The Tie-Dye Entrepreneur

COVID on Campus: The Tie-Dye Entrepreneur

“I really just scrunch it up and hope for the best.” - Kyra Surgent
Published: December 15, 2020 | Updated: January 9th, 2021 at 6:39 pm


COVID on Campus - Kyra Surgent- Tie-Dye Entrepreneur
Syracuse University junior Kyra Surgent founded Kyra Kouture in 2020.

At the beginning of quarantine, I just knew I needed a project or I would go crazy. After classes ended, I didn’t have a lot of motivation, but I started tie-dying. That gave me a purpose in my days.

It all started over last winter break, actually. Around Christmas, my friend and I saw a TikTok of these girls who made matching tie-dye sweat sets, like a little zip-up sweatshirt and sweatpants. We had nothing to do, so we got all the supplies and just figured it out. I was so nervous when we were first unraveling the tie-dye, seeing how it came out. I was going for a subtle pastel pink, and it kind of turned into a hot pink moment, but we were surprised how well they turned out.

When I went back to school, I’d wear it around and get compliments. When I told people that I made it myself, my friends were like, “You should do something with this.” So, I made Kyra Kouture in March.

At first, it was just my friends asking me to make things for them. They’d post them on Instagram and joke that they were Kyra Kouture “ambassadors” and tag my little business Instagram. It was honestly just all fun in the beginning. I never went in with any kind of business-y mindset. I still don’t really think of it as that. It’s more like a creative project. But once they’d post, other Syracuse people or people I didn’t even know reached out. That’s when I was like, “Maybe I should take this seriously and start selling.”

I live in Wyckoff, New Jersey. The pandemic was pretty bad. There were a lot of cases in my area, so I was kind of scared to go into stores. I found wholesale online websites and realized I could just start purchasing everything in bulk. Now I have so much tie-dye, I don’t know what to do with it.

Customers reach out to me through direct messages on Instagram. Everything’s totally customizable, so a lot of times they don’t know what they want, which is fun because I can help them with the inspo. Then, depending on the order, I sew or iron patches or graphics on. I’d do around 10 orders at once. I’d make a day out of it and go in my backyard, put a tarp down, and listen to The Lumineers. I wet the shirts, scrunched them up, dyed them. Then, I’d literally run through the house with them, put them in my laundry room for 24 hours, and wash them the next day. My laundry room turned into a little tie-dye studio, which my family was not too fond of. I stained this white mat by our door. It’s now pink — but I think it looks good.

At first, my parents were like, “Are you even making a profit? Is this just a waste of money?” They definitely saw it as a funny little thing, but, by the end, they’d brag about it to their friends on the phone. I think they liked it, aside from the tie-dye and clothes everywhere, because I was making a profit.

I’ve made around 90 sales, which is surprising. I really thought I was just making this for my friends, but when people from all over the country started reaching out, I got so excited. I had orders from Florida and Georgia and California and just, like, everywhere.

One girl from Indiana bought a tank top from me. It turns out she has this whole lifestyle blog, and she asked if she could make me a featured creator. I made another girl a graphic tank top, and one day she came up on my For You page on TikTok. Her video had 50,000 likes, and she was wearing the top. In the comments, other girls were like, “Where can I get this?” and she plugged me. I was shocked. I felt really special.

It’s still definitely a learning process. I’d tie-dyed when I was younger at summer camps, but they wouldn’t come out good. In the beginning, even just for my friends, I would re-dye things like three times because I wanted it to be their exact vision. I feel like now I’ve made enough that I’m pretty confident in it, but it’s a gamble every time. I’ve had people text me and be like, “What’s your technique? How do you do it?” I don’t even know what to tell them. I really just scrunch it up and hope for the best.

At home, there were days where I was like, “I hate tie-dye. I’m never wearing this. I never want to look at this again,” but now I miss it. I’m like, “Ooh, I would tie-dye something right now.”

I took a bunch of photos of the clothes when I was home, and now I’m trying to post once a week if I can, just to kind of keep the Instagram going. I’m taking pre-orders for when we’re home for Thanksgiving, so I’ll be ready to tie-dye when I go back. I don’t think I want to be a business person, but it’s cool knowing that I developed some skills that could contribute to that. Who knows? Maybe I’ll keep going forever until tie-dye goes out.

COVID on Campus

COVID on Campus

This as-told-to interview is part of COVID on Campus, a series created by students in the Reporting classes at the Newhouse School in Fall 2020. COVID on Campus documents the experiences of students, staff, and faculty living through this extraordinary time.

Avatar for Morgaine McIlhargey

is a magazine journalism major at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications and contributor for The NewHouse.