Doe a Deer Design – Regan Doely
What started as a Facebook page to showcase some of Regan Doely’s freelance graphic design work quickly turned into a full-fledged home goods business. In 2016, Regan, a full-time corporate employee at the time, decided to create a few products to sell at a local craft show, and after seeing how popular they were, her plans shifted course and Doe a Deer Design was born. Four years later, Regan’s products – which include towels, notepads, mugs and t-shirts – are sold in more than 100 stores across the nation. Add to that her experience selling at Magnolia Market in Waco, Texas, and it’s evident that Regan’s initial side hustle, her creative outlet, was nothing but a starting point.
Say that you meet someone who's never heard of Doe a Deer Design. How would you describe your business to them?
I always describe it as a hand-illustrated, home goods business.
You have a lot of different products that you offer. What’s your production process like?
I hand illustrate or hand letter pretty much everything. Then I send the designs to get printed on various products like towels, Swedish dish cloths, stationery and mugs. I primarily work with manufacturers and printers that are based in the Midwest, and almost all of our products are made in the United States. Once they come back to me, we package them. We iron and fold the towels, and from there we ship them out or take them to shows or retail stores.
How do you do your hand illustrations/lettering?
I use an iPad and Apple pencil. Every now and then I'll do it on pen and paper, scanning it or taking a picture of it with my phone to send to my computer and bring into a design program, but typically I start the process on my iPad.
Do you have a team of people you work with or is it primarily just you?
It’s primarily just me, and I do have a part-time girl who helps me. She's a teacher, so she helps more in the summers than during the school year, but she's been doing all the shipping and a lot of the towel folding and stuff, too.
Your products are sold in many different shops across the nation, and it seems that you have a lot to juggle. How do you keep up with it all?
I’ve learned that delegating is necessary. At first I wanted to do everything myself, but that isn't possible anymore. In addition to my part-time girl, I have a virtual assistant who helps me with some wholesale stuff and writes blog posts – things that are important but that I just don't have the time personally to oversee. I have to be really good about time blocking my calendar and making lists, prioritizing and not taking on more than I can handle.
How do you come up with the ideas for your designs?
A lot of things around me inspire me. I like going to vintage stores and antiquing, being outside, going to a new town and seeing different architecture, different small businesses. I also go to Pinterest sometimes or look at magazines and old cookbooks. A lot of times ideas just randomly come to me and I add them to my notes in my phone.
What happens if you hit a creative roadblock?
I found that when I'm not feeling creative, it's just really not a good time. I can't force myself to be creative, so I have to work on design things when I'm in the creative mood. Sometimes that means I'm going to pump out a whole bunch of designs just because I'm in the mood, but then sometimes I don't feel great.
As you've grown your business, what are some challenges that you've faced?
Sometimes the sourcing of products or trying to get products created at a certain margin and price point can be difficult. And sometimes I just don’t have enough time and have to figure out balance in my life. That was a challenge at first when I was working a full-time job and running Doe a Deer. It was extremely difficult. But even since then, I think balance is something that women always struggle with just because we feel like we have to juggle so much.
On the flip side, what have been some successes for you?
I think wholesale has been a really big success for us as we’ve grown our stockists. It seemed to happen organically without a ton of effort, which has been a blessing. I just feel so thankful for all of the stockists who take a chance on our products and carry them in their stores. Hearing stories of their customers looking forward to our new releases has been one of the biggest blessings. It's super inspiring to hear about people who really love your products. It's something that I never thought would happen.
Being asked to sell at Magnolia Market in Waco, Texas, for two events was pretty amazing, too. That's been a huge part of our business growing, especially when we were seen on social media and stuff.
I’m a big Chip and Joanna fan. Tell me about that experience.
The first time that we went was in fall 2018 for Magnolia Silobration. We took my vintage camper mobile shop all the way down there, and we set up and sold for three days. And then last fall I went down as a weekend pop up shop in their open-air area with 10 other vendors. I was also there this past March for Spring at the Silos, and we were all set up but had to close because of COVID-19. So we had to tear everything down the next morning and drive back, which was definitely a bummer, but they made it a virtual market and shared us really big on social media. We got a really, really huge bump on our social media following and also had a ton of sales that weekend, so Magnolia has been a huge blessing for our business, too.
That's so cool. How did those opportunities come about?
They open up applications for the events, but as I’m sure you can imagine, because they have such a huge following, they get thousands of applications. They decided to take a chance on us. I think once you're in the family, they try to bring people back as often as they can with the limited spots that they have available.
What are some of your goals for the business in the future?
I’ve always wanted to move the business out of my home. Currently it's still run out of my basement. I would like to have some kind of a warehouse and also a storefront, which is my dream. I would also love to continue to grow wholesale because it's amazing the reach that it has, as well as keep evolving our current product lines and continue to offer the products that our customers really love.
You’re currently based out of Stuart, Iowa. Is that where your storefront would be?
Yes. I'm really passionate about small towns and rural revival, and I really feel this mission inside of me, too, like making them a better place and attracting people to the town and the community. And hopefully that just helps business owners all around. It helps people like the community more. So I definitely want to keep it in Stuart.
For women who are thinking about starting a business or who are just starting something, what would your advice to them be?
Just go for it. Don't ever be afraid of hearing no. I feel like I never thought too much into anything, like I was always reaching out to people or shop owners and asking if they’d like to carry my products. If you worry about something too much or think too much into it, I think you can cripple yourself so much, so I'm a big believer of just going for it and figuring it out along the way