What started as a COVID-19 pastime for Mell Gamboa has spun into a booming business named Pride Threads, offering LGBTQ customers clothing that celebrates being true to yourself year round—not just during Pride Month.
“I remember walking into Target looking for something to wear during Pride Month,” she says. “I ended up picking out this really low quality, bad looking hat and thought to myself, ‘Nobody put any effort into this design. Nobody cared about the quality of this hat.’ It got me thinking: Well, what if I started just designing hats?”
Gamboa, who has a background in the food-service industry, found herself with an abundance of free time during the pandemic. She started researching what starting a business would look like, which grew from hats to shirts and more.
“Our pride doesn’t get put back in the closet after Pride Month.
We are who we are year round.” —Mell Gamboa
“I started sketching little things out on my iPad,” she says. “Mind you, I’m not an artist, but I started with the Houston skyline and then the Texas state outline. I also wanted to have an astronaut holding the Pride flag, and I realized that really didn’t fit on a hat. That kind of snowballed into doing shirts.”
Since its inception in 2020, the business has expanded to a full-fledged line of products that represent states across the country, not just Texas. Mell credits the interest in her business to offering customers products that are Pride-friendly, while also being universal enough to wear throughout the year. Her Texas products feature rainbow Houston imagery, such as NASA astronauts and Texas longhorns.
“When I started thinking about what I wanted my products to look like, I paid attention to all the Pride merchandise out there,” she says. “It was all of the same thing. It was all just rainbow hearts, rainbow arches—all the same thing. It was all kind of lazy, just slapped on a shirt. I thought to myself, ‘I can do so much more.’ I knew I could offer up better fun designs that people would be proud to wear. Something that isn’t so generic looking. That’s how a lot of the designs have evolved.”
Gamboa suggests to anyone wanting to start their own business that they have to stay consistent and always be ready to learn something new.
“I’ve very much just been learning as I go,” she says. “I initially bought my own DTF (direct to garment) printing machine, and I quickly realized I had no clue what I was doing. The cost of maintaining a machine like that alone was unsustainable. There’s been so many learning curves of production, social-media promotion, designs—all that stuff. Right now, I’m working on researching how to add my products on Amazon, which is a huge ordeal in and of itself.”
Going forward, Mell plans to continue producing shirts that showcase Pride in a fashionable yet accessible way.
“I want to make sure I create products that are for our community and allies anywhere,” she says. “You don’t have to be from Houston. You don’t have to be from Austin. You can be from another state—any area. I want to do a mix of designs that are for anybody.”
The way she sees it, her brand is about showing your pride every day and not forgetting the importance of being proud of who you are.
“Our pride doesn’t get put back in the closet after Pride Month,” she says. “We are who we are year round. You know, there’s so much that we are still fighting for. To be able to represent who we are on a daily basis is so important to me. It is so important for us to be able to show our pride every day, because we’re not going anywhere. While I started this merely because I wanted better Pride merchandise, it has really evolved into much more than that. This is about the gay community now, and how I can support and represent them. I love being able to do that.”
For more info, visit Pride-threads.com.