Reija Collinson already had a full time apparel business plus a magazine to run, but she really wanted to show off her Pacifica pride and she couldn't find any clothes to buy that fit the bill. So she and a friend launched Pacifica West Co. to create t-shirts, hoodies, hats and more festooned with Pacifica logos.
Turns out plenty of other people thought it was a great idea, too. Her tees and hoodies were being sold in a local surf shop pretty much immediately, and business has been booming, even during the pandemic.
Check out my interview with Reija below to find out how she got the business started so quickly, what she loves about living on the coast, and lots more.
What inspired you to create Pacifica West Co?
"I wanted some clothes that say Pacifica on them and realized no one was really making them. I ran the idea by Emma (Libby, who has since moved out of Pacifica but still helps out with Fog Fest and pop ups) one day when our kids were taking a karate class together and she was super stoked to get it going with me. I already have an apparel company called Lowcard so I was already set up to make clothes. Traveler in Linda Mar was about to open at the same and they were immediately on board with carrying us, so we had our shirts in there on day one!"
When did you start Lowcard? Can you tell us more about it?
"Lowcard started by my husband right before I met him in 2003. He put together a little zine at his work (at an ambulance company) because he has always taken skate photos and had a bunch lying around. At the time he was buying scratch tickets at his local corner store called High Card but he always got the low cards and lost, so that's how the name came about. I met him when he was putting together issue number 2 and started helping him with it right away.
Our friend worked at a screen printing place and made some shirts for our friends to wear. By issue number 10, we both realized that people were super stoked on it and down to wear our apparel. On a trip to the grand canyon in 2006, I told him I wanted to make it into my full time job and try to make it really happen. And we've put our heart and soul into it from that moment on. We've also turned into a skateboard distribution company with multiple brands called Time's Up Distribution. He's an SF fireman/paramedic when he's not at the warehouse and it's my full time job. Adding Pacifica West Co. to our line of brands was easy and fun!"
What is your range of products?
"We have t-shirts, hoodies, tanks, beanies and hats. I want to start adding more accessories this year."
How has business been during the pandemic? Do you have kids doing distance learning at home? What has helped keep you sane?
"Business has been great online and at Traveler, only a big chunk of our sales come from Fog Fest (a Pacifica street fair that was canceled in 2020 due to Covid) so it was a bummer we couldn’t do it this year.
Emma has always homeschooled her 4 boys so not much changed for her. My second grader (Bowie, 7) was not thriving with homeschooling so we put her into private school, which opened in person full time in October. My oldest son (Ryder, 12) is at home doing an online school and he’s doing ok. He’s excited to go back next year.
What has kept me sane was having a warehouse in San Francisco. We practically lived there the fist couple months and it was just so nice to have somewhere to go. We kept a schedule with our kids and have always tried to make things feel as normal as possible, even though there has been nothing normal about it!"
What are your plans for the coming year? What are you most excited about as we emerge from the pandemic?
"Our plans are to come out with a bunch of new graphics and to continue to grow our social media presence and customers. I would like to say I’m excited for Fog Fest but I have a feeling it won’t happen this year, so I plan on doing more pop ups instead!"
Do you have any tips for staying organized and on schedule as an entrepreneur?
"Running two companies at once has me very spread thin. Lowcard is my main company so I do prioritize it over my Pacifica line. My philosophy is to keep it fun and then it doesn’t feel like extra work!"
What materials do you use? If you have any sustainability efforts please describe!
"I try my best to source apparel that is made in the US. That has always been important to me. Most of my t-shirts and beanies are made in the US. I also have designed some of my own styles with a company called Camp Collection that are cut and sewn in San Francisco. I’m printing everything in house right now too!"
What are your favorite products from your offerings?
"My favorite items are the tees and hoodies that have the designs that my artist made off photographs I sent him. They turned out so beautiful and people seem to love them!"
What do you love about living on the coast?
"Living on the coast makes me feel free, it’s hard to put into words! Whenever I’m away from the ocean too long I feel claustrophobic. I love being able to raise my kids on the ocean and I feel so thankful I get to see it every day."
Do you have any role models or people who have inspired you on your entrepreneurial journey?
"I would say my dad. He was born in Holland during World War II and came to the United States with not much to his name. He worked hard and had an amazing career as a mechanical engineer. He wasn’t an entrepreneur but his hard work is where I got my drive to create and work hard."