DEFINE YOUR STRONG(HER)
Strong(her), a new private label women's clothing brand providing fashionable, premium-quality lifestyle apparel aimed at celebrating the lives of confident and empowered women.
Traci Tate, founder of Tagline Apparel: Strong(her)
Traci Tate, the visionary behind Strong(her) — a private label women’s clothing line providing fashionable, premium-quality lifestyle apparel aimed at confident and empowered women — created the brand based on her own values. She described her casual clothing line as “Midwestern,” and it is geared toward busy women such as herself who want high-quality clothing but don’t go to work in a dress suit.
“I want to be comfortable, and I think the majority of women out there can benefit from a lifestyle line,” Traci said. “It’s based on where I grew up and how I see people react to what they like and want to wear.”
Traci was the second of four sisters who grew up in a working-class home in Columbus, Ohio. The family’s financial situation was uneven. Her father worked for a packaging company, and for Traci and her older sister. It was a frugal upbringing.
“We were poor, but we didn’t know it,” she said. “It was what it was, and we didn’t know anything different.” Her father’s subsequent company stock options, however, turned the family’s fortune around, and her younger sisters’ experience was much different. “He invested wisely and ended up being very well-off.”
This early experience made Traci realize that nothing is set in stone and that destiny is changeable. She said it was through the struggles in her life where she learned the most helped her come out stronger in the end. Some early difficult decisions stiffened her resolve of self-reliance and molded her into the brave entrepreneur and savvy businesswoman she is today.
One big challenge came when she was 16, when she was pregnant and abandoned by the child’s father. Traci gave up the baby for adoption. “It was the hardest thing I ever had to do,” she said. “But I also believe firmly it was the right decision for me at the time. When you go through something like that, you feel so alone, and I decided I would never rely on anybody else and would always take responsibility.”
Other tough lessons ensued. As a business student at Bowling Green State University, Traci felt out of place. “I hated it. It felt in those days, that to get a good job, you had to have a college degree. I couldn’t even make it through some of the classes.”
Traci switched majors to social work, graduated, and went into long-term care, where she faced the harsh reality of long hours and low wages. She took a job in the billing department of a mental health facility to learn that end of the business and moved into an office manager position. Though she was good at her job, the situation wasn’t a good fit.
“I realized I do not do well working for someone else,” Traci said with a laugh. “I have a strong personality, and if I feel someone is being unreasonable or unfair, they will know about it. I did lose a few jobs because of that. It was a good learning experience. I realized I wanted to be my own boss.”
Entrepreneurship came serendipitously. Traci, who was a competitive athlete in high school on soccer and softball teams, had to abandon sports after a serious knee injury. She took up weightlifting in college to keep active and met her future husband, Dave Tate, a competitive powerlifter and personal trainer, in the weight room at the school’s gym. “It (powerlifting) wasn’t my passion,” Traci said. “It was just something to do to spend time with him and keep in shape.”
The couple started selling fitness-related products to Dave’s clients, and her first business was born — elitefts. The Tates worked and sold products out of their home. Dave was the “face of the business,” and Traci handled the operational side, from budgeting to orders and beyond. Soon, they were busy enough to quit their day jobs. More than two decades later, their business is still going strong and is recognized today as an industry-leading retailer and online destination for everything strength-related.
Although immensely proud of the start-up’s success, Traci wanted a business focused more on her interests that she could brand herself and develop based on her values and understanding of women and their challenges and victories. elitefts had a small apparel line used for marketing. It wasn’t the moneymaker; it was just a means to get the brand out there. However, the experience with apparel resonated with her.
At some point in her business dealings, Traci had trademarked the tagline Strong(er). The (er) stands for “extraordinary resolve.” “I wanted to do something with this and experimented with getting clothing samples,” Traci said.
This trademark was adapted into Strong(her) for the new clothing line, which Traci describes as “not just a piece of clothing — they (customers) are buying a lifestyle combination of product, creativity, and personal understanding, which reflects their power and success.”
The brand eventually evolved into Strong(her) as Traci developed the business concept into a casual clothing line for women. Traci wanted the brand to transcend the tag on a pair of jeans or a T-shirt and be more than a clothing line. “I wanted to create a strong emotional bond with my customers by creating a lifestyle-centric community.” She added that it is her customers’ personal journeys, their perseverance, and their abilities to overcome and conquer that inspire her brand.