Vibe Tribe Custom Apparel: Creating a community

Dasia Taylor ’21 started her own company amidst a pandemic with the goal of building a community.

Owner of Vibe Tribe Custom Apparel Dasia Taylor struts in style with fellow seniors Phoebe Burt, Makayla Slade, Lizzy Slade and McKenna Proud.

Some people are just born with an entrepreneurial spirit. For Dasia Taylor ’21 that spirit runs in the family.

I am literally from a family of entrepreneurs. My grandad owned lots of businesses,” Taylor said. “When I was growing up, I vividly remember counting receipts in the back of his office.”

Taylor’s mother has experience in business and economics as well, even teaching financial literacy. So, it was no surprise that Taylor took an interest in owning her own business. “This summer going into my junior year, I [was on] YouTube just looking at stuff and I came across some screen printing videos. And I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, that’s so dope being able to just like make your own shirts make your own designs.’ [That] really excited me,” she said.

Senior McKenna Proud shows off her custom shirt and mask. (Caroline Barker)

Entering her junior year, Taylor decided to set the project aside to focus on her school work. However, this past summer, she found herself with time to begin her project due to COVID-19. She began experimenting with different methods of screen printing, which is a method of printing designs onto different materials. Taylor has a lot of experience with science, but this was a totally different ball game. “Apparently I am not good at this type of science, there are different chemicals and materials that just weren’t working,” she said. “My screens weren’t developing properly so I couldn’t get a decent print to save my life. It was horrible.”

She was unsure where to go. The screen printing was not working, but she had bought shirts and began investing in this idea. She needed to pivot. Thankfully, a fun day with her friends brought the answer. To celebrate the summer, they got together to do some tie-dye. “Mind you, I have never tie-dyed before like this is my very first experience with tie-dye in my life. And the pants turned out really good,” Taylor said.

She was not the only one who thought so. Taylor’s mother called to tell her that she saw pants in Von Maur that were nearly identical.

Twins Lizzy and Makayla Slade ’21 pose in their custom clothing. (Caroline Barker)

So I had all of these white shirts, I had like 50 of them, I think. And I was like, ‘Bro I could start tie-dye, instead of screen printing’,” Taylor said.

This worked out well since she could simply print over the dye if she ever wanted to get back into screen printing. Taylor took the idea and ran with it. 

“I was amazed at myself, so I kept going with it, and people were really liking it,” said Taylor.

She began to send them to her friends, who encouraged her to sell them. This was the origin story of Vibe Tribe Custom Apparel. 

Funding is something that many start-ups struggle with, but lucky for Taylor, she had a loyal investor.

“I put all my money into this, as well as my mom [who funded a] part of it as well. She’s like my little personal Shark Tank investor with no equity, it’s amazing, it’s like the dream,” Taylor said.

With funding out of the way, it was on to production. Taylor has a method for clients to approach her. 

“So, the first thing would be either contacting me personally, or my business page or even going through the website and messaging me there. It’s super simple. You just pick the two colors and then you order your shirt, and then l got you,” Taylor said. 

And her hard work is paying off. Taylor’s products are flying off the shelves. “Right now I am selling pretty well,” Taylor said. Her holiday line and new senior drop are doing well and making a profit.

 Taylor had help not only from her family but the business classes at West as well. While she already knew most of the curriculum, it allowed her to be reintroduced and learn about certain behind-the-scenes aspects of business more in-depth. The business classes were not West’s only involvement in her success.

“I’m just a social person. I reached out to a lot of people just to be friendly because I like to know people and like people to know me,” Taylor said.

Owner of Vibe Tribe Custom Apparel Dasia Taylor struts in style with fellow seniors Phoebe Burt, Makayla Slade, Lizzy Slade and McKenna Proud. (Caroline Barker)

It was these connections that allowed her to connect with her potential customers and create a community that would support her. However, there is still room for improvement in West High. Taylor wishes West would do better at fostering ideas and future plans that stray from the academic path.

“I think that West focuses a lot on the academic aspect of life,” Taylor said. “And, I mean, I’m 17 years old, but I know that that’s not everything that there is to life. Especially like when you get to college.” Letter grades are not the end-all-be-all, and Taylor hopes students understand that.

I think we should do a better job with things like social-emotional health and all that, but also just trying to figure out how to incorporate more social, non-academic activities of life.”

— Dasia Taylor '21

“I think we should do a better job with things like social-emotional health and all that, but also just trying to figure out how to incorporate more social, non-academic activities of life,” said Taylor. 

As a young woman of color, Taylor expects to face some challenges in the business world.

“It is no secret that like entrepreneurs of color are hard to find in white communities like this. […] and it’s definitely no secret that they tend to struggle more, because we don’t have the resources to scale properly or do all these different things like on the logistics side,” Taylor said. She is thankful for her familial connections and background knowledge on some of these topics that her classmates may not have.

It is no secret that like entrepreneurs of color [are] hard to find in white communities like this. […] and it’s definitely no secret that they tend to struggle more, because, like, we don’t have the resources to scale properly or do all these different things like on the logistics side.”

— Dasia Taylor '21

Many small businesses were impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Over the summer there was an increase in support for these businesses, and a movement to support black-owned shops and restaurants. Taylor supports this movement but does not want her race or gender to be the only reason people buy her products.

“I think it’s great that I’m a woman of color, a black woman. I’m a black, woman-owned business but I don’t want to throw it in people’s faces like ‘I’m a black-owned business so therefore like you should buy from me,’ because I think that there’s a lot of hurt and pain from things, especially in my community, that went on over the summer, and I would hate to be the one that capitalizes off of black pain,” Taylor said.

While she hasn’t yet faced hurdles in the business world due to her race and gender, Taylor is aware they could be in her future.

“I think it would definitely be in my path to come across someone who will devalue me and devalue my business,” Taylor said. “And I would say that’s fine because I know that I have a whole community, this community that supports me, and, you know, supports what I do and know that I do it well. And that I know what I’m talking about.”

I have a whole community, this community that supports me, and, you know, supports what I do and know that I do it well.”

— Dasia Taylor '21

While having not faced those struggles yet, Taylor has been trying to juggle being a full-time student and business owner.

“It’s mostly because I’m at home. So I want to work on my business while I’m at home. I don’t have the balance of like structured time,” she said.

As of now, Taylor is doing her school work in the same place she does her business. This, and the fact that she really enjoys the work she does for Vibe Tribe, has led to some issues focusing on school during the designated hours. However, her goals make it worth it. 

Taylor hopes to build a community with her Vibe Tribe. “I felt like it would build community,” she said. “That’s why I called it like a tribe like this would like different people coming from different places, whether that be schools, whether that be like, just in the community period. I’m coming together and just creating this positive vibe. So the whole business just surrounds itself with like tie-dye and spreading positive messages and building community.”

I’m coming together and just creating this positive vibe. So the whole business just surrounds itself with like tie-dye and spreading positive messages and building community.”

— Dasia Taylor '21

Taylor sees her community as not just West, but Iowa City and hopes to expand beyond to the other high schools. “I’m starting with the community of West High. But I feel like I’ve kind of already branched out into the city communities,” Taylor said. With the support of her Trojan community, she believes that she can get there. 

She has advice for any students looking to do something similar.

“It doesn’t matter what you want to do, I can get you into contact with someone who can mentor you and get you to where you want to be, I myself would love to do that,” said Taylor.

These seniors model Vibe Tribe Custom Apparel’s new line commemorating the class of 2021. (Caroline Barker)

A mentor is someone who guides others with experience and knowledge.

“I have mentors for everything and I can honestly say I would not be the person I am today, I would not be where I am today if it weren’t for my mentors,” said Taylor.

Taylor would like her community to know that at the end of the day, she is just a student. And if she can do it, so can others.

“Although I am a teen entrepreneur, I am also a regular student,” Taylor said. “I procrastinate, I turn my homework in late, I get upset about my grades, I am like a normal student. I just want people to know that you can still be normal and do extraordinary things and that extraordinary thing varies from person to person. Extraordinary could be getting out of bed in the morning. Like congratulations, you did that. We are in a time where extraordinary things are simple. Just support your fellow community members, your fellow classmates. I love supporting my classmates.”