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Meet Kate Escher- Jacob and Lizzie Escher of ARTichoke Apparel

Today we’d like to introduce you to Kate Escher- Jacob and Lizzie Escher.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
We grew up on Cape Cod and remember our parents bringing us to Boston for performances or just to walk about the city. It seemed so big and fancy, so different form the small town we were used to. 
We have always loved playing shop. Growing up our dad owned an Optometrist and Eyeglass Business; we would love playing at the register and making pretend sales.

At home, we would transform our mom’s laundry room into a boutique and set up her jewelry on display… then ask her to come shop. So, we would say… that we always knew we wanted to own a shop.

It wasn’t until both of us were in college that we really started dreaming of owning a business together. That was our end goal, to work together! We have a thousand ideas for businesses. ARTichoke is just the first.

Art was missing from my degree, I missed it terribly and felt a bit deprived. Design was barely a focus of the “Floral Design major”, just a whole lot of plant science.

One night, I was studying for an exam looking through a plant identification book and felt super inspired by the Globe Artichoke.  They are bad-ass on the outside, beautiful when they blossom and they are delicious too.  Mostly I was attracted to the very thing I was missing most (beside my sister) … “ART” -ichoke.” 

After a few years of dreaming, planning, life experiences and inspiration we decided “ARTichoke” had to happen. We started slowly with craft fairs and flea markets as a hobby but it was hard to shuffle school, work and a hobby business.

We knew that if we were going to give it an honest shot we had to give it our all. This is when the journey began, year 2011. We started selling our printed apparel at The SOWA Market in Boston, craft fairs, festivals and the Wellfleet Flea Market.

We learned a whole lot in just one year…of what not to do and what to keep doing. People started to really like what we were doing with our brand… and the name ARTichoke was getting around.

This was a big year for us because we had purchased a bus on Craigslist to transform into a Mobil Boutique. Katy was certain this was the right move for our business as Mobil businesses were growing in trend. The bus became our empire on wheels. Stocked with random things that we made and mostly our printed shirts.  The unique concept of an Apparel Bus… especially on Cape Cod brought us a lot of attention.  People started to ask “Are you the ARTichoke girls?”

The bus was showcased in Boston during Fashion Week at Gov. Center…our first big gig. Big in the sense that we have a lot of funny stories from that day, not big in sales, unfortunately. The Bus still appears at festivals including Levitate Music Fest in Marshfield and we hope to attend more SOWA markets this summer.

Soon enough the basement studio became too small to keep up with production and that’s how we got to Eastham, where our business is today.  We found a sweet spot on Route 6, with a space to have a Print Shop and a retail show room in the front.

We have been here for five years and love it. Eastham is not a big shopping town, so we like to say it’s a destination spot!

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
We don’t think starting or owning a business is ever a smooth road. They say with small business “growing pains” can be a challenge. We agree. It’s hard to grow the right amount each year or each month. Financially you have to be smart. I think we are on a slow boat to grow big because we both have “growing families” but it feels great to grow each year in a manageable way.

Another struggle owning a business is the amount of work and wide range of tasks, it seems endless. Unless you have enough money to hire managers and great employees to tackle jobs, it can be very hard to get it all done and still have time for a normal life. ARTichoke is fun, but there is so much that people don’t have any idea that we have to do… that is not so fun, it’s really hard work.

Starting a business can feel like you’re on the main stage for everyone to watch… and some are waiting for you to fail. Along with all the love and support…you have to be ready for criticism, competition and negativity.

We have a sign outside our shop that says “Good Vibes Only”.

So let’s switch gears a bit and go into the ARTichoke Apparel story. Tell us more about the business.
ARTichoke is a beachy-boho boutique with a collection of fun things… lots of fun things that Katy and I personally love and want to share with others.  We carry a variety of locally or independently made brands. Our Art Shows in the summer bring in a lot of great people and inspiration to create and talk about art.

Our printed apparel is the main focus, our specialty. Our “SALTY” tee has become our “bread and butter” as business people would say. People apparently love the word “Salty”. Our silkscreen designs are created from our inspirations, surroundings and what makes our hearts beat. So naturally being coastal girls we have a lot of nautical designs. We have silly one-liners, that just make us laugh.

We are mostly proud of why we started. Our ARTichoke dream was rooted in fun: Fun owning a business with a sister, fun doing what makes us happy and fun sharing it with others. Making art, following your dream… following your heART, that’s ARTichoke.

What sets us apart from other brands and other retail stores is our dedication and passion behind ARTichoke. We don’t close for the season because it gets slow, we hustle through the winter and bring our goods with us if we decide to travel. We both have small children, and we joke about our first baby being ARTichoke. Our business gets that much attention from us. It is a part of us, and just as people grow and change so does ARTichoke. We are always bringing something new and different to the table, we bring pieces of our life experience into the shop to share with our customers.

Has luck played a meaningful role in your life and business?
Luck, is an interesting concept. We feel extremely grateful for every good day in business, every person who has motivated us along the way and mostly our parents who at first cringed at the thought of Katy leaving her secure job and lizzie dropping out of school to pursue this not-so secure business adventure to accepting our dream and being a never ending source of support.

I would say we are pretty damn lucky. We grew up in a beautiful place, we breathe fresh air, drink clean water and have been able to start a maintain a business of our own.

There have CERTAINLY been bad-luck days that sometimes made us feel like giving up but these challenges kept us on track and tend be stories we crack-up laughing about once enough time has passed.

LIFE is far more important than any business. With all the terribly sad things that happen in this world, we are nothing but grateful and lucky to be where we are now.

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