The CEO and Creative Director of PluggedNYCStore , Tizita Balemlay has managed to continue raising the bar with her Brooklyn, N.Y. based street chic fashion line, being an activist giving back to people in her community and abroad in her native Ethiopia, and being featured in Vogue , The Cut , and Buzzfeed all at the tender age of 23.
TUC had the opportunity to get the inside scoop on PluggedNYC , the opening of her warehouse for upcoming social media brands, and the future of her Plugged empire.
Breanna: Tell us a bit about PluggedNYC. How did it come about and what was the inspiration?
Tizita: My social media was always @theplugsdaughterr , so when I started the brand, I automatically wanted to name it plugged. When I saw that it was taken, I added the NYC because that was where I was located. My brand started with my drive to make money in college when I got cut off by my parents. I went to the camo store with my last pennies and bought camo pants and a camo t-shirt which I then cut up and made the shirt into a bralette with a hot glue gun. I posted a photo that night and it went viral, created a website the next day, and boom! That was the start of PluggedNYC.
Breanna: With the success of PluggedNYC getting recognition from some of the top people in the game like Rihanna, Keke Palmer, and now even Wiz Khalifa. How did you get the chance to market your brand to these people so quickly and efficiently?
Tizita: I honestly really utilized social media to reach the majority of my celebrity clients. You have to remember there are also stylists that go behind a majority of your favorite artists, and that a lot of our brands are on your favorites because of their stylists. So, I would like to thank stylists because they really do deserve more credit than they receive, as they are the ones who have their eye out for emerging brands, and what’s hot or not!
Breanna: Social media is an integral part of giving people a presence for their craft. How do you feel social media has impacted the success of your brand?
Tizita: I never really wanted to be a designer. I actually wanted to be a creative director for music videos, fashion campaign, etc. It wasn’t until I saw the positive reviews from my social media posts that led me to create a brand. So, I owe a lot of my thanks to social media for pointing me the direction.
Breanna: Besides designing, you’re also opening up a warehouse on Aug. 1st for emerging social media brands. What prompted you to create this and will it be called PluggedNYC?
Tizita: Yes, I will be launching Plugged Studio Aug 1. Plugged Studio is located in New York City and we have a 1,400 sq. foot factory with over 20 employees. Plugged Studio is a SWEATSHOP FREE factory, and all workers are getting paid over minimum wage. We have our in-house brand PluggedNYC which is getting manufactured out of Plugged Studio. It’ll be opened up it to the public, so all emerging and developed brands can manufacture there. When I first started my brand, I had to sew everything by hand because I did not have the budget to manufacture. A majority of the factories in the city wanted to only work with me if I was going to spend $5, 000 minimum and at that time I didn’t even have it because I was 19. At Plugged Studio, we will sit down with you, helping you modify your designs and figure out what you can make in your budget. I want to help others because no one wanted to point me in that direction and give me a hand when I started.
Breanna: Can you talk about some of the social media brands that you’ll be working with at the warehouse? What kinds of day to day activities will they be doing? Is there an age limit and can anybody with a passion for social media be a part of this?
Tizita: Plugged Studio is not just a factory, it’s an in-house studio with amenities like house photography studios, manufacturing company, PR services, design, and logo services. Plugged Studios also has services like screen printing, sublimation, cut and sew, distribution and more. Think of it as your one-stop shop. We don’t really have a barrier on what the age limit is, so all you have to do is start a brand, just know what you want to create, check out our website, and make a design inquiry.
Breanna: With the expansion of your brand with design and now social media, how do you see your brand overall? How would you define it?
Tizita: WE ARE PLUGGED. Overall, we want to plug the world. we started with PluggedNYC a brand, we are now expanding the plugged brand by adding plugged studios into the family to lend a helping hand for emerging brands.
Breanna: PluggedNYC is still a relatively new brand that has garnered a lot of buzz which is unheard of. So, do you feel that venturing into creating this social media warehouse was easier to pick up as a result?
Tizita: I mean everything does rub off to lead the other. My brand ultimately first gave me the idea of having an in-house studio. It made more sense financially for my brand and was going to be an investment I would be making that would benefit my brand.
Breanna: Did you face any challenges in creating PluggedNYC and your social media warehouse?
Tizita: Yes, I’m not a brand that’s funded, I started with nothing, so I had to become really good at managing assets like money. I can’t really just build everything in one day. I really took the time out with Plugged Studio, saved money over the years, and really crafted a space where I could create non-stop and also help others when it comes to manufacturing. Manufacturing and production are really key.
Breanna: What has been the most rewarding thing about working with the emerging social media brands?
Tizita: Seeing my brand grow is really rewarding financially and in brand awareness. It feels great to see something I started in a room blow up into something that’s now in majority of girls my age and celebs closets.
Breanna: What do you ultimately hope to further accomplish with designing and now social media in the next 5 to 10 years?
Tizita: I hope to expand my brand by opening stores and also going international because surprisingly half of my sales are international. I want to also expand the Plugged brand overall with some other ventures I have planned.
Breanna: What advice would you give to someone who wants to get into creative fields?
Tizita: You’re going to have to be mentally strong because it isn’t going to be an easy ride. When entering a creative field, especially as an entrepreneur, marketing is really essential. Being a designer, I could just make clothes or really take the time to understand my audience, by asking questions like “would my audience wear this” and “does it fit their age bracket and price budget” to really make sure I’m catering to my audience creatively.
Breanna: What does True Urban Culture mean to you?
Tizita: Urban culture is based on our past music, and overall generations I feel. It’s like everybody has the influence on urban culture and what’s going on right now. A lot of the trends that we see and everything is repeated from the past which influences us.
Breanna: Any lasting Remarks?
Tizita: The PluggedNYCStore was the first venture that I experienced, but I really just want to continue building my plugged empire. I want to continue this by creating a plugging agency where there’s photographers, models, videographers, everything like a creative agency as well because plugged is beyond a clothing brand. I want to be able to help plug everybody with connections for whatever creative business they decide to do.