TEA, S.D. (KELO) — Running a small business is no easy feat, and doing so in the midst of a pandemic can make the job even harder.
Monalisa Perez and her fiance Tyler Blake launched their online clothing brand, wäke, in 2018.
Since then, the business with a mission revolving around self love, has gone from operating in their home to expanding now into a warehouse.
“We are an online street wear clothing brand and when we started wäke a little over two years ago, our intent was just to inspire people on their self-love journey and to get on their self-love journey and inspire people that no matter what they go through in life, they can, and they will overcome it,” Perez said.
Blake, an art school graduate from Chicago, says luxury clothing brands inspired him– and his first customer, Perez, became his partner in the field.
But when COVID-19 hit, the two ran into challenges.
“We saw some effects with logistics. Our shipments were delayed, that sort of stuff. We had to cancel events,” Blake said.
Without pop-up shops, events and a lack of items it was time to get creative.
“We just decided to double down on our online content, do more live videos through Facebook, Instagram, really connect with people more on a personal level,” Blake said.
By utilizing social media outlets and connecting with customers, their business was not only able to continue, but grow.
Perez recommends other local businesses struggling during this time try new things.
“A lot of people are always like, well, I don’t know how to do this. I don’t know how to do video that good. Who cares? Just turn on your phone and just start. You have to start somewhere,” Perez said.
The clothing brand isn’t just a job for the local couple, but the two say it’s a passion as well.
A passion that they say is able to succeed thanks to a community in KELOLAND full of local support.
“I feel like we have a, really a good community here in Sioux Falls, within wäke. And we want to expand that. Our vision with wäke is to be a global brand within the next two to five years,” Perez said.
“I would say 2020, through all the chaos, there was some blessings and we were able to pivot and find, you know, some good moments during the time,” Blake said.