When agricultural communications sophomore Carolyn Ringer began college, she dove into the unfamiliar worlds of dorm, greek and night life without any clear ideas of what to expect. She found herself wishing for an older sister figure to turn to for advice and guidance.
As Ringer began to learn the ropes of college life, she realized that she could share her newfound knowledge with other girls to help them through similar experiences.
“I felt like I jumped into the deep end and wanted to be like a life raft for others,” Ringer said.
As a result, Ringer created Slade, a “one-stop college survival guide.” Slade is an online boutique and lifestyle blog run by college-aged women primarily at Cal Poly, with social media presences on Instagram (slade.clothing) and Twitter (SladeCloCo) featuring Slade model Maddie Snow.
“Modeling for Slade has been a really fun experience, and I’m amazed that Caroline is capable of starting her own business at such a young age while being a full-time college student,” wine and viticulture junior Snow said.
The Slade ethos
The name “Slade” was originally inspired by a character’s name that Ringer heard on a TV show. After doing some research, she found that the word means “river valley” in England, which reminded her of the Central Valley, where she grew up.
The website’s mission statement is, “There’s a thin line between being a kid and being an adult, and the only time you get to stand on both sides, is college. So go forth and do dumb things!”
To elaborate, Ringer said in college, “you’re as free as you will ever be socially,” meaning that there are endless possibilities for experimenting with fashion and fun. Of course, she acknowledged that such factors revolve around a budget, which is why the boutique’s prices are “something that makes Slade a little bit unique.”
Slade clothing is marked one-and-a-half to two times above the original price, which is less than most retailers. Ringer wants Slade to be an affordable resource for women to go to when they have some extra money to spend.
In addition to the site’s shopping section, there is a lifestyle section with links to blog posts by Cal Poly students, advice vlogs by Ringer and short drunken stories by anonymous posters.
Of course, managing a business is a demanding responsibility for Ringer, on top of balancing schoolwork, greek life and everything else.
“I am 100 percent of the time either in class, at a sorority meeting or event, at Slade or sleeping,” Ringer said. “The only extracurricular activity I do is watch ‘How I Met Your Mother’ and maybe eat.”
Dealing with the stress of being a student entrepreneur
Ringer is no stranger to the balancing act; in high school, she was the cheerleading team captain, involved in student government and dance and an employee at a boutique. Ringer also participated in the Gallo Early Start Leadership program for two years in high school, through which she organized a fundraiser to fight
The mentorship program equipped her with skills necessary to create business plans and timelines, as well as to effectively utilize resources. Additionally, Ringer learned how to keep books, manage inventory, keep receipts and more from her father, who has successfully started his
With assistance from her family, as well as from her roommate and close friends, Ringer is able to manage her plethora of tasks and responsibilities. One way she stays sane is by venting about whatever is on her mind to those in her support system.
“Once I get things off my chest and work through every possible outcome, it makes [them] manageable,” Ringer said. “Even if there are things that are coming up that I’m worried or super scared about, the second I feel like I tell someone else about them or write them down, that’s as bad as it’s going to get. It’s like, a monster in the dark is way scarier than a monster in the light.”
In order to stay organized, Ringer primarily makes to-do lists on an app called “Trello”, which she calls “my best friend on my phone.”
She found that “without fail,” the amount of time she spends working on Slade business correlates with the amount of sales, showing her that all of her hard work literally pays off. Slade’s new office unit in Grover Beach is definitely a testament to that, as well as its growing number of followers and shoppers.
However, there are times when Ringer feels as though she is doing everything wrong and all she can do is accept defeat and move on. She described “the learning process” of working on Slade, such as relaunching the company’s website in order to better display her vision of its layout
Moving forward with Slade
Currently, Ringer is working on expanding the brand by finding ambassadors to help publicize Slade on Instagram. She is also in the process of introducing a vintage aspect to Slade, which will have “one of a kind” pieces that she will alter herself.
Ringer hopes to establish a Slade brand and transition to selling personal designs rather than simply obtaining and redistributing clothing from other designers.
While Slade does not have any sponsorships at the moment, there will be possible opportunities later this quarter when Carolyn hopes to create care packages for future freshmen. Her vision is to help women pamper themselves as they adjust to living in the dorms and to partner with certain brands to receive discounted products.
In the future, Ringer would like to have a Slade representative at as many colleges as possible. If Slade continues to expand, she’d love to have stores in big cities, such as New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco.