One of the best ways to learn is by studying those who have done or are doing the things that you are trying to do. In October of 2013 I had the opportunity to  sit down and talk with one of the most driven people I have ever met. Ebony Rutherford is the owner and operator of Trish’s Garage, a place where you can buy custom designed clothes and get a style tune up. If you have spent any time in or around Detroit Michigan you have probably heard of her.  

Ebony Rutherford
Always full of energy

About Ebony Rutherford

Ebony gets up every morning at 6 a.m. and reads affirmations so that she can program successful behaviors into her head. Each and every day she reads 10 pages from “Think and Grow Rich” and “How to Win Friends and Influence People,” so that by the end of the month she has completed both books. So what does she do at the first of the month? That’s right, she starts both books over from the beginning. She told me that each and every time she reads them she finds something new that resonates with her. You won’t catch her caught up in the newest television shows or going out and partying, she is too busy using that time to grow her business.

Ebony takes time out once a month to let lose and have some fun. Her goal is to stick out like a sore thumb so that she can make a positive impression on the world and attract the goals that she seeks to achieve. With a work ethic like hers it is only a matter of time before the whole world knows her name.

About Trish’s Garage

Ebony was traveling all the time and was a self described “t-shirt and jeans girl.” One of the places that she traveled to was Atlanta Georgia, where she found a store that made custom t-shirts. Every time she visited Atlanta she would visit this store and create a custom shirt. One day after returning home to Detroit she decided to look the company up on the web, where she found that they had franchise opportunities. Ebony and her sister decided to give the t-shirt business a chance. The seed was set for them to get started, all they needed was a name.

They found inspiration for the name from Oprah’s company Harpo. For those of you who don’t know about Harpo, it is Oprah spelled backwards (I know right?!) So they decided that they would go with Trish as a slight variation of t-shirt. They added garage to evoke that Motor City feeling. Just like that Trish’s Garage was born.

Trish’s Garage Origin Story

Ebony began Trish’s Garage in 2007. In 2013 when this interview took place, she had just quit her full-time job to work exclusively on her business. In her words “The only two options: win or die.” She sacrificed everything to pursue her dream. She sold what she could sell, reduced her bills as low as possible and even moved back in with her parents, all in order to build her business.

“The only two options: win or die.”

Ebony and her sister started making shirts and selling them at different colleges while still maintaining full-time jobs. In 2009 they hit a speed bump. Ebony’s sister got a boyfriend which turned into a husband which turned into a baby. At that point her sister decided that she needed to focus on her family which left Ebony to continue the business on her own. Ebony continued to work the business, still maintaining her full-time job, maintaining her relationship with her boyfriend and traveling. With all that going on she wasn’t as focused on the business as she once was, but still manage to keep it alive.

Trish's Garage
A look from inside her new shop at 19120 Grand River Ave. in Detroit, MI.

In 2011 she regained her focus and kicked her business back into gear. She began to do more vending events and focusing on getting her business the exposure it needed to grow. In 2012 she added sewing to her business, which allowed her to add custom designs to her t-shirts. Once she added the custom designs she found that her customers preferred that to the other shirts she was selling. At that point her business evolved. She was able to drop the other shirt designs, allowing her to cut out manufacturing costs and focus on creating her own stuff.

In 2013 she began to incorporate styling into the business and used the relationships she had  developed over time to help people with their look (styling). The business was going smoothly but her personal life hit a rough patch which included breaking up with her boyfriend. She was ready to give up on Trish’s Garage when she received an email from a friend, telling her how much he loved the things she was doing. He also told her that she should sign up for a retail bootcamp that was happening in Tech Town, a “business innovation hub” located in Detroit that assists entrepreneurs with pursuing their dreams. Reluctantly she signed up. That was the moment everything changed for her.

The bootcamp was 8 weeks and she said it taught her things that she thought she knew but really didn’t. She gained real world experience that a book could never teach her. She was able to learn from other successful entrepreneurs and pick their brains. She feels obliged to give that knowledge back to the people in the shoes she once occupied.

The power of no

Saying and hearing no is two of the hardest things that Ebony says she’s had to deal with while chasing her dream. There have been times when she has wanted to work with people but the benefit wasn’t there and she’s had to say no. There are opportunities she pursued and was rejected from, which was equally hard. Instead of giving up she has learned from every no she has received and made her business even stronger.

Apprentice to teacher

One of her strongest beliefs is the best way to learn is by learning from someone who is doing what you want to do. She wanted to be a stylist so she became a styling assistant to a personal stylist. “Emulate and learn from the people who are doing the things that you want to do.” In order to achieve her goals she has made the decision to be a student. For her there is always a opportunity to continue to learn and continue to grow.

“Emulate and learn from the people who are doing the things that you want to do.”

Advice from Ebony to other entrepreneurs

  • Study and read books in sales and finance. Study everything that you are not comfortable with so that you can tackle your fears head on.
  • Get a mentor. We all need someone that can help lead you to the next level of growth.
  • Build a team. You can’t do it all by yourself, you need people  around you to help you to accomplish your goals
  • Take peoples opinions for what they are. You have to do what works for you. Just because someone says something doesn’t mean that it is the right move for you. Listen, analyze, and decide the best course for yourself. 

We would like to send a big thank you out to Ebony for sitting down and sharing her story. You can find out more about Ebony on her site, or on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram at @trishsgarage.