Total chaos, high energy and a carefree, welcoming spirit — that’s what you get with Hot Mess Marketplace.
Based in Holland, Hot Mess Marketplace is an online graphic T-shirt shop celebrating people of all shapes and sizes. Best friends Kate DeForest and Elisa Grzybowski are the masterminds behind Hot Mess, and since launching in August, business has been booming.
“It’s been insane,” Grzybowski said. “We were hopeful that it was going to do really well, but not this quickly. We have gotten some really sweet messages from people — you can just tell that they needed something to cheer them up right now. And I think, believe it or not, our T-shirts have actually been bringing people joy. That’s more than what we could’ve even hoped for.”
The concept and creation of Hot Mess was pretty simple, Grzybowski said.
“Honestly, Kate just came to me one day and was like, ‘hey, do you want to make T-shirts?’” she laughed. “I was already designing shirts for a conference and I was showing them to her, and I was like yeah, sure, let’s do it.”
As for coming up with a name, “Hot Mess Marketplace” was a no-brainer.
“We were sitting down at Elisa’s table trying to come up with a name, and she was on the phone and her daughter was just hanging all over her,” DeForest laughed. “And I was like, oh, my God, this is a hot mess, like we are a hot mess.”
Both from the west side of the state, DeForest lives in Zeeland and Grzybowski in Holland; the two met through church and have been friends for years.
“I don’t even know how long we’ve been friends,” Grzybowski laughed. “It feels like forever.”
And these friends are busy.
Aside from running Hot Mess Marketplace, DeForest and Grzybowski have full-time jobs; Grzybowski is a photographer and stay-at-home-mom. DeForest runs a group home for adults with disabilities in Zeeland with her husband, coaches cross-country and works at a local bicycle shop.
Hot Mess stands out in many ways, one being that it doesn’t charge extra for bigger sizes.
“As a curvy girl myself, there’s nothing that feels worse than going out to buy a curvy size and having to pay more than the other girls,” Grzybowski said. “I think it’s huge for women to not feel less-than just because they’ve got beautiful curves. We’re hoping that it makes people feel better about themselves.”
“I’d say that our No. 1 mission is to make sure that we have something for everybody,” DeForest added. “And that everybody who gets on our website or follows us on social media just feels covered in kindness and they feel welcomed and appreciated.”
Currently, Hot Mess sells adult T-shirts, sweatshirts, raglan tees and beanies, as well as toddler and youth T-shirts. When it comes to design, DeForest uses the shop as a way to express her creativity.
“I’ve always been a really artistic person,” DeForest said. “I love just being able to create art, so it’s been an excellent way to use this not only as a business, but as an artistic outlet. In regard to designs, a lot of people come to me with ideas and I simmer on them for awhile and then put them all together.
“I kind of just let the people talk and tell me what they want, because the more we listen to our customers, the more of a relationship we can build with them.”
The shop releases new designs every week on “Fresh Friday,” and offers custom designs, online parties, fundraising options and bulk orders.
“We bring out new designs every Friday, and it just helps us get something new out there without overwhelming people,” Grzybowski said. “Because honestly, our back stock of designs is ridiculous — we have a lot of ideas. We also just launched our fall line on Sept. 1.”
And when the duo isn’t running around fulfilling shirt orders, shooting photos, raising a family, coaching middle schoolers or caring for others, they’re dancing.
“It can get a little wild,” Grzybowski said. “We like to work together whenever we can, but I feel like we work better when we’re not together, because we get a little distracted — we dance a lot.”