How a Tax Return Helped This Entrepreneur Land a Successful Brand

Originally posted on Entrepreneur.com

With the tagline "Everything New Orleans," Fleurty Girl is the place to visit for those checking out The Big Easy. From T-shirts to gifts and full-on Mardi Gras outfits, this store has the New Orleans brand all over it.  With five locations and 30 employees, many would view founder Lauren Thom's concept as a huge success. But what most fans don’t know is it all started with a $2,000 tax return and an almost lawsuit.

A single mom with three kids, Thom had a great job with a company car and phone plan, along with full benefits for her and her family. Although it seemed like she had it all, she knew she wanted to do something more with her life. With her 2009 tax-return money, she designed fun T-shirts for women, built a simple website and sold out almost immediately. She reinvested her earnings into more T-shirts, expanding designs and eventually opened a Fleurty Girl storefront.

Later that year the Saints got into the Super Bowl, so Thom created black and gold t-shirts with “Who Dat” on the front. The store had a line around the corner waiting to purchase these shirts. Then Thom received a cease-and-desist letter from the NFL saying she wasn't allowed to use the Saints phrase. When the New Orleans Times and Good Morning America showed up at her storefront, Thom left her job and her benefits. The story of the NFL scaring a single mom's T-shirt store got so much press that an apology letter from the NFL came shortly after. FleurtyGirl was on the map.

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