There is no question, this time of year I have officially hit my threshold for winter. I’m done. Over it. Enough is enough. I hate my winter coat now. You know, the one that I spent so much time picking out? After days of comparing, deliberating, pining, I finally found The One, certain it would get me through winter like no other coat before. I wouldn’t even notice the frigid temps in this amazing new coat! Like waking from a great dream, suddenly it would be spring and I could shed this portable shelter and it would all be so bittersweet, right? Wrong. If it weren’t so expensive, I would be burning this great coat of mine in a sacrificial offering to the Gods of Spring.
Even though some would say we had a fairly mild winter this year, what we lacked in bitter temps and snowfall, we made up for in illnesses. The flow of snot and phlegm in our household this winter has been beyond abundant. Much of this I attribute to the fact that we have four children going to three different locations throughout the week. The two olders go to different schools, and the two youngers are regulars at the YMCA daycare. When you consider this, and then add to it the fact that we are a household of six people, by the time one virus circulates through our family, it’s been at least ten days and another new virus has emerged. We have been perpetually sick, for about five months now. Five months!
We try so hard. We wash hands, we disinfect, we eat well and we take our vitamins. However, it just seems to be unavoidable no matter what we do.
Recently, our house was hit with the flu. I realized while in the thick of it, that I have never had the flu and I never, never, NEVER want it again. I won’t get too far into how my viewpoint on the flu shot has changed from this experience but I will tell you that I will be getting it from here on out. Seriously, I have never felt that sick in my life. Beau and I were bed bound, and we had no choice but to let our vaccinated children run the house. At one point, our three-year old Bryn came to my deathbed and asked for a snack. I looked at her and weeped. I couldn’t imagine how I was going to stand up, walk fifteen feet to the kitchen, and get her a snack. It was impossible. I was riddled with the plague and this needy child was asking me for a snack? Didn’t she know I was dying? I imagined collapsing on my way to the kitchen and wondered if she would know how to call 911.
Winter is a beast, but eventually Spring always wins this fight. I’m hanging onto that thought, knowing that we will likely see some snowfall before Winter forfeits. However, I do feel like we are rounding the corner.
The snow has melted, the days are longer, and we are finally seeing more sunshine. I’m looking forward to letting my stock of tissues dwindle. I’m dreaming about waking up and sending my kids out to play without coats and mittens. I’d like to enjoy a cup of coffee on the deck without concentrating on breathing in the steam to clear my sinuses. There’s no doubt, Northern Michigan summers are to-die-for. The endless days, crystal-clear waters, baby blue skies. The smell of grass, grills, and bonfires. I could cry I’m so ready.
Most of all, I’m looking forward to hanging that darn coat. I’ll be nice, I promise. I’ll wash her one last time, thank her for trying, and then I’ll ceremoniously hang her in the basement closet for at least the next five months, while singing “Here Comes the Sun.” I can hardly wait.
Last year I created a label called Certified Original T-Shirts(COT). The idea was that this label would be shared by myself and fellow t-shirt companies that strive to bring something new and original to the table, versus knocking off and name dropping(the act of simply switching out "Traverse City" with "Grand Rapids" but keeping the same generic palm trees and anchors in the background, you have seen them before...a lot). I started Tee See Tee to do something different, and there are others who share this same ideal, and I want to do something a little different today; I want to talk about OTHER t-shirt companies.
The Michigan Outfitter
Brian(the owner) is just a good dude. He used to work for some of the biggest t-shirt companies in the country, until he decided he wanted to call his own shots. I have never met such an incredibly talented illustrator, and his style is in a class by itself.
The Michigan Outfitter as all about nature, with designs that emphasize hiking, fishing, and hunting. But he does not limit himself to one style, and can be an incredible chameleon with his t-shirts. Check out his site today, and I can promise you will find something you absolutely love!
Up North Michigan
Jennifer Boehler designed something so beautifully simple, I am still jealous:) Her campfire design can be seen just about everywhere now, and has been knocked off countless times, but nobody has come even close to her level of creativity and quality.
A northern michigan girl, Jennifer created this brand based on one thing; spending time outside in Michigan. Something we can all appreciate, and her design conjures up memories of S'mores, camping, beachside bonfires, and more. She is an absolute sweetheart, and deserves all the success she has had and more!
Chris K. is the kind of guy you want to grab a beer with. I have know some people who know beer, but nothing like this guy. He can give you flavor profiles of just about any Michigan beer made, and recommend the perfect beer based on your personal tastes. Oh yeah, and he also trailblazed the Michigan Roots design that has been replicated and duplicated more times than I can count!
Chris's brand is a perfect example of "If it Ain't Broke, Don't Fix It". MI Rootswear is about one design mainly, but that design is flawless. Slightly rustic, slightly modern, all Michigan. You can find this design on just about every color under the rainbow, and always on the softest materials around. If your roots run deep, you need one of these tees!
Last but not least, M22
Yes, it's a road sign. But it was nothing more than a road sign until Matt and Keegan Myers got their hands on it. Sometimes creating something original is not about pulling a design out of mid-air, but about taking an existing image and changing the way you see it. They took a road sign, something we look at so much, we almost become numb to it, and they turned it into one of the first major lifestyle brands in Michigan, and surely one of the biggest and best.
I have never met the brothers Broneah in person, but I have dealt with them on a professional level, and when I reached out for permission to loosely knock them off for a Halloween event we did years ago, they could have told me to jump off a cliff, but they didnt. In fact, not only did they give me permission, they also donated to the non-profit we were raising money for. That is a classy move, and I have always respected the hell out of them for that. I am sure at this point, all of you reading this already own an M22 product, but they have been bringing out some great new designs, so it's worth checking them out again!
So there you have it, hopefully you will spread the love and support all of us hard working Michigan t-shirt companies. We all share the same mission, to be your State Apparel Representative, and strive to provide you, the people, t-shirts and accessories that you can be proud to wear.
But please shop www.teeseetee.com first and foremost! :)
It's International Irish Whiskey Day, and given our love for all things Irish and all things Whiskey, today seemed as good a day as any to talk about some of my favorites out there. I encourage you to share your recommendations, so I can make sure we are well educated when St. Patrick's Day comes to Michigan!
Let's start with the classics...
Jameson Irish Whiskey. This blended whiskey is what introduced me to the idea of drinking "straight up." You could say that it helped me mature as a drinker:) It's not a terribly complex drink, but its simplicity is the strong point. Warmth with subtle vanilla, caramel, and a little bit of citrus in the finish, a glass of this will cure what ails you.
*Trivia Fact: On every bottle, you see the Jameson Family Coat of Arms, with "Sine Metu" written on it. Sine Metu means "Without Fear." You're welcome for your next tattoo idea!
Tullamore Dew 12-Year Special Reserve
This is one that I only taste on special occasions. Much sweeter than Jameson, with flavors of nutmeg, strawberry, and honey. TD has less burn, but more oakiness(is that a real word?).
*Trivia Fact: The "Dew" in Tullamore Dew is actually "D.E.W." and it is in fact the initials of Daniel E. Williams, the owner of the original distillery. Now you can impress that special someone with mad whiskey knowledge!
Special Mentions...these are not Irish per se, but Michigan Whiskey, which is pretty awesome in its own right!
Mammoth Distilling Woolly Bourbon Whiskey
Made right here in Northern Michigan, Mammoth Distilling knocked it out of the park with a bourbon that is smooth, not too sweet, with an incredibly satisfying honey and and cornbread flavor, with a slightly oaky finish.
*Trivia Fact: "Was-wa-gon-ong" is written next to a Newfoundland dog on the label. This is the Ojibwa Indian name for Torch Lake, which literally means "Place of the Torches". The dog? That is founder Chad's first Newfoundland, Dewey.
Traverse City Whiskey Co.
Straight Bourbon Whiskey
We can't talk about whiskey and not mention our hometown distillery! TCW Co. has been bringing this spicy and sweet bourbon to the locals out of their awesome little tasting room, just a few blocks from Tee See Tee HQ. Notes of rye, caramel, and cinnamon give way to a subtle nuttiness in the finish. Perfect whiskey for mixing!
*Trivia Fact: Traverse City Whiskey Co. sites its origin going back to early 20th century when John Silhavy Sr. emigrated from Czechoslovakia. His distilling processes were passed down from generation to generation, ultimately finding its home in Northern Michigan!
So there you have it. Hopefully not only did I make you thirsty(it is Friday, after all), but gave you a little education on the backstory of some of the best boozes around.
If anyone needs me, I will be at the bar.
Trade shows are the place where we reveal new products and designs, meet new potential customers, and shmooze existing customers. If done right, we walk away with a stack of orders, if done wrong, we walk away...
Part of succeeding at a trade show is being fresh yet familiar, year after year. You want people walking by to say "wait, is this Tee See Tee? Oh yes! It is!" We have no problem with this, because every year, we retire half or more of our designs, and replace those designs with new ones. But this year, we decided to change the entire booth from the ground up, and in order to do this, I spent a few days MacGuyver-ing the craziest maze of chains and pvc pipes, which theoretically will hold all of our new products in a nice grid, literally filling the walls with t-shirts. If this ends up breaking under the weight of the shirts, tank tops, and hoodies, we are S-C-R-E-W-E-D.
The other part of succeeding is being friendly and outgoing. For Jenny and I, this was a struggle the first couple years. We are not introverts by any stretch, but not outgoing and "Salesy" either. We learned quickly that being shy equals no sales, and so two outgoing t-shirt salespeople were born. I find that offering Hershey Kisses, or when desperate, a small glass of wine really breaks the ice.
The last key to trade show success is obviously, closing the deal. This is done with a lot of smoke and mirrors and ego stroking. You don't think Captain Michigan would do well in your store? How about I tell you a story about another store owner who said the exact same thing, and how it is now her best-selling item! You only carry the best Michigan T-shirts? How about I tell you how I follow you on social media, and notice that you carry some of my favorite brands, like _____, and ______, and of course, _______, and then I tell you how I could only dream to be as great of a brand as those companies some day! But here is the thing, these are not lies. I do follow these stores, and I do hope to be as big as some of the other t-shirt brands out there(Life is Good, Michigan Awesome, M22, I am looking at you). I am good at stroking egos because I genuinely look up to these people, and respect the hell out of what goes into owning and operating a store.
But in the end, we could do all these things flawlessly, and still have a bad show. Weather plays a factor, timing does too, heck, even the economy plays a big part. Every year is a gamble, but we love gambling....starting Tee See Tee was/is a life changing gamble, and it paid off, so here come Lansing Gift Show, let's roll the dice!
Besides, it gives us a chance to explore our state with our family, eat at killer restaurants(Golden Harvest, here we come!), and meet tons of cool new people...all while "working." Not a bad way to spend a couple weekends out of the year at all.
*And yes, I know I basically just revealed all my "inside" strategies to make for a successful trade to show for all my competition to see. That's fine, I hope you were taking notes, and I hope you put these seemingly obvious tricks of the trade to use, because a trade show is only as good as it's weakest link, so let's all work together to give storeowners an AWESOME experience!
When I was a freshman at The University of Michigan, I met this handsome cool dude with long hair and a wardrobe I immediately recognized from The Buckle. On our first date he brought me a rose and we talked all night as if we had known each other for years. I fell instantly. Beau is an idealist, he is artistic, he is spontaneous, optimistic, and the perfect antidote for my neurotic, anxious, worrisome ways. The yin to my yang.
Twenty years later, we have arrived here. Through many financial highs and lows, what became increasingly clear to us was being exceptionally wealthy was not our goal. What was more important was having ample time to be together; to be with our kids. We wanted the freedom to leave work in the middle of the day to watch a Kindergarten Christmas Program. Paying the bills is important, and so is having enough money to travel and give our children experiences outside of the comforts of their home, but most people who are exceptionally and independently wealthy can not afford all of those amenities. I’ve worked with those people before. They miss a lot of life’s moments, in exchange for a giant paycheck. It’s just not our style.
Honestly, I never had the desire to own my own business. I have never felt an impenetrable drive to succeed. Maybe I’m just lazy. Strike that; I went to school for Classical Voice. Trust me when I say, that industry is not for the faint of heart. It’s cutthroat, expensive, and you have to want it, breathe it, eat it, live it. I realized it is truly a self-indulgent career, and that is such a turn off to me. *More on that at a later time though….* Luckily, the fifteen years I spent exploring that career, yielded a plethora of experience that would later help shape my role at Tee See Tee.
I think it’s more a matter of wanting my life to be as stress-free as possible. My biggest life goal has always been to live stress-free. Yoga everyday, deep breathing for the hell of it and not into a paper bag, and to be one with the wind. Relaxed and centered. Grounded.
I experienced more stress in my life by the time I was 18 years old, than most people do in a lifetime. I’m still trying to master living a stress-free life with four children in a seven-year span, while simultaneously running your own business.
Any day now...
No, wait a minute. Stress management is a subsequent goal derived from a stressful life. The only constant life goals I have ever had were: to have a big family of my own, a solid marriage built on mutual trust and support, and enough money to travel. Big family? Check. Solid Marriage? Nailed it. Money to travel? Success!
So here we are, owners of a small business, parents to four amazing kids, and living an extremely stressful life. But here’s the thing, I couldn’t be happier. I am challenged every single day. I am rewarded every single day. I am stressed out every single day, and sometimes all I look forward to is that moment when the kids go down and I get to pour myself a glass of wine and cuddle with my hubby while watching West World. But also I am learning that stress is self-inflicted. And so is happiness. So with Beau’s unwavering optimism, I have realized this is The Dream, and we are living it.
How lucky are we?
Just like everyone of us, companies need to take on resolutions every year too. If nothing else, it serves as a post-mortem for what worked and what didn't work in the previous year, and how that will be addressed in the new year. T-shirts are an ever-changing product, and a design, or color, or style that did great in 2015, may be tired and outdated in 2016. We here at Tee See Tee are not about to sit back and say "welp, 2015 was incredible, so let's not change a thing!" 2015 WAS incredible, but there were plenty of mistakes made, and honestly, what fun would it be to just churn out the same design over and over again;)
So without further adieu, here are Tee See Tee's resolutions for 2016:
-Color, and lot's of it. When we laid out all of our t-shirts and hoodies recently, we were a little shocked. 90% of our items were either black or navy. Believe it or not, but we are actually pretty bright and happy people! So for 2016, we are letting our true colors shine! Aqua, Red, Gold, Green, Pink, Royal, and more! All the colors of the rainbow will be represented!
-Trimming the fat. We are retiring about 75% of this year's product. I know...this could be a really bad idea, because a lot of those items/designs were great sellers. But if all we do is the same stuff year after year, you would get bored of us, and we can't let that happen! So say goodbye to D-Girl, Miss/Mr. Michigan, Michigamer, Pure Boy/Girl, Fingerprint Lakes, and a number of others, as you will not see them for a while(maybe ever).
-Have more fun! Holy cow, you guys can't even imagine the exciting new designs we have in store for you in 2016! I am not sure how we will top this, but I can say with 100% certainty that this line will be the most incredible line of t-shirts you have ever seen from a single company! Kitten Mitten was an introduction to our new mantra of "have fun, and try different things." We are taking Michigan-based designs to places it has never been before, and we really hope you like where we are taking you!
-Treat the ladies like the queens they are! We have made women's shirts in the past, but this year we found a new product that we fell in love with that is EXCLUSIVELY for women! It is like wearing a shirt/hoodie made of butter, without the mess. Its unreal how soft it is, and we are putting designs that are just for the ladies on them. Guys, don't get jealous!
-Engage our fans more. We hosted a Star Wars x Tee See Tee event in December that people will be talking about for years, and we realized that you, the shirtheads who love and support us, deserve some recognition! We are going to host a number of customer-appreciation events throughout the year as nothing more than our way of saying thanks to you. Stay tuned to our social media, because the last event sold out within 24 hours!
-Keep our prices fair. We are not in this business for the money, we are in it because we love making t-shirts. Our mission to provide customers with an original, incredibly high-quality t-shirt at an affordable price has and will not change...ever. That is what we do different from most, and that is what makes us Tee See Tee!
I think that about does it. What do you think? Hopefully, whatever you loved about Tee See Tee in 2015, you will really love in 2016! We want to wish you all a Happy New Year, you made 2015 incredibly bright for us, and we thank you from the bottom of our hearts.
Beau and Jennifer Warren
Tee See Tee
When people walk into our Front Street HQ, or run into us at a gift show, holiday market, or beer fest, there is one thing they will always see; smiling faces. But sometimes, that happy demeanor makes people assume we are smiling because our job is easy. "It's only t-shirts after all, not like you are building nuclear bombs!"
This is true, we are making something that is perceived as fun, and even superfluous to an extent. How many t-shirts does one person need, really? But what we do to bring you that t-shirt is so much harder than you could ever imagine, and the stakes at risk are my three kids, and the fourth baby, who arrives in January! No pressure, right?
What you see above is the end result of ONE SINGLE order. Imagine, if you will, what a week with 6-7 orders looks like. Next, imagine what a week with a dozen orders looks like. Crazy, right? This is the final step of what we call "big show*" Leading up to this designing, meeting with clients, revising said design(repeat this step 2-3 more times on average), deciding on apparel colors, cuts, and brands, overseeing the printing of every article of clothing, finishing each shirt(tagging, folding, checking for cuts, stains, etc), and finally, boxing up and shipping out. All in all, that t-shirt you fall in love with at your local gift shop, winery, or bar took weeks, maybe even months to produce.
But this blog is not about me complaining. Trust me, the 7 days a week, 10-12 hour days(longer when doing trade shows), and the countless miles on the road to and from street fairs and festivals, it is all 100,000% worth it! I am living the dream! I get to work with the most beautiful, smartest person on the planet(my wife, Jennifer), I get to take days off any time I want to stay home and play with my kids, and I get to do what I have loved doing since I was a kid, making t-shirts! That is why we smile, even though you may be catching us at hour 9 of a 13 hour trade show, or bruised and bandaged from a marathon session of tagging, folding, and boxing up shirts(the paper cuts are the stuff of legend...). Every ounce of blood, sweat, and tears we extract, go into this tiny little t-shirt company, and seeing you all smiling back at us when you tell us how your Tee See Tee is your favorite t-shirt ever, makes it ALL worth it!
Thank you for supporting us, and allowing the Warren family to bust our butts to deliver you "just a t-shirt."
President, Tee See Tee