Tiana Tate is a entrepreneur based in South Carolina. Her brand, TLTees, is a clothing and accessory brand with a "pop culture slant." Tiana read a few other interviews on QWH and thought it was amazing that the site was focused on women, empowerment and women letting their stories be told. When on the website, Tiana thought “this is awesome, I would love to be on this site. it matches up with exactly what she wants to accomplish."
Thank you Tiana for reaching out. We're wishing you nothing but growth and success!
Where are you from?
Originally I’m from New Jersey but I live in South Carolina now. When I was in middle school we moved here because most of my family is originally from South Carolina. My mom wanted to move close to her family again.
What is TLTees and how did the brand come about?
TLTees is me trying to put some positivity into and uplift the world. I wanted to have something that showed how I really felt. I saw a lot of other t-shirt brands and they didn’t have shirts that I could relate to. They had stuff that felt gimmicky. It felt like they were trying to profit off of the recent exposure of “woke culture.” I felt that these people weren’t putting a lot of thought into what they were selling. I wanted to have shirts that I liked, that were cute but had a message, and that gave back to this community. I didn’t want to feel like somebody was just out here making money off of my community and the it not getting any benefit from that. I wanted to make sure that everything I did was purposeful, uplifting, and truly for the people in my community, especially women of color. A lot of the times in these conversations about race and gender, WOC somewhat get sidelined. Black women have been saying this for a long time, none of this is new or surprising to us.
In our brief introduction, you stated that you felt that a lot of the movements that are supposed to help all black people are mostly centered around black men only rather than black women, women of color, or LGBT women. In your opinion, what has to happen in order to change this?
I think that with a lot of movements, we need to start at the bottom with the most vulnerable people. I feel this way because when those people are in a place where they feel safe, then everyone else does too. If you have to work from the top down, it’s basically “trickle-down activism.” You can’t start with the people that have the most privilege and expect for everyone else to get what ever is left over. The people who are at the bottom are the people that are the most vulnerable and need the most help.
There are other brands that sell clothing and other products that have political statements and images on them. What makes TLTees unique?
We donate back to the community and I’m not sure if any of the other t-shirt brands do that. For this month, we’re donating pads and tampons to homeless shelters near where I live. Where I live, it’s one of the poorest towns in South Carolina and it’s majority black. A lot of people don’t realize that for women who are homeless, it’s very hard to get personal toiletries. It’s hard to get access to and a lot of people don’t think to donate those type of things to the homeless shelters.
It’s amazing that you give 10% of TLTees profits to charities that help women and the LGBT community. What are a few charities that you have donated to so far and what other charities do you still want to reach?
I just started the brand this year and we’re just starting to get to the point where we have a profit to donate. This month is actually the first month that we’re doing a donation. I hope to evolve to the point where I have people who are messaging and sending in times for charities and shelters in their own neighborhoods that are looking for funding. I also feel like with a lot of charities you have to really do your research and see where the money is going. I want to make sure that whatever I do is directly helping people.
Does TLTees have a staff or do you handle all of the operations alone? Has the process been challenging?
I mostly do everything on my own. I have a support system of my family and people in my life that can give me advice and opinions on certain things that I do. They also help me with all of the technical work because I am not the best with coding. I actually have a cousin who has a computer engineering degree so she helps me a lot with building the website. Everyone that I work with on the site are all black women and they are there for advice and making sure that what I’m doing is beneficial. I want to make sure that everything that I’m doing is purposeful. I would love to have a team but I don’t want to grow until I have the ability to pay for one. I don’t want to have people working for me that I can’t pay. A lot of the time people take advantage and I don’t want for someone to be working for me and for me to be labeled as uplifting and helping women but then having people on my team that I’m not paying.
How do you plan to continue to grow your brand and reach a larger audience?
I’m still figuring it out. This is the first time that I’ve done anything like this. I don’t have a blueprint or people who have done this as mentors. I’m still figuring it all out as I go. Right now I’m trying to find more exposure and ways to get my message out there. I want to be able to get more customers, complete more projects and just grow. But during this time I’m still figuring out exactly how I do that. Sales are consistent and it’s growing. I feel good with the direction we’re going and I feel that if I keep going on the path that I’m on now, it’ll get to the point where I feel really good about what I have the potential of doing. However, I just started in January and it’s been a learning experience but I think I’m getting there.
Shop TLTees here.