After nine years of serving Michigan's best t-shirts and apparel, I made the decision to take Tee See Tee on the road, and expand our market to the entire Midwest(and country, more on that later). It was not a decision I took lightly. The last thing I want to become is a "Name Dropper." This is the term for an apparel company that simply switches out the name of the city/state/etc, but keeps the design exactly the same. If I was going to do this, I was going to do it right. So I challenged myself with coming up with a full line of original designs for each state I visited.
Of all places, we picked Kentucky as our first foray into a new state. It was far enough away that there was not that state rivalry(as with Ohio...more on that later), and they have one of the best comic cons around, LexCon.
To say Kentucky was a success was an understatement. The people were so kind to us, and they absolutely loved our designs! Added bonus, we fell in love with Kentucky. The Red River Gorge is one of the most beautiful places I have ever been, the bourbon is beyond wonderful, and the people are so incredibly warm. We are now featured in several stores throughout Kentucky, and will be heading back in November for CRYPTID CON!
Next stop was Power Con in Columbus, Ohio. I will be honest, Ohio was the one state that scared me the most. Being a Wolverine and knowing the feud between our two schools was intimidating. I was warned to not put any Michigan swag on my car, or it will get keyed, not to wear michigan apparel, etc. I was worried.
What I discovered was Columbus, Ohio is AWESOME! Such an amazing city with some of the best food, best bars, best toy stores, and best people around! We discovered Huli Huli, which may have taken the number 1 spot of favorite Tiki Bars ever, we walked the OSU campus(which is beautiful), and did I mention our Ohio apparel was incredibly well recieved? It was, and I was only told to "Go back to Michigan" by a couple customers, and I think they were joking:) I will be heading back two more times this year, one to Cincinnati Comic Expo on the 22nd, and then back to Columbus in December for GalaxyCon, which looks like the biggest con Tee See Tee will have ever been to!
Our last stop this summer was Indianapolis for the Indy PopCon. I am very familiar with Indy, because we actually have an amazing store called Hidden Peak Collective, that has been selling our products for a while now.
My son joined me here, and we painted the town red! What a cool city, with so many wonderful areas, and a really diverse and exciting group of people.
Indy PopCon was wild! We were positioned right alongside of the celebrity guests, and watching Michael Rooker(Yondu from Guardians of the Galaxy, among many many more roles) walking around engaging with the crowd was pure entertainment. People really warmed up to our products, and several customers came back the next day to purchase more items, which is the best compliment we can get. Something else that happened that put a smile on my face was running into this gentleman in the picture above, rocking our Trained in Kentucky tee. I asked him why he was wearing that all the way over in Indy, and he replied "It is my favorite t-shirt, I wear it everywhere!" There is no better feeling in the world as the owner of an apparel brand to see and hear something like that.
Back to Michigan
All in all, the summer was absolutely nuts(did I mention my wife and I renewed our vows here in Traverse City?), and the challenge of bringing 3 new states into the mix(with 2 more next year...We're coming for you Wisconsin and Illinois!) put a lot of pressure on me, but opening up to a bigger world allowed more possibilities and inspired tons of new ideas, for other states, and for my home state of Michigan! This has ultimately made me a better t-shirt designer, and while all of this was going on, I took a stab at some designs that were based on Cryptozoology, and not so much state specific. These took off like wildfire, and now we sell to stores in Oregon, Washington, and West Virginia!
Tee See Tee would not be here if it weren't for all the incredible Michiganders that supported us for 9 years, and now we owe our continued success to you beautiful Buckeyes, honorable Hoosiers, and kick-ass Kentuckians! Your support means the world to us, and we appreciate you x 3000.
Next stop....the world!