An Interview With Michelle Thoreson, Owner Of Revelry Dresses
In 2009, a Texas State Alumna and sorority girl, Michelle Thoreson, 27, launched her fashion line, Revelry Dresses, the future of sorority recruitment-wear. Through hard work, Thoreson has become one of the most successful entrepreneurs in her field, with custom designs, and actual dresses (not just t-shirts), available for group, and individual orders. I know how excited I got about a new t-shirt, but realistically, I wouldn’t be caught dead wearing a t-shirt in public if it wasn’t adorned with my letters. Plus, I never had anything to wear my tees with, considering I only wear pants, like, once a year. I can only imagine how excited I’d have been to put my letters on actual clothes, like DRESSES! Watching my rival’s faces as we rolled up to recruitment looking extra presh would have been sugar-free icing on the low-carb cake. A far cry from the basic sorority tee, Revelry offers 20 different custom designs (all imagined up by Thoreson), available in 13 colors. They can be purchased without customization, to be worn on game day, or they can be adorned with the best letters out there: yours. Gone are the days of shitty Gildan tees, here are the days of Revelry dresses for your recruitment needs, all thanks to the amazing work of the super posh entrepreneur, whom I had the pleasure of interviewing.
Hot Piece: How/when did you come up with your business idea? Were you just sitting around your sorority house being fabulous when you decided that you were going to be kind of a big deal some day in the not too distant future? Was it during a bitching about your recruitment chair sesh, wishing a company like yours already existed? I mean, kidding. No one bitches about their recruitment chair.
Thoreson:Recruitment brings mixed feelings, for sure, but one thing you should be confident in is your outfit! I never understood why we wore these ill-fitting pink polos when we were supposed to be feeling confident and attracting new members. They totally did not capture our chapter’s classy and vibrant personality! I decided that moment that the Greek community could suffer no longer with the limited options that the Greek Apparel companies offered. I like to imagine that the recruitment chair’s job is easier because we offer so much now and we send out sample sizes. We have cute tops, skirts, accessories and we even have sequin apparel! What Greek girl can deny sequins?! If you do, don’t worry we also even have good ol’ fashion tanks and tees BUT they are the perfect fabric and fit!
Hot Piece: What was your major in school? Did you have a passion for fashion (I dare you to tease me for rhyming), business, or both? When did you know that entrepreneurship was the direction you wanted to take your life in?
Thoreson: You could say I’m only smilin’ when I’m stylin’ (which would explain my frustration with the pink polos!). At my core I am a fashionista, for sure. I could only dream to have a career in the fashion industry one day. I was a communications major (Editor’s Note: TSM), and a business minor. I took fashion classes, but they didn’t teach me what I wanted to learn about the fashion industry, so I switched to a business minor. I definitely never saw myself growing into an entrepreneur while in undergrad, but now looking back it only makes sense. I wouldn’t be happy any other way. I remember originally wanting to start a boutique after graduating, but I didn’t have a spare million dollars to invest, so I had to pave my own way in the fashion world and start my own brand. Now after crazy hard work everything is better than I could have ever imagined.
Hot Piece: When you launched your business in 2009 were you first date nervous, or were you “what did I get myself into” nervous?
Thoreson: More like blind date. I was confident, but had no idea what the other side would say! The blind date nerves went away once I saw how excited women were to see what Revelry had to offer. I guess everyone was as ready for a change as I was!
Hot Piece: Did you have a lot of support from your friends, family and sisters along the way?
Thoreson: Definitely from my sisters! They were so excited I was giving the next Greek generation a chance to stand out and an opportunity to utilize something different. Some people were skeptical about whether I could actually make it happen since all I had were sketches, but my family was super supportive because they know I don’t take “no” for an answer. Since I was a little girl they called me “the badger,” and I’ll work hard to get what I want.
Hot Piece: Obviously you’ve been pretty successful since your business plan was initially launched. I mean, Facebook suggested I like Revelry dresses (and I’m suggesting that the readers like it now), which may also be an indication that I’m a little too into clothing and sorority life. How have you seen your company grow since you began (in terms of clientele, popularity, and company size)? Did you expect success this quickly?
Thoreson: Revelry was the first, and is now the best one-stop shop for recruitment apparel, but it did not happen overnight. I knew I had to make my dream idea work, (the future of Greek women were depending on me!) but starting and running a successful business is HARD. I went through many trial and error processes. I have had to learn the world of manufacturing and business logistics. I would even consider myself a “techy” with all of the skills I have mastered from running an online business. It has taken me years to be able to provide the vast selection of high quality, knock out recruitment apparel that Revelry offers today. Becoming a businesswoman was necessary to make the fashion happen.
Hot Piece: Do you have any advice for young girls aspiring to start their own businesses?
Thoreson: Self-education is very important. You’re going to have to teach yourself a lot of stuff you never thought you’d be learning. Commitment can be scary, but any business that you start has to be your life, epically in the beginning years! Find and befriend people involved with the industry you are interested in. Camaraderie with other entrepreneurs helps you stay dedicated!
Hot Piece: I noticed all of your products are named after girls, because you’re adorable. Are there stories behind that? Did you just pick names you liked? Are you regretting accidentally using a future daughter’s name on a dress? Are these real-life names of things and I’m embarrassing myself because my fashion lexicon is limited to “Oh my God, love it. Sold!” and “It wouldn’t be my first choice, but it’s nice for you”?
Thoreson: I would love to say they all have profound meaning, but they don’t. I wanted to name dresses after my beloved ones, but lets be real, who would I pick first?! What if I left someone out? What if I secretly don’t like my best friend’s name? Only kidding! I will be in serious trouble when the day comes that I have to pick bridesmaids.
Hot Piece: Explain to me how you go about ordering a product, for an individual or for a group.
Thoreson: This year, everything’s easier than it’s ever been before. For 2013, everything’s done through the online store. Individual orders are easy, but one of our specialties is group order discounts, which you receive as long as you have an order of 15 or more products in your online shopping cart. I always suggest that sororities first order sample sizes. They go from a size small to an extra-large but are designed to fit a wide range of different body sizes and types. From there, the best option is to Pre-Order your dresses. Why Pre-Order? Pre-Orders are for Fall Recruitment, your options are unlimited because we are going to custom make your order and it will arrive on August 1st. The official cut-off for Pre-Orders is April 1st, but if you miss that date you will still be able to pre-order for Recruitment, but as it gets closer to August, fewer and fewer options will be available. We also always have an “Order Now” option, which goes off of our current inventory so you will receive it lightning fast.
Hot Piece: Your product repertoire extends beyond customized dresses. I saw that you sell accent belts and bows, which are customizable as well. You also sell v-necks, tanks, and other cute tops, that are currently customizable with your sorority’s letters. Is it possible to submit custom designs in addition to, or instead of, traditional screen-printed letters.
Thoreson: We can accommodate any custom print requests, as long as the artwork is provided to us. So…NOT a picture from someone’s iPhone, but a PDF that a screen-printer would use. However, as far as custom apparel design goes, I’ll be hosting a Project Runway-style contest with large prizes and major props. Contestants can order our fabric, design and actually make their dress, and send it back in. The winner’s design will be manufactured and sold. More info to come on that, so all you aspiring fashion designers, stay tuned.
Hot Piece: What’s your favorite part of your job?
Thoreson: I love chatting with my clients and seeing how happy they are with recruitment and how impressed the PNMs were with their outfits. I always encourage them to send in pictures. I actually get emotional when Recruitment chairs send me pictures of their chapter in Revelry. It’s my dream in motion! I have an amazing team but I still handle all the group order sales and customer service because I love interacting with the women and customer service is VERY important to me. Revelry is here to serve YOU. We are rock stars in accommodating our customers’ requests compared to other Greek Apparel companies. I have actually been advised by larger companies to disengage myself. I’ve been told many times I am too involved and give customers too much lee-way. From a business perspective sometimes they might be right, but I cherish Revelry customers and want do everything I can for them year after year!
Hot Piece: On a scale from 1-10, 1 being you got a free fro-yo, 10 being you recently discovered they invented a machine that can remove the calories from cheese fries and chocolate when you’re on your period, how enhanced would your life have been, had Revelry dresses been available for you during your recruitment and game days?
Thoreson: Not only would the calories be removed, but they’d be reversed, so when you ate, you’d actually be burning calories.
So, clearly, Michelle is living proof that apparently you can have it all: a sick business, ties to the fashion industry, and a means to hold onto sorority life forever. Perfect. Don’t forget to hit up RevelryDresses.com, and check out dresses that are just as adorable as the girl who designs them, because on game day, we wear Revelry.