MC Alum Supports Overseas Travel with Local Business / Gracie Lee

Rebecca Lee, Clinton born, graduated Mississippi College in 2019, with a degree in Foreign Language and International Trade and a passion for traveling. She knew she always wanted to travel overseas, but had never actively pursued it. Then, an internship at a school in Spain presented itself.  

“I felt like for a while, life just kind of happened to me. My teacher just emailed me [about the internship],” she said. “ Since then I’ve been taking a more active role.” But Lee had to raise funds before she could begin her journey. Realizing she was about to have to live off her savings, she looked for ways to increase them.

She had toyed with the idea of selling T-shirts as fundraisers in the past, but now it looked like it could become a reality. “Dude, I can make shirts like I want to, and do it as a fundraiser. Not like a pity thing, but rather than just ask people to give you money, you can be like, here is a product. If you like the product, you can buy it and know you’re supporting me,” she remembered thinking. “I did a round of preorders and that was that.” Lee never guessed that her one-time fundraiser could turn into a business. 

In August of 2019, Lee started her journey, backpacking over most of the Baltics to get to Spain. Unfortunately, her teaching internship was cut short by the worldwide pandemic in March 2020. Spain experienced a much more harrowing lockdown than the United States. She never left her apartment except to buy groceries every 10 days. When she did leave, patrolling policemen questioned her about where she was going and why. 

Lee made it through the remainder of her year-long trip unscathed, and returned to the states in August 2020. She still had no money. “That t-shirt thing worked out pretty well. Why don’t I try that again, but instead of a fundraiser, let’s actually try this thing,” she thought. “I’ve wanted to be self-employed. I’ve wanted to do the entrepreneur thing. What do I have to lose?” she asked. “Worst case, I lose my money and I’m back home, but at least I tried. I’m going to be here anyway.”

The shop, which Clinton locals have come to know as Rooted, is approaching its first birthday in September. Just a year later, it sells much more than T-shirts. “It started off as just shirts and then my mom and a friend convinced me to do one of the Clinton markets,” Lee said.  Consumers can now buy handmade jewelry, tote bags, stickers, and keychains on or view them on Facebook. 

T-shirts might not be on the market for long, however. Even though Lee was able to use her brother’s printing side hustle to make requested designs on the fly, this was still a hard job to keep up. She expects to discontinue the shirts in the future. Even though she might be retiring some old favorites, she plans to add new ones. Nativities are hopefully in store for the Christmas holidays. “It’s kind of dangerous, because I’ve always been obsessed with Pinterest, and now I can monetize that obsession,” she laughed. 

The shop’s name has a profound meaning to its owner. “I was trying to come up with a name, and this verse hit me. The name comes from Ephesians 3:17, when Paul is talking about being rooted and established in love,”’ Lee said. “It’s a nice word, and it then comes from that verse talking about love being the foundation and the inspiration of what you do.”

Lee hasn’t let her business derail her travels abroad. Since 2019, she has visited Puerto Rico twice, and is already planning her next trip overseas. For her, the new people, scenery, and languages are thrilling. “When you go to another country, everything is so different, and some people get culture shock, but for me it’s energizing,” she said. “It’s so fascinating. Plus, I love language.” Family and friends would agree, since Lee speaks both Spanish and French. “I’m trying to balance [being a] business owner and working remotely so I can travel,” she said. In the meantime, consumers can buy Rooted’s products at upcoming markets in Clinton, including the two-day Red Brick Road Arts and Music Festival on Aug. 27-28.

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