Shirt Shop Interview: Mindfull

by on August 8, 2012

What’s your name, and the name of your shop?

Robert Bond, (and Rocket Science Designs is my small printing business).

Where are you from?

Originally Kenora, Ontario, Canada; moved to Winnipeg, Manitoba in ’98.

Do you have a bricks and mortar store?

No, all printing is done out of my basement which I renovated myself for use as a print shop.

When did you launch your business?

Started printing in 2006; Started work on in 2010 in my bits and pieces of spare time. Launched in July of 2012, but the podcast has been going in various formats for a few years now.

What was the inspiration for launching a t-shirt business?

I think almost everyone comes up with a great idea for a t-shirt at some point in their life. I’ve always loved comedy, weird humor, and being creative. A friend of mine and I kept a folder drawings of hilarious shirt ideas in high school, just for fun. Little did I know what the future held. Once I started dreaming again-in my mid-20s-of kicking the day job to the curb, and started buying printing equipment piece by piece, I found myself gradually more and more in the grasp of the dream. Still haven’t ditched the 9-5 web developer position, but then again a steady paycheck is nothing one should be overly eager to escape from.

What differentiates your shop from all the others on the Internet?

I spent a lot of time trying to narrow down a business idea that was different from other sites out there, yet manageable with limited time and resources. I liked what was doing, but noticed as “indie” as they were portraying themselves, they weren’t all that personal. I decided that we should be the “mom and pop” version of threadless by really including our audience in the design/brainstorming process, and showing all the work that goes into each shirt via blog posts and youtube videos (we link to these directly on each product page of our site).

I also liked the concept of some of the “shirt of the day” sites out there, but thought something like that was way too lofty for our limited resources, man hours, and limited audience. So we treat our product releases as more of an event than an easy “limited time offer”. Our production runs will be just as “limited edition”, but we’re not going to force you to buy “today or never”.

Tell me about the inspiration for doing all the different stuff you do along with the t-shirt designs (podcast, blog, etc.)?

I fell in love with podcasts early on, before they were much of a thing. I just think it’s great that a person can get his voice out there with such ease (real content and quality is still a must though), and I think it’s actually sort of been the backbone to this business in a way; because no matter what stage everything else was at, we’d always get together to yack on the microphones. I think that sort of thing can act like glue in a way to remind us of our goals.

The blog I just knew was a necessity. Aside from making podcast publishing easier, it also allows us to put more content out there (necessary for getting any kind of recognition from search engines), and keep fans/customers in the loop on everything we have planned or are thinking. Basically it all comes down to wanting to attain “fans and friends who happen to purchase our stuff” rather than just faceless “customers”. We’re really trying to figure out how to get people to engage with us!

How’s business?

Honestly, not great at this point. Not great at all; but I’m not surprised. We’re not a big company with tons of backing, and we’re not even putting in 8-hour days on this. We’d love to, but we can’t. I have to put my resources where the money is guaranteed-my day job and my clients’ print jobs-so I can pay for the house that contains everything MindFull.

We definitely HAVE put a lot of blood sweat and tears into already though, between the podcast, blog, site design & programming, shirt designs, and printing. But I know more is required to make this work. Internet marking is great for getting our name out there, but we’ve found it doesn’t really drum up sales in a way that is cost-effective. And it’s difficult to keep producing new things when stuff you’ve already produced is not really moving. There is a formula that will work for us; we just need to keep plugging away and it will reveal itself.

Where do you get your designs?

We come up with a LOT of ideas. Unfortunately, most of them (usually some of our favorites) end up with big X’s through them because we know they’re too inside and will never sell. So there’s a balance to strike, and honestly we’re still trying to figure that balance out; between creativity/originality and what we can actually make some money off of. I do like a mash-up design like our “Jive strong” tee, but we don’t plan on basing our site on all mash-ups.

Long story short, you never know what’s going to pop into your head, and what’s going to actually make it through to production; but I can tell you we’ll never fill our site with dumb slogan tees, crappy clip art, or unimaginative concepts. We want to live up to what the name MindFull suggests, and we hope to eventually get just a little political too, here and there, if we can do it in a genuinely entertaining way.

In terms of final art etc, I must admit that I do most of the grunt work. I’m a bit of a control freak, and I have a graphics background, so it all kind of falls into place like that. As production needs increase, I do have Jason (co-host on the podcast) trained a bit in the final printing process. I’d be thrilled to eventually require his help more, and I’m sure he’d feel the same way.

What kind of shirt stock do you use? Why?

After many orders of shirt samples, we settled on Alstyle ringspun cotton tees. They’re comfortable, good quality, and they have tear-away tags, so we don’t need to pay someone to do tag removal before pressing our own ‘tagless’ label into the neck.

Where do you see your business in a year?

Obviously we’d love to be in a place where business is booming and we’ve been forced to move into a separate location and hire more staff. I’ll be happy though, if we’ve just made some sales and are doing well enough to produce new designs on a consistent basis. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and once we get the boulder moving, it’s sure to pick up speed.

What’s your favorite design currently?

I love the “Jive Strong” concept, and there’s even a few in our “encore” section that I’m really fond of. I think I’ll go with our MindFull logo tee though. Just because I love the colors in it and the contrast of the design. And it wasn’t very long ago that I tweaked our MindFull logo to what it is right now. If you check out the “watch us make it” link for that shirt, you’ll see the progression.

Is the world going to end this year?

No. It probably should with our tendencies as humans, but I think our demise will be more gradual. Hopefully far enough in the future that I don’t have to watch it!

What sells more men or women’s shirts?

Men’s, but we also haven’t really gotten into ladies-specific sizing. We fully intend to, but we want to get our feet on solid ground before we run in too many directions.

What are the top three selling designs at your store?

Well, they would have to be the logo tee, the blanka tee, and the Jive Strong tee. There are designs that have sold more, but technically they were on our previous website attempt. Perhaps we’ll bring those designs back eventually, but that requires production time, which requires a few more wins under our belts.

Anything else you want to add?

I would just like to say thanks for writing about us first of all, and I’d like to urge anyone reading this to get in touch with us; we WANT you to email us, tell a few friends, and like us and chat with us on Facebook. Share your ideas and opinons. Listen to the podcast too! It’s really not all about shirts; we have a lot of fun on it, and I think that amount of fun would increase exponentially if we had more listener feedback! We’d love to have some voicemails to play on it! We’d even love feedback or suggestions from people on what we can to to increase traffic, fan interaction, and sales. More interaction with the public, I think, would be a great shot in the arm for us. There’s nothing more discouraging than screaming at a wall; and we really do want this business to be fun above all else. We wouldn’t be trying so hard if we were just looking for money. There are other places we can find that without so much effort!

Where can people find you? | Twitter | Facebook | email

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