First off, I promise to you, this will NOT be one of those blogs that exists purely to sell you something. Yes, I own and operate a small but wonderful t-shirt company in Traverse City called…ahem…Tee See Tee. But this is not about that, this is about life in Northern Michigan for me, my incredible wife Jennifer, our four kids(Brody, Brooke, Bryn, and Brielle), and our fifth kid, the business.
This year, we will be opening our first brick and mortar store, called what else, MI Happy Place. I thought that people might be interested in not only what it takes to balance family and business life, but why on earth we CHOSE to take on all of this. It’s not an easy life, and sometimes we question whether we made the right decisions…and this blog will be about that.
So let’s start from the beginning. I have loved t-shirts since I was a little kid. I was what JC Penny and Sears deemed “Husky”, which sounds way cooler than it is. But T-shirts were one of the few articles of clothing that not only fit, but I felt COOL in. I could make a statement with a t-shirt, and if done correctly, a great tee could distract from everything else going on with my body, braces, glasses, acne, etc. There was/is a power in a great t-shirt that is hard to explain, but I now realize I have deep down known for years. So fast forward to my mid-thirties, and I came up with the brilliant idea to walk away from a great paying job, unbeknownst to my wife, all for the dream of making t-shirts that make people happy.
Let’s back up a sec. I want to talk about Jenny. I fell in love with her when I first saw her in High School(at the Buckle in the “new” mall of all places). I knew her, she didnt know me, but I changed all that when I found out we were both attending the University of Michigan(Go Blue!). 20 years and 4 kids later, I think it is safe to say this might be true love.
So back to t-shirts(again, not trying to sell you anything, just catching you up). So Jenny and I moved to Chicago from San Francisco from Ann Arbor because we wanted to be closer to family. On a fateful night, I met a young woman who was selling screen printed hoodies at a bar. I loved her art, and loved the fact that for 40 bucks, I could wear her art for all to see. But a seed was planted in my brain…”I could do that…” “I have designs that could make cool tees”….So I invested in a small press, a ton of ink, and a box of shirts. I fell hard for screen printing. It was so rewarding to not only see my art translate to fabric, but then to see people actually WANT to pay me to wear MY art. It was incredibly ego boosting, and I got addicted.
I will spare you the details on what happened next, just know I learned very fast that there were nuances to screen printing that I had not yet mastered, and I made some very costly mistakes. When we moved back to Traverse City after our son was born, I sold all my equipment to some kids, and didn’t think about t-shirts again.
I can’t place my finger on exactly when it happened, but someone at my job noticed that I had an ability to design fun and unique t-shirts without hesitation, and the requests started coming in from co-workers and customers alike. That seed started germinating…who could have seen that coming!
So I quit my job, Jenny just found out she was pregnant with our THIRD child(more on that in future blogs), and naturally, she was terrified. But I knew that there was a reason T-shirts kept crawling back into my life, and if I didn’t at least see where this journey ended, I would never forgive myself. Three years later, we are still here, and Jenny is a little more confident in my leap of faith:) And after dozens of jobs, several degrees, and multiple changes in career paths, I am finally in MY happy place, regardless of the lack of sleep, non-stop work loads, and screaming babies. But that does not mean we have run this company without any issues or setbacks….quite the opposite in fact.
But we will talk about that another day.