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Entrepreneur puts education on pause to start clothing company

Entrepreneur puts education on pause to start clothing company

Sarah Wells withdrew from UNT to nurture her clothing line, Threadwell. It is now a thriving trade fair shop with a growing online presence. Photo by Nicole Arnold/Visuals Editor

Entrepreneur puts education on pause to start clothing company
August 19
10:03 2013

Photo caption: Sarah Wells withdrew from UNT to nurture her clothing business, Threadwell. It is now a thriving trade fair shop with a growing online presence. Photo by Nicole Arnold/Visuals Editor

Melissa Wylie/Assigning Editor

On a Monday evening in June, Sarah Wells takes a break from her endless to-do list. Wearing a black and white polka-dot sundress, glittering eye shadow and blonde hair styled in relaxed, summer waves, she heads to Jupiter House. She immediately recognizes two familiar faces and makes her way over to say a quick hello before taking a table of her own.

Wells’s clothing company, Threadwell, consumes much of her time and attention, but she’s made a little room in her schedule for a short trip to the coffee shop.

In the past six months, Wells put her education on hold and became fully dedicated to selling trendy clothes to young women and changing the expectations the hyper-critical fashion industry imposes on women.

“I really want to be an encouragement to girls,” Wells said. “Who they are is not in what they wear.”

Wells said Threadwell is a vehicle for sharing her belief that beauty is not always what is considered pretty, something she learned from her oldest sister Kristen.

Growing up in Mesquite, Texas, Wells and her two older sisters were stacked in a shared bunk bed in the family’s small duplex. Kristen has special needs, which strengthened the bond between the girls.

“Some people look at us and they pity us and they pity her, and it’s frustrating because she’s so happy,” Wells said. “Because of that, I’ve learned how to love and be patient. Kristen is a huge part of my inspiration.”

While studying fashion merchandising at UNT and working as a showroom worker at the Dallas World Trade Center, Wells, 23, received an opportunity to build her own clothing company earlier this year.

Entrepreneur and former UNT student Sarah Wells holds up a sample dress she curated from the Dallas World Trade Center. Wells selects articles of clothing from certain lines and sells them under the umbrella of her business, Threadwell. Photo by Nicole Arnold/Visuals Editor

Wells’ boss Linda Thomas is a sales representative for Angie Clothing Line. Wholesalers look at sample pieces from the line and place bulk orders of the clothing to be sold at retail stores.

A rare agreement between Thomas and Wells allows Wells to take the sample items and sell them herself. Wells sells the clothes at retail price, and any profits and unsold items go back to Thomas.

“It’s the perfect opportunity for me to safely start off a business,” Wells said.

Threadwell officially launched in January and recognition grew quickly. Wells said the company’s Facebook page clocked in more than 100 “likes” in a few days.

Initially Wells held events where girls could come to her Denton apartment and shop while sipping coffee and snacking on cookies to create word-of-mouth advertising.

Her intimate, buzzed-about affairs turned into her current shops at trade fairs in Canton and McKinney, along with developing an online store. Wells usually has about 200 items for sale each month, including casual dresses and embellished blouses, and often sells everything.

Even though Wells decided to leave UNT this spring to focus on Threadwell, she credits much of her real-world success to the knowledge she gained in the classroom.

“It’s made me a huge advocate for school, with me using the things I’ve learned so often,” Wells said. “I highly encourage people to go to school.”

Choosing not to enroll was a result of Threadwell’s surprisingly fast growth. Wells said she needed to seize the opportunities presented to her, and the choice has proved worthwhile.

“Quitting school was a huge, huge deal. I never thought I would be one to do that,” she said. “I decided that, for at least a little bit, I’m just going to go for it.”

Spools of thread in Sarah Wells' workspace where she creates pieces for her clothing company Threadwell. Photo by Nicole Arnold/Visuals Editor

Wells’ parents, who are educators, were hesitant to accept her decision to quit school. Her mother Teresa Wells said it has been satisfying to see Wells following her passion.

“At first when she told us we were kind of torn,” Teresa said. “But we are so excited to be in this with her and supporting her.”

A few friends and acquaintances were not as supportive and doubted Wells’ ability to be successful without a degree.

“The people around you are going to tell you it’s impossible, because it’s unheard of,” she said. “In a lot ways it made me even more motivated when people told me I couldn’t, because in my mind I was like, ‘No, I can and I will.’”

Photographer Daniel Routh has taken photos for Threadwell and is designing her website. He said Wells’ strong work ethic and eye for style will undoubtedly lead to success. On the set of a photo shoot, Routh said Wells never misses a detail or wrinkle.

“She has a vision for what she wants things to look like,” Routh said. “She’s really good at describing what she wants.”

Routh recalled a memorable photo shoot when he, Wells and three models found an unattended ladder to the roof of a building. They all climbed up, the models in their Threadwell dresses, and the risky location change paid off. Routh said the rooftop photos turned out great.

Routh believes in Wells’ business model and is confident the clothing line will do well.

“I want to see women wearing clothes they feel good in,” he said. “I’m totally behind her mission. I want women to feel like they’re worth something.”

Wells said her tight-knit family influenced Threadwell’s principles and Wells’ mother admires the relationship between her daughters.

“A lot of siblings of special needs kids have resentments and hang ups, and I’m so glad that’s not the case with Sarah,” Teresa said. “It’s something I never could have predicted.”

Wells is maintaining her momentum and arranging the next steps for Threadwell. Her short-term challenge is creating an online presence, and she plans to have a functional website by the end of the summer. She eventually wants Threadwell to be similar to the store Urban Outfitters, and she understands that reaching such a goal will require years of sacrifices, risks and hard work.

“Sometimes you just have to knuckle through,” Wells said. “Do whatever it takes, and you’ll get there.”

Sarah Wells poses with clothing from her business Threadwell. Photo by Nicole Arnold/Visuals Editor

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