Fall is winding into winter, but that isn't fazing local clothing designers, who are still cranking out awesome wares for cheap that can be mixed and matched with colder clothing. Those looking for something clean and simple with a message may do well to look at Huckleberry Highway, whose designs are making the rounds as a Utah-made statement in casual wear. Primarily made up of t-shirts, some with local flavor or design, the company has been garnering attention from college kids and finding a home with those seeking a print not easily found in a chain store. Today, we chat with the mother/daughter duo behind the company about their designs and what they've got coming down the line. (All pictures courtesy of Huckleberry Highway.
Lisa and Laken Flinders
Gavin: Hey ladies, first thing, tell us a little bit about yourselves.
I am 18 years old and am currently a freshman at Utah Valley University attending on a soccer scholarship. I graduated from American Fork High School last year.
I am Laken’s mom, so only a few years older than 18. I graduated from Brigham Young University with a degree in Communications with an emphasis in Public Relations. I had a short career in marketing for a general contractor in Salt Lake City before we started our family.
Gavin: How did each of you get involved with art and design?
The main way I got involved was simply just doodling during class. I would have pages of random scribbles and designs that I would draw to help me pay attention in my classes.
Gavin: Did either of you seek out formal training or education, or were you mainly self-taught?
I have always enjoyed art classes throughout high school but never took anything more than just the basic required classes. It wasn’t until my senior year where my mom and I had the idea of starting Huckleberry Highway. That is when I wish I would have taken more art credits in order to get more of a knowledge of art and design, because I learned that I really enjoyed it.
I don’t have the artistic talent. Just some education in marketing.
Gavin: Did you work on anything else together prior to Huckleberry Highway?
Laken has always been driven to succeed. From as early as her elementary years, she passed out flyers to neighbors offering to sit dogs while on vacation, to pick up their mail and to water their plants. As she got older, she got quite skilled at baking cupcakes and sold those to neighbors to raise money for soccer. She even sold roses a few years, too. Once she was 16, she always held down a job as well as maintained a high GPA where she was able to earn an academic scholarship as well as a business scholarship (coupled with her soccer one) at UVU.
Gavin: How did the idea come about to start up a clothing line, and why specifically targeted for women?
After noticing the type of designs Laken was sketching, I thought, “Those need to be on t-shirts.” I can remember walking by a store at the Lehi outlets where I believe a mountain was sketched on a shirt. We both realized no one has sketched up Mount Timpanogos before. Laken went to sketching and came up with a design that spawned one of our first shirts, which was well-received.
Gavin: What was it like for you planning out the company, and where did the name come from?
The name came from one of my favorite country songs that I listened to growing up. It’s by Toby Keith and its
called "Huckleberry." My mom and I liked that name and then decided to add Highway onto the end because of our love to travel and go on road trips.
We thought it would be a good fit. I have always enjoyed promoting things, and when we realized her talent for sketching, it just seemed like the right fit.
Gavin: What’s the process like for you both coming up with ideas for shirts?
My mom is always coming up with ideas, and will text me late at night or while I’m in class or some random times. She is always throwing ideas at me to sketch up a design. I usually will write down the good ideas, and then at night, when I am done with homework and practice, I will sketch up some ideas to share back with her. We then make the adjustments needed. Then, my mom handles getting the images scanned in and sent off the printer to have them professionally screened.
Gavin: A lot of the messages you have are more motivational and inspirational than you might see on other shirts. What made you go into more of a message-driven direction?
We felt like there was a demand for those type of shirts. One that has been such a hit has been targeted to the LDS Missionary mom market. Shortly before we started the business, our oldest son–only 11 months older than Laken, her best friend–left for an LDS mission to Lima, Peru. Not expecting my heart to be ripped out of my chest, I thought about a shirt to display a subtle message to wear to cover that heart, per se. So, quoting from a verse in the Book of Mormon, Laken sketched up a phrase that moms could wear with pride to show their support.
Gavin: How much work do you put into the designs that match each one?
It usually takes me a few tries before I actually like the sketch that I am drawing. It usually takes a few weeks to come up with a finished product after the initial idea.
Gavin: What was it like for you branching out with an online store rather than a physical shop?
I love the flexibility of having an online boutique. I couldn’t do it any other way. Laken is my only daughter, but I also have five other sons, all who play multiple sports. This way I can fit in both the busyness of the practices and games and this business. The digital arena has proven to be such an asset in getting the word out. Instagram has become quite the tool to drive traffic to our site. It’s been great to also meet other shop owners, fashion bloggers and businesses along the way. It’s quite a virtual network.
Gavin: What’s the response been like from people so far?
We have had a great response. We have had great feedback, and customers seem to be pleased with their shirts. It is also fun to hear what others would like to see on our shirts.
Gavin: Down the line, are you looking to expand the line, or mainly doing shirts for now?
One of our goals down the road is to place our shirts in small, local boutiques across the United States.
A few years ago, before we got serious, we were vacationing in Telluride and saw some shirts there, and thought how we could really design some cute ones for stores there. I guess the inspiration hit us earlier than we initially thought.
Gavin: Do you do any custom orders, and if so, how can people get a hold of you?
Yes, Laken has already designed one for a local girls camp. And we have had correspondence with some other businesses in designing custom orders for them. What is funny is her first shirt she ever designed was for her elementary school. She and her friend won the contest to design the school shirt. I guess we should have keyed in that she had a knack. If people are interested in custom orders, they can e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Gavin: What can we expect from both of you and Huckleberry Highway going into next year?
We, of course, want to keep coming up with unique designs. We are working on possibly branching out into the home décor market soon. But our main focus will still be on shirts.