Tulsa natives and OSU graduates Cortney Ketchum Pelley and Callie Ketchum own and run Ketch The Spirit (www.ketchthespirit.com), a boutique clothing company that combines school spirit with high fashion. On game days, their unique creations are favorites with women who want to show their teams support with more than just a boring sweatshirt.
Oklahoma Magazine: Where was the idea for Ketch the Spirit born?
Cortney Ketchum Pelley: I’ve always been a big doodler. In college, I’d draw dresses with school logos and mascots on napkins and send them to my mom. She’d make me a dress for football games. I just wanted to be a little different from all the other girls out there. Once I started wearing the dresses regularly, people started asking me where I got them and if they could have one? So I just ran with it. I researched licensing and everything that went into building a company. And everything came together right after I graduated.
OM: You’ve only had four years in this business. How’s it been treating you?
CKP: In the first year we had three schools. Now we have 31. We’re growing rapidly. Once we had it at OSU, girls at OU wanted it. When OU got it, Florida State saw it and wanted it. TCU got us SMU and Baylor. It sort of took off on its own. It sold itself because it’s a different product. People haven’t seen anything like it. It took off and we’re still catching up to it. We market it and do the right things to put it out there, but the concept sells itself.
OM: Why the explosion? Why do your clothes have so much appeal?
CKP: Girls get to be themselves on game days and still wear their favorite team’s logo. I think a lot of girls at games want to show school spirit and be cute and comfortable. That’s been our main focus. We think about how to do that in a new way every time we release a new line. We’re adding new, unexpected things to the line. We want to keep changing it up so girls are always stylish and trendy, but their outfits on game day still scream school spirit.
OM: Your sister is your business partner and you still talk to each other. That’s pretty amazing.
CKP: As soon as my sister, Callie, graduated, she took over all the financial and licensing duties so I could devote all of my time to design and sales. That’s been a great partnership. It’s been really nice having my sister be a part of the company.
OM: What’s your best seller?
CKP: The number one style at every school is the strapless dress. I think that’s because it’s the easiest to throw on and go. It’s the easiest one to step into. If it’s your first experience with our clothing and you’re not sure about the concept, you can look cute and put together but not too over the top. It’s not too much for a football game. I think a lot of girls start off with that dress, fall in love with it and progress to our trendier, more frilly stuff.
OM: There’s plenty of men’s clothing out there that nobody’s blended with school spirit. Are you looking into that?
CKP: We’ve talked about it. We haven’t put a lot of research into it because we’re just two girls running a company, and we prefer to do girl stuff. But we have had a lot of interest from our stores and other clients. It’s on our minds, but I wouldn’t say we’re pushing forward with it anytime soon. I think once we get comfortable with our numbers, then we’ll look into branching out, maybe also explore a kids’ line. We’ve looked into both but not too heavily. We’re focused on pushing our current line.
OM: Just curious. A lot of schools have long names. How do you work those on to small strapless dresses?
CKP: That problem comes up a lot. Just trying to fit a name or a mascot on a small item of clothing is where we’ll try different things than you’ll see on other t-shirts and stuff. That’s part of the fun of working at Ketch The Spirit. We do a lot of preplanning of what the images are going to look like and which ones we think will sell best. It’s a hard part of designing the line every year but it’s also fun because we change things up, make them girly without an overpowering image.