Tracy Van Ravensway knows the best place to buy large potatoes in bulk. Not for cooking gargantuan portions of baked potatoes, but for carving the potatoes to make prints on her line of organic cotton clothing, Tiny Tater Tees.
She prints colorful patterns on T-shirts, onesies, ties and yoga pants by hand, then irons them and sews in a label. Each color and shape requires a different carved potato. Van Ravensway had a custom order of 2,400 shirts she worked on from August through November and is investigating how to expand her production capabilities without compromising on her hand-made, eco-friendly approach. “I just won’t sacrifice my product, if it changes the integrity of it,” she says. “I won’t lower my standards. Maybe my business is only meant to be small, but I would like to get it bigger.”
She has worked out of her Anthem home for four years and for about a year she has had a retail store on Main Street in downtown Scottsdale, where she sells her clothing as well as other eco-friendly toys and products. She mostly sells to tourists, though Van Ravensway hopes to get more local shoppers into her store.
Having retail space has actually increased her wholesale business. Boutique owners from out of state visit her store and order her clothing to sell in their stores.
The more successful the store and website become, the more time she must spend painting shirts and minding the store while taking care of her children, Emma (5) and Nathan (4). The store is closed Wednesdays, plus she has someone come in to work in the store Sundays and Mondays. For now, Van Ravensway can bring Nathan with her to the store a couple days a week and he happily plays on her iPad or with his toys and Emma helps around the store.
When she is home with the kids she doesn’t do any work until they are asleep. She has her “snuggle time” with them and that means working until midnight ironing shirts and sewing in labels.
Van Ravensway says she has always been an entrepreneur as well as being creative and has always known she would have her own store. She likes adjusting the product mix to match the interests and needs of her clientele and is a naturally hard worker so the late nights are not a burden on her.
Her husband, Jamie, also works in downtown Scottsdale so they contemplate a move from Anthem to reduce their driving time.
Learn more about Tiny Tater Tees.
Story and photos by Daniel Friedman