Discovering new (to me) brands is one of my favorite things. Inspecting the thoughtful designs, gorgeous packaging – it’s all a feast for the senses. Earlier this year I discovered a brand and instantly fell in love. They’re called Tradlands and they make the best button down shirt you will ever own (period).
Thanks to the recommendation of one of my favorite writers (Erin Boyle at Reading My Tea Leaves), I purchased a shirt from Tradlands, based in Southern California. And as I suspected, Erin is a girl who knows her stuff. My striped linen button down tunic has easily become one of my favorite things to wear.
Everything about the way Tradlands does business and treats their customers is totally in line with what I talk about with my collective of Brilliant Business Owners (join us!). Everything from the packaging to the thoughtfully handwritten notes to the entire online user experience – is absolutely top-notch.
And so of course, I tracked down as much info as I could about the company and reached out to one of the founders, Sadie Roberts, so we could get to know more about her and her mission with Tradlands.
I hope you enjoy getting to know Sadie as much as I have!
Sadie, I’m so excited for you to join us here – thank you for taking the time to chat with me. Let’s jump right in – tell me about YOU. Where are you from, where do you live, what do you do in the world, what do you love?
Thanks for having me here! Well, to start – I grew up in Rhode Island and lived there until I moved to San Francisco in 2009. There I met my business partner and husband, Jeremy, and we started Tradlands. Since then we’ve lived in Maine, Illinois, and we now reside in Oceanside, California.
We currently live in a small 2 bedroom apartment with our 2 dogs, Harry and Olive. When we were getting the business off the ground 4 years ago we moved in with family for a few years. This is the first time we’ve had our own place since we left San Francisco and were married. We feel grateful to a place to call our own and it’s been truly dreamy to live in Southern California.
When I’m not working I love to visit my family in Rhode Island, spend time with my dogs, and get outside. We live near beautiful beaches, sleepy surf towns, and great hiking trails. We travel internationally as often as work and budget allows. We just took a trip to Barcelona in June and are heading to Croatia in August!
I love that – traveling to new cities is so inspiring. I’d love to know what inspired you to start Tradlands.
In 2010 I read the 4-Hour Work Week. At the time I was feeling stuck at an unhealthy desk job working for a dreadful boss. I hated going to work every day. My creativity deflated. I thought over and over again, “Is this it? Will I work like this until retirement?” After reading Tim Ferriss’ book it became clear that I could create whatever future I wanted for myself. I wasn’t tied to that job or that desk or that paycheck. From there Jeremy and I built the foundation for Tradlands.
Of course, I love making clothing, I have a creative background, and I had a great partnership with Jeremy to start. I had the support and love of my family. But the book was the spark. It made us realize that we wanted a life full of travel, loving our work, and spending time with the people who inspire us. We didn’t want to start after retirement.
I love that you took that leap – congratulations! I always think that clothes are more than just clothes. That they say something about us and who we are. With Tradlands, what do you feel is most important about what you’re creating and putting out into the world?
The clothing we create plays a role in how our customers feel for the day. It’s important to make pieces that can be worn by women everywhere, from bakers and gardeners to mothers and daughters. We received this review the other day from a customer.
“What I love most about my Tradlands shirt is how it frees me up to focus on other things. I know that I’ll be comfortable and look pulled-together all day when I’m wearing it, and I can use those precious few moments in the morning, which I used to spend fretting over clothing choice, on other, more important choices for my day. I don’t have to wake up in the morning and ask, “Who will I be today?” I know the answer is: comfortable and stylish. I’ve taken to referring to this shirt as a feminist – it affords women the same opportunities for practicality, style, and durability that men have in their clothes.”
This sums up why I love what I do and what’s truly important to our customers.
I love that. What a great testimonial (and I concur with that customer – your pieces are the epitome of stylish comfort). So back to the work – we know it’s not always unicorns & rainbows as a business owner and creative person. There are lots of ups & downs. How do you stay motivated and inspired in work and life?
The only certainty about starting your own business is the uncertainty. It’s difficult to make time for yourself and most days work consumes my mind. Last year I hit a wall. I was working endless hours, losing sleep at night, and in a creative rut. Today we place importance on schedule, making space for innovative work, and time away from the computer and other screens. Of course, there are weeks of late nights and long meetings. But I think I have a healthy balance now. It takes discipline to care for yourself and create time for relaxation and fun.
For me, having a strong and supportive group of family and friends has been key. When I’m questioning every decision I’ve ever made there is always someone to remind me of my strength and what I am committed to. There are days, especially in the beginning when it’s tough to find the silver lining. I think most small business owners have moments or periods when failure feels inevitable. The “what am I doing with my life?” questions creep in. Those are the times I am most grateful for the people who believe in me. Especially my mom and dad, who see me as the best edition of myself.
What a gift to have that kind of support – it truly does make all the difference in the world! What is the biggest obstacle you’ve overcome since starting your business? And what helped you get over that hurdle (besides your support squad)?
The biggest obstacle is believing in and learning to trust in myself. There’s no one to give you a gold star when you work for yourself so I’ve had to build my own sense of confidence and definition of success. I don’t have a background in business and I’ve made what feels like a million mistakes along the way. But each one is a chance to learn and grow. It sounds cliche but it rings true for me.
I tend to be pretty tough on myself and have high expectations of my own performance. The hardest days, the months at the start when I was so unsure, have helped me realize who I want to become as a woman and business owner. Through reading and reflection I’ve learned it’s important to celebrate the wins. Ask for help when you need it. Share your process. Be fearless. Define your future and put smaller goals in place to create it.
I love that you said reading, reflection and celebrating the wins (something I find many business owners don’t do often enough). I’m curious, who do you look up to in business? Who inspires you?
Martha Stewart. Eileen Fisher. Sheryl Sandberg. Patti Smith. Beyoncé. Our awesome customers inspire me every day.
I could write a novel on the ways my mother inspires me. I’ve always been told we are similar but I didn’t see it as much as I do in my 30s. When I was younger I’d think, “Yeah, yeah, we look alike. I get it.” Today any comparison to her is the greatest compliment and I find myself leaning into the qualities we share.
I love that. Your mom sounds like an amazing woman. Shifting gear slightly, what does it mean to you – to live a life and to have a business with SOUL?
To me, it means the work you do brings value and happiness to your customer. In turn, those customers support you and allow you to do what you love every day.
I love that (as a customer experience advocate – this is music to my ears). So, we’re big birthday (month) fans around here, what’s your dream way to spend a birthday?
It’s a funny question for me because I always downplay my birthday! I’d be happy to hang with my friends and eat delicious food. But I’d also love a small getaway to someplace with a quiet beach.
What are 5 things you can’t live without (like ever)?
I’ll start by saying I don’t own a lot of things. Moving across the country a few times has taught me to shed stuff I don’t need. I want to love the things I own so I purchase fewer, better items that bring me happiness.
- My wedding ring. It’s an antique gold signet ring we found at a small shop in Maine for $150. One of the jewelers told me to think of myself, not as the buyer but also the next caretaker for the ring. I love that.
- My favorite Tradlands shirt, The Tourist. I’ve worn a Tradlands shirt at my wedding reception, hiking in Yosemite, to work at home and business meetings.
- My passport
- My sunglasses
- My dogs. I know they won’t be with me forever. But they bring so much joy and love into my life and I can’t imagine life without them. But they are also teaching me valuable lessons in mortality.
Because I love exploring, I’d love to know the top 3 places you’d send me if I was visiting your ‘hood.
I love hanging out in Encinitas. I’d recommend:
- Grabbing a coffee at Ironsmith and walking along Moonlight Beach and through Swami’s gardens
- Try a surf lesson in Oceanside with Whitlock Surf Experience. They will have you catching a wave within a couple of hours.
- Visit North Park in San Diego. They have great shops, like Pigment, and awesome restaurants and breweries. My favorite right now is Belching Beaver and their Peanut Butter Milk Stout.
This year we released a modern, heirloom-quality chore coat we designed with Robyn Wilson of The Poor Porker. It feels like a celebration of women like me and Robyn who hustle hard and need clothing that is durable, smart, and comfortable.
To develop the coat we worked with a small manufacturer in Chicago, led by a mother-daughter team. We’re a huge part of each other’s business and it’s been a great partnership. With the jacket it feels like working with and supporting other creative, inspiring women has come full circle.
If you knew then, what you know now – what message would you have for your younger self?
I would tell her she will find confidence and love for herself. But I don’t think she would believe me. 🙂
One final question: what do you know for sure?
Everything changes and there is possibility everywhere.
. . . . . .
In my perfect dream world, every single person who owns a business is like Sadie. From her incredible work ethic, dedication to delivering great customer experiences, focus on quality and all the details – to her deep desire to grow, learn and be surrounded by beauty and love – she is truly the epitome of the heart-centered modern business owner.
It was such a gift to get to learn more about you today Sadie – thank you for what you do, what you’re creating, and the artistry with which you and your husband (and your team) do it. It is deliciously inspiring!
Thanks for hanging out with us today – I can’t wait to introduce you to more inspiring women in business in the weeks to come. See you soon!
Photos courtesy of Sadie Roberts