Two Rogue Valley women start a clothing line that includes a self-styled definition printed on every garment
After Oregon's spiraling economy put Colleen Callan and Cassie Trujillo out of work, the Medford women knew they'd need guts, gumption and a good idea to bounce back.
It seems they've found all three in Burly Girl Gear, a new line of clothing that celebrates strength and resiliency.
Callan, 35, a laid-off music teacher, and Trujillo, 31, a former children's crisis program coordinator, didn't intend to become purveyors of casual fashion.
When Callan lost her 11-year post at White City Elementary School last June, a couple of years after Trujillo's job at the Dunn House women's shelter was cut, the pair decided to launch a landscaping business.
— They thought they'd call it Burly Girls for truth in advertising ' and for fun.
We looked up 'burly' in the dictionary, and it's mostly about strength, Callan says.
But the women never clipped a single hedge. Before they had a chance, someone saw ' and liked ' the Burly Girl company shirts the women had made.
People bought them off of us, Callan says.
A big part of the appeal rests in the women's self-styled definition printed on every garment.
A burly girl, their clothing attests, is a person who is intelligent, courageous, confident, determined, independent, strong, inspiring ...
We sat down and made this huge list of qualities that we valued, says Trujillo.
With that definition in mind, it's little wonder the women have sold &
36;6,000 worth of T-shirts, baseball caps, sweatshirts and travel mugs emblazoned with the Burly Girl logo since December.
I think people read the definition and find qualities they appreciate about themselves, Callan says.
Take the group of power-walking senior citizens from Arizona. The all-woman group bought matching Burly Girl hats and shirts after seeing Callan's samples.
They told us, 'When we were your age, we didn't appreciate those qualities about ourselves,' Callan recalls. Somewhere in Arizona there's a group of seniors with orange Burly Girl hats and pink T-shirts.
So far, the appeal has transcended gender as well as age. As the women have offered their wares at regional gatherings, from a Medford business fair to a Springfield power-lifting championship, they've attracted customers of all kinds.
I had one man who looked at our definition and said, 'Well, I'M a burly girl,' Trujillo says. Other men have bought them for their wives and girlfriends.
Trujillo's two sons, Tyler, 11, and Cory, 10, even want shirts that say: My mom is a Burly Girl!
Callan and Trujillo, business and domestic partners who've lived together five years, have received considerable support from the local gay and lesbian community.
But the pair say their clothing isn't aimed primarily at a gay market.
What we're discovering is there is no target audience, Callan says.
Burly Girl Gear will be available to the public today at a booth at the Medford Pear Blossom Festival. Callan and Trujillo will be selling tank tops, boxer shorts, sweatshirts, T-shirts, baseball caps and baby clothes. Prices range from &
36;12 for a travel mug to &
36;38 for a hooded sweatshirt.
The women's designs are embroidered and printed on heavy-duty pigment-dyed garments. Kirk Pederson, owner of Tekprinting Services in Central Point, has helped guide the fledgling entrepreneurs.
These two girls have been hustling a lot, he says. The market is out there for them, even at the small quantities they're currently producing.
Pederson says one of the strongest assets they've got going for them is the name.
When someone says 'burly,' it's not something appealing, but when it's combined with 'girl,' which is a softer term, you stop and you think, 'What exactly is that?' he says.
Curiosity about the concept will help fuel further interest in the business, Callan and Trujillo figure. They're planning to attend several large trade shows this spring and to launch a Web site ' ' in the next week or so.
It's been a surprise to us, admits Trujillo. We're tickled all the time.
It's exciting because we've tapped into something so empowering.