Justus, Megan, and Tania Aarhus in Pollys Pockets studio

Justus, Megan, and Tania Aarhus

Trio sews up a big business from a tiny idea

It all started with a pocket on a shirt.

Justus Aarhus, a student at Georgetown High School, spotted some t-shirts online that she really liked. They sported cute pockets created out of fabrics different from the shirt materials. After she showed the shirts to friends, one said, “You should get your mom to make those shirts.” A few months later, Justus and her mom were not only making t-shirts with Justus’ personal design flair but also building a new business that has become a family endeavor.

Justus’ mom, Tania Aarhus, owns screen-printing and embroidery business called Threefold Enterprises, so the perfect set-up already existed. Tania knew suppliers for the shirts and had the professional machinery to produce the finished products.

But what name would they give to their new venture? “My mom came up with it,” says Justus. Tania, remembering how her girls loved playing with Polly Pocket dolls, thought a similar name would work well for their pocket shirts, so she suggested Pollys Pockets. Justus loved it.

Next, they selected their materials. One of Tania’s shirt suppliers offered an array of color options, offering Justus unlimited possibilities for the coordinating pocket fabrics. Justus knew she wanted to focus on geometric fabrics, and after playing around with some trial samples, she and her mom decided that monograms looked great when embroidered over a chevron print—a lined or striped print created of “V” shapes. After browsing fabric stores, Justus chose forty-plus chevron designs, along with some college-themed prints, Greek key patterns, and southwest geometrics. Tania says, “Justus has a good eye.” They also chose a black-on-white fabric of musical scores, for music lovers.

At the same time Justus and her mom were making fabric decisions, Justus’ sister, Megan, was busy setting up their website and Facebook page and opening an Instagram account. The diverse creative talents of this family came together to launch the business, and with their materials selected and social media in place, it was time to start taking orders.

They “opened their doors” in the fall of 2013. Justus’ friends began ordering shirts, and, she says, word “just kind of spread throughout the school through all the different grades.” Tania laughs as she adds, “Her friends were so excited; they started being her marketers and order takers.” And since the holidays were right around the corner, the orders came in even faster. Tania says, “The kids didn’t want just one shirt; they kept ordering and ordering.”

But Justus and Tania had an efficient process in place from the get-go for getting those orders filled. Justus takes the orders, pulls the chosen garment, and tags it. She also cuts out the pockets, getting them ready for her mom to monogram and attach. These are true, functional pockets, Tania points out, unlike those from other companies that look like real pockets but are actually sewn down on all four sides. After Tania completes the shirts, they go back to Justus for packaging and delivery.

Justus says her favorite part of the process is “the outcome.” She loves making personal deliveries, handing completed items to customers and seeing their excitement.

The most difficult aspect of the business is time. As a student, Justus juggles classes, homework, and tennis team. It’s a challenge at times for her to get everything done. But with the support of her mom, she makes it work, and she has even expanded the business.

Initially, the pocket t-shirts were all the rage; then monogrammed sweatshirts took over as the most popular item for a while. Summer brought a huge demand for the t-shirts again. Even guys place orders. Tania shares an interesting tidbit: With a guy’s monogram, the initials are placed with the surname initial at the end, and the letters are all the same size. For a girl’s monogram, the surname initial falls in the middle and is typically larger than the other letters.

Pollys Pockets offers additional items now as well, including monogrammed ear warmers, headbands, and fishing shirts. Justus and her mom are creating new ways to use their accent fabrics, too, such as accenting the interior of a sweatshirt hood with a print fabric and applying a rough-edged patch of monogrammed fabric in lieu of a pocket.

And their customer base has expanded. They’ve made shirts for cheerleaders and dancers and college shirts for University of Mississippi and Sam Houston State students. They’ve even designed shirts for a wedding party.

Justus has two more years of high school, but she already knows that she’s interested in pursuing some sort of medical field in college. No, she’s not planning on a career in business or fashion, but wait—with the wonderful help of her talented family, she seems to have one already!

For more information, go to pollyspockets.wix.com or the Pollys Pockets Facebook page.

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