Geaux for a Good Time, part 1: Lauren Thom, Fleurty Girl

“Started from the kitchen now we’re here.” No literally — Lauren Thom, founder of Fleurty Girl, began her t-shirt business from her kitchen table and has grown her dream to a multi-million dollar business.

Lauren Thom lived in Baton Rouge after earning her degree from the Manship School of Mass Communication and credits her stay as what helped her discover her true passion for her home city of New Orleans. While working in Baton Rouge, Thom secretly desired to make New Orleans-inspired t-shirts.

On a whim after getting her tax returns back, Fleurty Girl Lauren Thom put every penny into printing her t-shirt ideas. She moved back to New Orleans in a tiny shotgun house on Oak Street and converted the front to her first shop while she and her three children shared the back half of the 1,000 square foot home.

photo from http://www.fleurtygirl.net/skin/frontend/fleurtygirl/default/images/original_store.jpg

photo from Fleurty Girl.

Her fame would come after what most business would be terrified of: a cease and desist order — and Thom’s came from the mother of all organizations, the NFL. In a letter addressed to Fleurty Girl, the NFL ordered her to stop printing “WHO DAT” on t-shirts, claiming they had rights to the phrase. Like a good, and scared business owner, Thom pulled the shirts from her stores.

However it was a Twitter response that then caused uproar within the community and ultimately lead to her fame. When a fan complained that she wanted a Fleurty Girl “WHO DAT” t-shirt but could not find them anywhere, Thom felt she had no other option but to explain to her customer why she could no longer sell “WHO DAT” shirts. Her response went completely viral. Other New Orleanians were outraged that all of a sudden the NFL wanted to claim rights to a phrase Saints fans had been saying for ages.

Due to the increased buzz and demand, Thom decided to take a risk and put the shirts back out for sale — and she couldn’t keep them on the shelves they sold so fast! There were lines out of her store every day, and she even had to implement crowd control to only allow a certain number of people in at a time. Everyone wanted to get their hands on these infamous “WHO DAT” t-shirts. She even began to print shirts that said, “WHO DAT said we can’t print WHO DAT?” The NFL later issued an apologetic letter and admitted she was allowed to print WHO DAT shirts.

Since the fame and strengthening of her brand, Fleurty Girl has now expanded her business to four locations with one in the French Quarter, Magazine Street, Metairie and Mandeville. She no longer has to make her kids share a room and is doing quite well for herself. She has created this authentic and desirable true-to-New Orleans-brand that the city has embraced.

Thom is constantly developing new ideas for t-shirts and capitalizes on the New Orleans tourism industry to put out shirts for festivals, Mardi Gras and sporting events.

Fleurty Girl has over 61,000 likes on Facebook and is also active on Twitter and Pinterest. Thom quickly realized the importance of social media in today’s world and has used these platforms to grow her fan base by directly connecting with them. From her business’ conception, Thom has shared her experiences on social media with her fans through pictures and posts.

Thom embraces the diversity of her store just like she embraces the diversity of the city. With employees of all sorts, she knows she can reach the audience she aims for — both New Orleans residents and visitors. Thom has set an example to do what you love and to take chances on things true to your heart.

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