Ten years ago Ashley and Blythe McCain were a couple of young, working moms who had a passion for traditional Southern children’s clothing.
The duo who were both sister-in-laws and best friends began working from their garages in their free time, and they sold their clothing bid-style through Facebook posts.
A decade later, their little online shop, Cecil and Lou, has evolved into a full-blown company that has sold merchandise across the country, and has exploded on social media.
What started out as a garage hobby turned into their own version of the American dream as the small local company continued to grow and expand its reach.
“Ashley and I were raised in Tyler and we were dressed in traditional southern clothes growing up- traditional and timeless,” Blythe McCain said. “In 2011 our daughters were babies and we were dressing them the same way. We realized, why don’t we give this a try? We began to create our own clothes to outfit our daughters and sons and now our clothes are sold all over the United States.”
When they began the business, they were both working in oil and gas and real estate. First they were working out of their garages in their free time, designing clothes and sending them to a manufacturer, and then selling them on Facebook.
As the business grew, their husbands began pitching in to help in whatever ways they could. Then, several mothers in the neighborhood began contributing by working for the small company from their kitchen tables.
The growth never stopped.
“We started to see the dynamics change in 2014,” Blythe McCain said. “We realized we needed to focus on Cecil and Lou. We dropped our outside jobs and thought: here we go. This is something. No turning back.”
Taking the leap of faith to go all in with their company has proven to have been the right move as the company has accrued a staff of 22 employees, a productions warehouse, and over 500,000 followers on Facebook.
Ashley and Blythe are the sole designers of the company. Over the years they have come to know and trust a few select designers that faithfully manufacture their clothing. Their staff is primarily made up of working moms as the sister-in-laws had a heart to employ young mothers in Tyler. The staff monograms and personalizes the attire in-house.
“Our 22 employees are the backbone of the company,” Ashley McCain said. “Monogramming, in-house customization, and personalization set us apart from our competitors. People in the south love a good monogrammed outfit.”
The business partners said they have no regrets when it comes to their decision to make their dream become a reality. They also explained the special meaning behind the name of their business.
“This is our passion. You may or may not know, but those are our first daughters’ names,” Ashley McCain said “It is a very personal thing, a family run business with our children’s names. It is something to be proud of, and we have worked very hard to maintain good reputation and provide a good customer experience.”
The company website cecilandlou.com continues to rely on social media marketing, and unlike their competitors, the clothing company does not have a boutique or store.
During the pandemic, the sister-in-laws said their business spiked, and they are very happy to continue doing business through their online platform.
“On social media you have to pay to play,” Blythe McCain said. “We first had to make our marketing and advertising budget, and we relied on our marketing specialist to advise us as to where we needed to put our dollars. We no longer sell on Instagram or Facebook, but our social media posts directly go to our website. It is our advertising platform.”
Both Ashley and Blythe McCain said others who’ve considered starting their own business should take the leap of faith despite how intimidating the process initially seems.
“Definitely take the leap of faith,” Blythe McCain said. “I think if you have the opportunity to go in with a partner that can only be to your benefit. It is not always easy these days, and where it is hard, Ashley and I have each for motivation to keep pressing on.”
As time has gone on, the business partners have not curbed their appetite for expanding their growth. Recently, buyers from Europe asked the clothes be made available internationally, and the McCains said the idea will likely become a reality in the near future.
As they had more children they also opened a second “sister” site that was named after them, and through the smaller site they sell similar clothing, elizajameskids.com.
The company also has sidewalk sales showcasing seasonal items every six to eight months.
Tyler locals that are interested in viewing Cecil and Lou attire will have the opportunity to attend a “sidewalk sale” in front of their warehouse located at 417 Troup Highway from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Everything will be $15 or less, and they will feature clothing from size newborn to age 10.
The McCains said as their business has grown, they have prioritized giving back to the community.
During the pandemic, the store donated mass productions of face masks to local hospitals and to anyone in the community able to go to their warehouse to pick one up. They have donated to schools in Tyler ISD and All Saints Episcopal School, and have also worked with Young Life.
“As the business grows and develops, we are passionate about giving back to the community through the local church and schools,” Ashley McCain said. “This has been a huge blessing in our life and we want to bless others.”