We’ve all seen and worn her shirts. But most have never heard the story behind the woman, and her business, that is locally employing several women in need, as well as giving moms and kids something to be proud of.
This is the story of how Francie James started Bleacher Divas. Warning- it gives you the feels:
I get asked all the time how I got started with my T-shirt company. The beginning was not calculated, or a big business plan that was well thought out, or a “life long dream”. By trade, I am an Orthopedic Physician Assistant that spent many years operating on people. But the need to be more available to my kids and hubby drew me away from that career path.
Some people assume I got my start when the Knights took the ice in Vegas, but my start began two and a half years before they arrived on the scene. My son, who at the time was an avid baseball player, gets the credit for the inspiration of Bleacher Divas. My son played baseball on a club ball team, and with little league, which meant I spent my life in bleachers at the ball field. I got tired of buying tournament tees at his games that looked like generic men’s tops; so I bought a rhinestone “baseball mom” decal off the internet. My cousin, who has a very large t-shirt company in Arizona, made me “baseball mom” t-shirt as well. So finally, I was armed with two tops that got rotated in and out every weekend for tournaments and games.
One weekend, my son had a three day ball tourney. Since I only had 2 baseball shirts, on day three I had to wear a regular blank t-shirt. My son comes bounding down the stairs pumped and ready for day three of the tourney, and stopped dead in his tracks when he sees me. He says, “mom where is my t-shirt?” To which I reply, “what are you talking about?” He says, “your “proud baseball mom” tee.” “Well bud,” I say, “I only have two shirts, and I wore them Saturday and Sunday.” The breath in his lungs escaping his body in complete deflation was audible as his shoulders dropped and his head sank. He said, “but mom, you have to wear one. When I’m on the field and I see you in the bleachers in those shirts, it tells me you think I can do anything!” as he sulks away. My heart was a puddle at this point. But I did what any mom would do, and I went to the dirty clothes hamper, found the least wrinkled of the two, sprayed some extra perfume on it, put it on, and vowed to never ever show up to a game without brag wear for my son.
I never realized how important it was to him, and how much he internalized the sentiment behind it. Sooooo, I ordered more decals off the internet, had my cousin make some as well, and set out to every ball game, proudly supporting my son.
I’ve always had a creative streak and I was never fully satisfied with the “generic” or run of the mill decals I was buying online. My solution was to make my own, since this was something that meant so much to my son. I decided to get some start up equipment and design tees for myself. My friends began to take notice and wanted some too. I had a fantastic group of ladies and a wonderful spouse that raved about my designs and encouraged me to start a business! — Pretty sure my husband’s angle was that I needed some form of adult day care to keep me from spending my days shopping -haha!! Nonetheless, he was and is my #1 cheerleader!!
After much prayer and soul searching, I just felt compelled to outfit other mothers in an effort to give their child the feeling that my child shared with me, about how important something so simple was to him. In my mind it was “just a t-shirt”, but to him it was inspiration. So the plan began to hatch.
I, my husband, my kids and some of my gal pals would all sit around my kitchen table throwing out names for my business and drawing logos. I eventually settled on Bleacher Divas, since we were all glittery ladies sitting in the bleachers.
BUT, if we were gonna be Divas, we had to be different! No cheap shirts that shrink the first time you wash. No boxy boxy shirts. Women can hand pick their own tee that works for their body type. And I had to make these tees special to them, with little touches of extra goodies that made them smile!
A few people were skeptical of my “personal approach” to the t-shirt business. They said to me that if I don’t keep it simple, I would never make money. To that I said, “I’m not in it for the money, I’m in it so other kids might get the feeling my son did, and other moms get to comfortably and fashionably cheer on their kid at affordable prices.” I was told I was overreaching and complicating what could be a “cash cow” (I hate that phrase). But I never wavered on how I wanted to see this company run, and my family and friends were behind me 100%, so I was unstoppable at this point.
Come back on Saturday to read Part 2 of Francie’s story, and find out how fans have come together to thank her for all she’s done for Las Vegas women.
*You can find Bleacher Divas clothing at vgkladiesshop.com