Sota Clothing

Minnesota Business

November 19, 2015

Christina|Lake Time Magazine

What started as a school project in a graphic design class at University of Minnesota, Duluth in 2011, has quickly become a brand that resonates with people all over the world. Spencer Johnson, founder of Sota Clothing, tells us how he brought his classroom inspirations to a successful clothing sensation.

Q:
How long has Sota Clothing existed?

A: I graduated from UMD in 2011. This idea came to fruition after bouncing around majors in college. From photography to video production, then I finally graduated with a degree in graphic design. 'Sota' was the result of my senior project in school. We were tasked to create a fictional company. That is when I knew this fictional idea had real potential. 

Q:
Do you sell more men's clothing or women's clothing?

A:
I originally started out designing clothes for me (men), then I realized the female demographic was a HUGE market so I spent a lot of time researching what women like. just in the last year I would say we sell 70% women 30% men. 

Q: Tell me about the role that social media plays in marketing?

A:
Instagram is my bread and butter for advertising new and lifestyle products. Pinterest has also been a tool that I've been using a lot lately. Because of my background with photography, web and design, I've used it to promote our Sota product lines, pairing the brand and clothing with lifestyle shots and imagery. I also use social media to test my product and market response for new designs. I like to see people get involved and interact with the process.

Q:
What's next for Sota? 

A:
Right now we carry shirts, T-shirts, coffee mugs, pint glasses... I'd like to offer some limited edition items and bring it to a higher-end product. I've also wanted to make a true-to-Minnesota flannel as well.

Q:
What is this Near North brand that we've been seeing lately?

A:
Believe it or not, our first product was an apron. We're very inspired by the hands-on movement and an apron just seemed to fit the bill. We've teamed up with a variety of excellent companies, so it's lended itself to becoming a high-quality adventure brand for day-trippers, common weekenders, and world travelers.

Q:
What's the biggest challenge you've faced as an entrepreneur?

A:
Since I'm so vested in Sota Clothing, I seem to take things very personally. Emails are my demise. It's the small things that keep me up at night. I've recently involved my sister with order fulfillment and the back end of the business. My mom helps a ton too.

Q:
What's your favorite part about running this business?

A:
Development! I love going into a coffee shop, grabbing that first cup of coffee and perusing my go-to sites for inspiration. Hands down, I love the start process, then seeing it come to life. People may think that these designs come easily and quickly because they appear to be clean and simple but I actually spend weeks, even months perfecting one design.

Q:
Any advice to the aspiring entrepreneur?

A:
Don't give up! Be bold and persistent. Just keep going and keep trying... the most random stuff you can possibly think of, so far out of the box... because you never know what won't work.