A Michigan college instructor was inspired by his students to launch a dorm décor company

Bright idea

click to enlarge Tapestry Girls offers tapestries with unique colorful designs, trendy bedding collections, rugs, wallpaper, mirrors and neon novelty lighting that is used in college dorms. - Courtesy photo
Courtesy photo
Tapestry Girls offers tapestries with unique colorful designs, trendy bedding collections, rugs, wallpaper, mirrors and neon novelty lighting that is used in college dorms.

Kyle Leighton spent his entire career working in engineering and lighting, writing case studies and scientific research. Eventually, his research led him to be invited to teach at Jackson College to help develop curriculum for students that were interested in the same career path.

While Leighton was teaching, he noticed students using tapestries to decorate. He did an online search and realized that there were no tapestry companies in the U.S. That’s when he first got the idea to start his own. Within a few days of launching his website, Tapestry Girls had orders.

“It was unbelievable, honestly,” says the Ann Arbor resident. “Then every day afterward, there were more orders than the day prior, and before I knew it, the company had legs. At that point I knew that I had something.”

Tapestry Girls offers tapestries with unique colorful designs, trendy bedding collections, rugs, wallpaper, mirrors and neon novelty lighting that is used in college dorms.

Leighton says the home decor industry is a creative, and booming industry.

“There is a ton of opportunity for people now more than ever, especially because creating unique, personal spaces is trendy,” Leighton explains. “The U.S. home decor industry currently sits right around $170 billion and is forecasted to grow to $200 billion by 2024. If you have a unique product, or a niche offering, it is a great place to be right now.”

To fund his entrepreneurial journey, Leighton invested in his own brand to get it off the ground.

“I bootstrapped the company myself,” he says. “Tapestry Girls is not the only company that I own. I had a very successful lighting career and was able to invest as a result of that. I am also a real estate investor and own 26 rental properties in Michigan.”

While running the online décor business, Leighton says he has been approached by a few investors for Tapestry Girls. These days, he spends a lot of his time on product sourcing, product development, and market planning. He aims to provide his customer demographic with new, innovative products and product styles.

“[Our customers] are heavily influenced by what they see on social media,” he says. “So, a big portion of my day-to-day right now is finding and designing products that I think are going to matter.”

Leighton is enjoying the entrepreneur lifestyle. What he appreciates most is organizing and executing plans for growth and accomplishment.

“We’ve experienced 400% growth year over year,” Leighton says. “We quickly eclipsed $1 million revenues in less than two years, and the business was just given a seven-figure valuation by Clearco, a financial tech firm, of Toronto, Canada. For 2022, I want to keep the revenues confidential as I am finally considering taking on investors.”

But with all businesses comes challenges. Leighton says every day he takes risks to see if something is going to work for his business.

“A lot of entrepreneurs, including myself, don’t really know if the company we are sitting on is going to work out or not,” he says. “There’s risk involved. There is a risk in markets or trends changing. There is a risk in things not working out. You really have to step away from your idea and understand the value of it and if there really is any and why.”

He adds, “Not everyone cares about what you care about. You have to think to yourself, ‘is this something other people will love whether I like it or not?’”

Allison Barron, an incoming freshman at Oakland University says she learned about Tapestry Girls online during her last weeks of high school.

“A few of my friends were in class talking about designs for our new dorm rooms and someone mentioned Tapestry Girls,” Barron says. “I instantly fell in love with the brand when I went on their website. They have everything. Since we can’t really hang photos on the walls in the dorms, I think a tapestry will help add color to our space.”

Later this year, Leighton plans to break into fashion-themed home decor.

“Tapestry Girls launched fashion inspired collections that include ‘Cottagecore,’ ‘Danish Pastel,’’ Indie,’ and ‘Grunge’ decor styles,” he says. “These are all fashion- and music-inspired collections, and very trendy right now. And so, I think the right direction for the company in terms of growth is not to just be a home decor company, but to become a fashion company as well — an aesthetic decor company, ultimately.”

More information on Tapestry Girls is available at tapestrygirls.com.

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About The Author

Darlene A. White

If you see Darlene, she is usually on deadline while holding a cup of coffee in one hand and chasing her twin toddlers across metro Detroit. She is a Ferndale High School graduate, a Wayne State Warrior, and a proud member of the National Association of Black Journalists. Darlene’s first love is radio. One of...
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