Jenna and Kayla Elko joined students across the U.S. in travelling back home from college when the pandemic first hit the U.S. and schools started to close in March.
With their end-of-semester plans squashed, the two sisters started to look for ways to preoccupy their time in quarantine, looking for ideas for projects online before eventually deciding on the perfect time-killer for them — tie-dye clothes.
Kayla said that she and Jenna saw a video that one of their favorite Instagram influencers shared on how she had created a stylish, tie dye outfit. The sisters immediately took the opportunity to create their own outfits as a fun way to spend their time in quarantine and make something cute for themselves.
They started to wear their colorful creations out in public and noticed a giant wave of compliments from passersby, and eventually, some of their younger sister’s friends even recommended that they try selling the outfits online.
Excited by the attention, the two created an Instagram account to post some of their tie-dye clothes for sale. Their newfound business started to soar almost immediately — leading later to the creation of Happy Soul Sisters, a now successful online boutique.
“The tie dye was definitely something [that happened] overnight,” Kayla said. “We never thought it would turn into something like this.”
Kayla said that she knew after taking business and marketing classes years ago at Lambert High School that she wanted to someday start her own business. Both her and Jenna have been dreaming of the day that they would be able to open up their own picturesque storefront, maybe nestled among shops along the California coastline.
They never expected, however, that their tie-dye clothing would bring them so much closer to making that dream a reality.
Soon after creating the Happy Soul Sisters Instagram, they started to gain hundreds of followers, and they received orders for their tie dye sweatpants and tank tops. Kayla said that what really boosted the business forward, though, was the decision to send one of their outfits to another Instagram influencer.
Tie dying has become a popular trend during quarantine as many are looking for fun and simple ways to stay productive at home, and large clothing companies have even started featuring their own tie dye clothing on their shelves and online.
Despite the craze surrounding tie dying right now, Kayla and Jenna were still shocked to see the impact that sharing their clothes online actually had. When Libby Christensen, a fitness influencer and GymShark athlete, shared a post online about the clothes the sisters had sent over to her, Jenna said they suddenly started to get hundreds of messages.
“That night, I was at my boyfriend's house and we're outside playing basketball and stuff,” Jenna said. “My sister texts me from home and she's like, ‘Get to your phone right now.’ And I was like, oh my God, what's going on? We have over 100 message requests from people to order stuff. And we were like, holy crap like this is insane.”
From there, Jenna and Kayla started to send their clothes to even more online influencers. So far, five others have shared information about the clothes and Happy Soul Sisters online: Ansley and Eliza Minor, who are both TikTokers with nearly 500,000 followers; Cali Fuller, another fitness influencer with nearly 100,000 followers; Jordan Beckingham, a TikToker with just over 400,000 followers; and Elle Danjean, a popular model.
An excess of orders forced Jenna and Kayla to also start their own website to help sell their clothes later in June, and now the two have delivered more than 500 orders and stocked their items in two boutiques while still making all of their tie dye clothing in their parents’ garage.
They are continuing to try the grow the business, and they have already added several new products to their website, including face masks and jewelry. One special feature of the business also includes their “one of a kind” clothing items, which is usually a shirt or other piece of clothing that they bought at a thrift store and added their own special touch to.
“For example, we got a Beatles sweatshirt, and we bleached it and did some cool designs to it and sold it for $40,” Kayla said. “And we only had one of them. Every single time we drop one-of-a-kind items, they sell out within minutes because people like that kind of stuff. Because it's one of a kind. It's not something that you've seen before.”
Moving forward, Kayla said that both of their classes for the upcoming semester are online, so they will be able to keep growing Happy Soul Sisters and taking orders even as they finish up school.
Eventually, Kayla said that she wants to own that storefront that she has been dreaming of since high school. Before they plan for that, though, Kayla and Jenna are going to wait until they both have earned their degrees in two years.
In the meantime, Kayla said that she is excited to be doing something that she loves with her sister — even if it is while they are in the middle of a pandemic.