where we were and what we were doing at the time your individual item was made! Additionally, we try to offer products that are highly functional as well as unique and beautiful.
Have you had any major failures? If so, what were some important insights gained?
With anything you do, there are risks + challenges. Sometimes things don’t pan out the way we hoped they would, but we try to think of every opportunity and experience as a lesson. No matter what the situation, a success or not-so-much, we try to learn something from it. We’ve certainly learned A LOT about how to live successfully on the road.
Have you sacrificed anything to create your business? If so, what was it, and do you have any regrets?
Time and money… and we wouldn’t trade either of those for what we have built though! When you’re starting and growing a business, you need to be able to do a lot with a little. We are solution-oriented people, so we’re constantly thinking of new ways to approach situations with a different point of view… and challenging ourselves to do whatever we can with a shoe string! At the outset we also sacrificed a lot of creature comforts to take our business on the road – also a worthy trade off for the rich experiences we’ve had.
What has been your proudest/favorite moment since creating your business?
We’ve had many proud moments throughout this journey. One of our favorites though was simply deciding to make this our full-time venture… and then buying a beat up Airstream trailer and turning it into our mobile workshop. It was a risky idea, some thought we were crazy + we weren’t certain how we’d land… but without a risk, there is no reward!
How does the city you live in influence your work?
For the last 2+ years we’ve been traveling nomads running our business full-time from the open road with a new backyard every few days. We’ve travelled throughout the entire country and getting to interact intimately with so many different people, places, cultures, stories, etc. has truly influenced our work on so many varying levels. A visit to our booth is like a record of our travels and we try to convey the experience of an American road trip through our products and aesthetic.
What valuable experience/knowledge did you have before starting your business?
When we first landed on the West Coast, we didn’t have (and couldn’t find) creative jobs – that is what pushed us to start our own side business in first place. But by the end of our time in the Bay Area, we were working in more creative fields. Having these opportunities really gave us the confidence to take our business to the next level. Mackenzie worked in Visual Merchandising at the home office for a wonderful, large San Francisco based company. Her time spent working in a wide array of scenarios and with many wonderful mentors gave her the experience she needed to take The Local Branch in a new direction. We also have many entrepreneurs in our family – so learning from them as role models and sounding boards was an amazing and priceless advantage to us both as well!
What made you take this leap into being your own boss?
We’ve just always had this drive in us to have our “own” thing. We love having a vision and making it into a reality – something we can constantly work on together and shape and mold into what we want it to be. We really wanted to have a few years to travel the country, so taking our business full-time and on the road really allowed us to have that adventure!
What are some inspirations for your work?
We are constantly inspired by the people we meet + the places we visit. We also try to stay ahead of trends and design products that offer elegant, creative, and practical solutions for our fellow wandering spirits.
What are some tips or suggestions you’d like to offer to fellow makers?
If you know in your heart that you really want something, make a plan, work hard, be brave, say yes, and go for it. A little outside-the-box thinking can go a long way too!