Larry Sickman started Lakes Supply Company @lakessupplyco to bring custom-crafted designs directly to those who love lake life: cabin owners, lake homeowners, anglers, watersports, and camping enthusiasts, or anybody that has fun on or around their favorite lake.
It all started when his family went to the North Shore and he wanted a unique shirt to commemorate the trip. All of the shirts felt cookie-cutter, and when he found one that he liked when he returned to work after his trip, a co-worker had an identical shirt.
Stephanie Hansen 00:00
Hi, this is Stephanie Hansen with the makers in Minnesota, I am known for suggesting local products and highlighting Minnesota companies through my networks, I utilize my personal assets with Stephanie’s dish.com, and the makers of Minnesota podcasts to help amplify brands. If you’d like to take that experience a little bit further, I would love to help you. The way we can do that is through social media management, where I help you with your Facebook and your Instagram posts. So many of the entrepreneurs that I know just hate doing social media and I love it. I can also help you with PR publicity, getting the word out about your products. Maybe you need some recipe development, or maybe you need someone that can help you find some influencers that will actually move the needle on getting your product bought. You can find me at s Hansen email@example.com. That’s s Hanson firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to explore ways to amplify your brand in 2021 Hi, this is Stephanie Hansen. And you’re listening to the makers in Minnesota where we talk to cool people doing cool things. And during the pandemic. I’ve been talking to them from my closet. And today I’m talking to Larry sigmon, who is the founder of a cool company called lakes supply calm. And Larry is like most of us got kids at home homeschooling the dogs. It’s just total chaos in most households now that I’m podcasting with that I’m sitting in my closet. Larry, how you doing today? Good morning. I’m doing well. Thanks for having me. Yeah, thanks for joining the podcast. I’ve always wanted to talk to somebody like you. So what Larry does is he designs graphic designs clothing, based around people’s favorite lakes, Larry, are you a Laker cabin person? How did you get into this?
Larry Sigman 01:56
Yeah, I am a lake cabin owner. But primarily, it kind of inspiration kind of struck me when I had a trip to the North Shore, I had a hard time finding something to take back with me as a designer, I don’t know if it’s, it’s that snobby niche or just, I’m picky about the way my designs look that I’m that I’m wearing a T shirt or something that kind of feel like they need to represent me. And I looked and looked and looked and when I found a shirt that I thought was a cool design, I got back to work and actually saw somebody else with the identical shirt only it had a different location on it. And so the one I bought said North Shore and the one this person had was like Madeline Island or something. And I just felt like something needed to be done to bring a little originality to, to the places we love Minnesota and the Midwest. And I kind of kicked that around for a couple of years, but I just never really took action on it. And then I was I was heading up to I was going to be heading up shortly to Red Lake for an ice fishing trip. And I thought, well, I’m just gonna do some hand lettering, I’m gonna see what I can do with Red Lake. Well, the Red Lake was very easy. It’s in the shape of a D. and the design I have on my website is it’s got an R and an E. And then Red Lake is the D. That’s not how that one originally started. That one was a bit more complex, but some of them might come and revisit but superior was one of the first ones that I had done though, because that was kind of where this whole thing came from.
Stephanie Hansen 03:27
So do you feel like you’re doing you’re obviously a graphic designer and what you’re doing is designs that sometimes have the shape of a lake sometimes are inspired with fonts by the lake? Do you feel like the design element is kind of in the font treatment and how it’s applied? Yeah,
Larry Sigman 03:44
definitely, you know, it’s the every lake is a different shape. And every lake has a different name almost unless it’s Long Lake or, or something like that. Like there’s their round Lake Long Lake. Yeah. So I really don’t know how I’m going to approach the design until I actually sit down and start start drawing because the shape of the lake really dictates what I’m going to do. And you know, I just had added dead lake and it’s kind of like, boy, what do I do with that? You know, sometimes sometimes I think about the name and if anything pops into my head that kind of gives me some inspiration I’ll I’ll kind of roll with that. I didn’t want it to be like you know, dead like being a Halloween font or something like that. A lot of times I don’t go for the obvious. I kind of go the opposite direction.
Stephanie Hansen 04:37
When you think about a lake like I noticed my lake is not on your site. It’s Burnside lake. Oh, that’s okay. We’re like Lake vermilion, where we’re a large lake with lots of islands. So I think it’s probably a difficult topography. With that said, How do you decide what lakes to do is that by request or basically what are most popular
Larry Sigman 04:57
mainly lately? It’s by request, if I don’t have enough requests to keep to keep my creative itch scratch, I’ll I’ll just go for something that maybe a lake that I really liked the name. Maybe I’m fond of the lake, maybe I know, I know somebody that knows somebody that’s on the lake. And I think that, hey, if I put this on the website, my friend might show it to their friend and they might spread it. Spread word about it
Stephanie Hansen 05:24
a full time job for you, Larry.
Larry Sigman 05:27
It isn’t. I’ve been doing it for a couple of years. But it kind of started out as a as a passion project. I’ve been in digital design for local consultancy for almost 10 years about Yeah, over just over nine years, and felt myself getting away from kind of I love what I do. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure they do in my in my full time job, but I really liked sitting down and and hand lettering, getting away from the computer and doing things with my hand doing things with paper, pen and paper. So yeah, like I said, I’ve been doing it for a couple years. But it’s it’s really just kind of a passion project. But it’s really kind of it’s turning into something that could be a full time gig for me, right? Because
Stephanie Hansen 06:11
I would imagine you can take these sorts of designs right now you’re applying them to T shirts and hoodies. And I would imagine like I saw one guy that had a similar type of theory, but he was doing it on burning it on wood tables.
Larry Sigman 06:26
Yeah, that’s, that’s the problem. I started out with T shirts. I always kind of followed cotton Bureau and, and things like that places that or he just even solo designers, they might sell some shirts on drawing a blank on what sites they are. So I’ve always been thinking about, I’d love to have a series of T shirts. And then I’ve had some customers asking for coffee cups or coffee mugs, they wanted to see it on a sticker, they wanted to see it on a canvas print or something that they can hang in their cabin or lake home. So then it kind of expanded from t shirts to all the things. Right. So but Okay, so
Stephanie Hansen 07:10
you’re in a new spot. Now, Larry. So Larry, how does this work? You do the designs? And then is it like a print on demand website? Or do you have to carry inventory?
Larry Sigman 07:18
Yeah, that’s exactly right. It’s a print on demand. Everything is dropship. so customers can just come to my site, place an order that order goes to my partner, which will print and ship from from there. I do have stickers that I inventory since they’re small. And I can I can handle that sort of inventory on my own. When I ship ship those I’ll personally
Stephanie Hansen 07:41
explain to the listener cuz I think some people that have brands want to do more merchandise, but they don’t know how so can you describe what print on demand is and how you chose the vendor that you use?
Larry Sigman 07:53
Yeah, so print on demand is something that you can, there’s quite a few companies that do print on demand. And they also do embroidery, and there’s different types of printing as well. But that allows designers to simply design, they don’t they, they can keep designing, if they wish, there’s a lot of designers that might live in apartments, they might not have the facilities to store large quantities of product, and you’re not going to have the profit margins that that you would have if you place bulk orders for for a lot of products for your product. But the the angle that I kind of took with my offering is that I can create, you know, 10,000 designs if I want, right, if I want to do 10,000 lights. So, you know, I don’t even know if some of the designs will sell. There are some designs on my site that I have not sold. But I spent the first year just designing and I think I did 50 of them the first year and now I’m getting close to 100. And so what that does, it just allows me to keep designing, there’s a lot of maintenance. And as you keep adding products you need to ensure all of those designs are all of the products. But then you also need to there’s a lot of things like the pricing and keywords and tagging and things like that that I need to do in the website in order to make sure it’s found out there on on the interwebs. So it isn’t that you know, it’s just a one and done. You just keep designing. There’s there is a lot of website maintenance and things like that as well.
Stephanie Hansen 09:31
Yeah. And how did you decide who did you end up going with?
Larry Sigman 09:34
I’m using printful. I had done some quality, some samples to check out the quality. It seemed like that that for the products that I was interested in at the start that they were the best partner to go with. They are located throughout the world but they do have locations in California and Carolina, South Carolina. I think they’re adding some more Like in Indianapolis, Texas and things like that.
Stephanie Hansen 10:03
So if you wanted to do like, let’s just I’m gonna say a tablecloth but they didn’t have that on the website. You’re Are you restricted to using whatever it is that they supply?
Larry Sigman 10:15
Yeah, yep, definitely I I only can I apply my designs to products that they offer. There are other companies out there that I’ve been digging around on that offer other things than what I’m currently offering like pint glasses and tea towels, things like that. Yeah, that, you know, maybe bandanas. So, in that case, I can reach out and use other print on demand suppliers as well. They would just require me to sync up my ecommerce store with them.
Stephanie Hansen 10:48
Right? How did you learn how to do all of those types of things? Or have you just learned by trial and air?
Larry Sigman 10:54
Oh, just probably trial and error. I guess being a user experience designer, I kind of know the ins and outs of a lot of e commerce things And sure, and websites and digital products. So I picked it up fairly quickly. Yeah,
Stephanie Hansen 11:10
yeah. So when I think of designer, it’s funny. And you said digital designer. I’m thinking like web ads, which I’m sure that’s part of it, too. But you know, you’re talking about, like the user experience and the end experience from someone that logs on to something, and the whole SEO and tagging and that whole piece. You know, that’s a lot for a lot of small business owners. Isn’t that
Larry Sigman 11:31
Yeah, it is. It’s it’s something that I think that goes by the wayside. So I do what I can do, and I think I’m doing things right, but I’m probably not. And I think that there are a lot of people in the same boat that, you know, I I’m doing what I love, I like to do the designing all that other stuff. Sometimes I’m kind of putting my head in the sand. I think I’m just like, Okay, I’m doing what I what I’m supposed to be doing on Shopify, I’m doing what’s recommended, and I don’t really know what I’m missing what I’m not doing. Right. So that that’s, that’s a big part of it, that I’m just kind of unsure. You know, I don’t know what I don’t know. I don’t know how I can be doing better. So yeah, yeah,
Stephanie Hansen 12:14
I I’ve experienced that, too. How do people find you currently? Or how do you market like supply calm.
Larry Sigman 12:21
So I have a, I have a newsletter that kind of keeps existing customers in the loop for any new product. And also, I mean, you don’t need to be a customer to be receiving the newsletter, but a lot of lot of previous customers are on the newsletter, you can go to my website and sign up for that. I’m also on Instagram, Facebook, at Lake supply CO and then I’m also on Etsy with I do sell smaller items on there, some lapel pins and stickers on Etsy. And I think I get a bit of traffic from my Etsy customers finding out about my other products. After they’ve purchased this one, I just send some information along with the product that they buy on Etsy to drive them to to my site. So in terms of marketing, though, it’s been very minimal. I post to Instagram occasionally, when I add products to my website, they also get added to Facebook now, which I think that’s something that’s fairly new. So if I, if I add, if I add, well, if I add something to Instagram, but also just pushes it to Facebook, as like, I’ve noticed is like individual posts. So if I post a series of 10 images on Instagram, there’ll be 10 posts on Facebook, which is kind of I think would be annoying. Because if you’re trying to tell a story, and then Facebook breaks those up into individual posts. Those images don’t make sense by themselves sometimes,
Stephanie Hansen 13:55
right? Yeah. And so what’s interesting about what you’re saying to me is, so I’ve always toyed with this idea of having products, I guess as it were, so whether it’s dishes or towels or whatever, myself, just because of the brands that I run, I think there could be some synergies there. And yet just listening to you. It’s like, okay, you’re running an Instagram, you’re running a Facebook, you’re running a Shopify site, you’re running a print on demand site, you’re running an Etsy site. Did I miss anything? No, that’s about it. Yeah. So it seems like once you get the design, which is obviously the the fun part that then there’s all of this other back end. About how much time do you think you spend a week on the back end pieces versus the designing?
Larry Sigman 14:40
Well, it depends on how much I decided to do. Like, if I do have a long list of designs, many times I will once I finish a design, I’ll make sure I put it on the website, but I may not do all of the SEO things right. I may not ensure I kind of leave that for you. a rainy day or you know, yeah, kick that can down the road. But it does make for a long weekend of work doing very monotonous things per week, I probably depending on how busy I am with other things like kids baseball and things like that. And I my full time job, I probably spend five to 10 hours, maybe 20. If I’m if I’m really busy. Yeah, well,
Stephanie Hansen 15:26
we’re getting into Lake season and your podcast here. Well, I’m quite a ways ahead. I just realized you probably won’t post until mid July. But it is prime Lake season. What’s your most popular Lake design?
Larry Sigman 15:38
I’d have to say. Lake Superior is really popular. And I think part of that is because I have my stickers on Etsy. And it’s a it’s a small you know, that I think they’re only like 350 or something like that. But I’m I’m shipping Lake Superior stickers all over the country, to different countries and lakes appears to such a iconic lake. And I didn’t realize really how far and wide you know, the love for Lake Superior is.
Stephanie Hansen 16:07
It’s a beautiful spot. It’s a beautiful spot, it attracts people from all over the world. Well, this is super fun to talk to you did we cover sort of getting the word out about you? It’s Lake supply.com. And if people have a leak that’s not featured and they want to ping you How do they do that
Larry Sigman 16:26
we can go to my website and find go on the about section and there should be a link in there otherwise can give out my email address as well. Larry at Lake supply.com and I also wanted to mention that I just started something new this year. I’m donating 5% of the proceeds 5% of my profits to Minnesota lakes and rivers advocate and they help lake and cabin owners protect their lakes or right be a spokesperson for for the lakes. And I felt like that that was really a good tie in with with my products. If you’re a lake home or cabin owner, you can make the purchase and you’re essentially helping out your your lake.
Stephanie Hansen 17:12
Yeah, I love that and give back models are so popular. And really people like to do business with companies that have give back model so that’s smart. All right, Larry, thank you for joining us on makers in Minnesota today and good luck with the lakes. Thank you very much. Okay, we’ll talk to you soon. Bye bye.