Keeping It Simple and Stylish
Milk & Honey owner Mandy Osborne is raising three kids while reining in her popular T-shirt company
By Amy Gordy, Photography by Katie Childs
Mandy Osborne had no idea when she created a few shirts for herself and her young boys five years ago that a new career would be born. She had left a job in marketing to raise her sons with her husband, Josh, when friends began to take note of the designs Osborne was making for herself and her kids.
“I always enjoyed making shirts did appliques and homemade stuff for my kids. I wouldn’t call myself crafty by any means, but I started making shirts and posted a pic of one I made for myself on my personal Instagram. Friends commented asking to buy them, so I was like, ‘yeah, I guess,’” Osborne said.
At the time, her sons were ages 4 and 2, so her hands were pretty full at home already. But more orders were coming, so Osborne applied for a business license and decided to begin growing her brand, Milk & Honey—at her own pace.
“It’s grown slowly by intention. I’m a stay-at-home mom. That’s my number one thing. Now all my kids are in school at least part of the day everyday, so as time has gone on, I’ve had time to grow it more.”
Osborne is careful not to let Milk & Honey take too much of her time. She puts her role of Mom first, and will close up shop if she starts to feel like the business is overshadowing her home life. “When I started, Milk & Honey was something to do during naptime or early in the morning. I love that I’m able to do it at home, and I can shut it off when school is out. I’ll take a long break for the holidays. When our third son born, I took three months off and that was a little scary. I worried, ‘What if I come back and I can’t get the business going again?’ But, business was good and I’ve always come back and it’s been fine. I’ve had to learn how to keep it under control. Sometimes it gets busier than I want it to be. Sometimes I wish it would be busier. I’ve had to learn to balance it and keep it within the boundaries,” she said.
Osborne’s kids—Noah, 9; Sam, 7; and Silas, 4—think Mom’s job is pretty cool. They get to see the process first-hand as Osborne does all the work in a small studio near the family kitchen. She has one silk screen press and a baker’s rack of T-shirts and sweatshirts that are ready to go. She doesn’t keep a lot of inventory, because she doesn’t have the space or want the overhead, so each shirt is made-to-order. She aims to keep her business simple and designs stylish.
“For the most part I take orders throughout the week. I shut the site down on the weekend so I can have family time and catch up on orders. On Fridays I’ll order shirts from suppliers, on Monday or Tuesday the shirts are here and I print them in the studio one at a time, then Jordan, my intern, ships them. There is such value in handmade things. We live in an Amazon Prime culture, but I think people value shopping small businesses. I think our stuff is really well made and people value that,” Osborne said.
The Milk & Honey tagline is “Simply Stylish,” and each shirt begins with the design process, which is Osborne’s favorite part. “I always say that I don’t want to put anything out there I wouldn’t wear myself. A lot of the designs are faith-based, but I keep it subtle. And a lot of it is just fun stuff or inspirational. Right now ‘Homebody’ is a big seller. A lot of moms in my age group can relate to it—moms with little kids. When my kids were babies I wanted to get out and do stuff all the time, but we were stuck at home. Now that they are older, life is crazy and busy running from one thing to the next, and I just want to be home. It’s a popular design with moms like me.”
Milk & Honey shirts can only be found on Osborne’s website, though she’s participated in a few local pop-up shops and some organized through connections in Austin and Dallas. She sells nationwide—though it all started selling to friends locally—and now that her kids are getting older she’s considering the next steps for her company.
“Now that my youngest is 4 and in preschool, I have more time to devote to the business. I don’t wholesale now, but I get asked a lot about wholesaling. I don’t have the capacity to do that yet. Having a store is also something I dream about, but I’m not ready to take that big leap right now. This year is the first year I’ve not had at least one kid with me at all times. I’m giving myself this first semester to see how things are going and think about the future.”