Indie Tee Spotlight #11: Goodie Two Sleeves

It’s time for Indie Tee Spotlight #11, yes, that’s right my friends – number 11! It is so awesome (most appropriate word, you’ll understand if you read on) that for the big 1-1 I got to talk to Gabe Connor of Goodie Two Sleeves!

The guys at Goodie Two Sleeves have spent the last couple of years building their brand and company. Goodie Two Sleeves specializes in humorous and light-hearted tees that are positive and fun. They pride themselves in producing not only quality products but quality products with original designs. Since the company began in 2002, Goodie Two Sleeves designs have appeared in many large retail chains, the hands (and torsos) of some very famous celebrities and of course the many faithful Goodie Two Sleeves fans.

Coty: You recently made a blog post mentioning that Goodie Two Sleeves was officially a federally registered corporation. What was that process like? Has it sunk in that you now run your own “corporation”?

Gabe: Haha, well the Goodie Two Sleeves ® brand name was trademarked several years ago and as far as being a corporate entity, it’s sort of like turning 18. You grow up thinking ‘I can’t wait! It’s going to be awesome!’ and then it’s your birthday and you don’t FEEL any awesomer (or older), and your parents want you to pick out a college and stuff. Well, it was cooler than that maybe. We made a giant ‘®’ shirt to commemorate the occasion (which we’re re-releasing soon), but I don’t think there’s ever really a moment where you go ‘This is it! We’re finally a real company!’ because this business is a rotating door and there’s always room for improvement.

 

Coty: In that same blog post you mentioned that you also recently held the Goodie Two Sleeves 2009 Gameplan/2008 Review meeting. What exactly are some of the goals that Goodie Two Sleeves has for the upcoming year? Do you feel that your goals from 2008 were reached?

Gabe: 2008 has been an awesome year for us. We’re already doing better than ’07 and the year isn’t even over yet. Considering however that people are having so much trouble making their house payments and filling their gas tanks, we really wanted to go into next year prepared for anything. We went over everyday stuff like new designs and turn around times but we also paid attention to what we can do better for our customers, especially online. We have some really great friends and fans who shop online and we really want to make that experience awesome for them. For that matter we want to make our retail experience even better too.

Most of our business is in retail. You mentioned in an earlier post that something you can learn from Johnny Cupcakes is to avoid the mass market, but you can also do really well with them. I wouldn’t say that one way is better, they’re just different. Since Goodie’s M.O. was to reach a bunch of people and try and be a positive influence, our aim was at larger retail chains.

Coty: Goodie Two Sleeves was born a couple years ago and like many other indie tee brands, you sold tees out of the trunk of your car. What were some of the growing pains that Goodie Two Sleeves experienced? In retrospect, would you do anything differently?

Gabe: Well, that’s kind of a long story. A friend and I created the brand in 2002 after seeing some raunchy shirts in a huge store (that rhymes with Yarget). We thought ‘We could do this’ and so we tried. Even since then we’ve had an affinity for the word ‘awesome.’ We didn’t know what we were doing at first and it was back breaking work for a long time. I mean sleepless nights, $4 a day food budgets (to split… at Burger King…), no social life. We hit the pavement for weeks with these silly shirts, selling out of our trunk trying to get some sales. It was all really difficult but we ended up with so many awesome stories and we loved every minute of it. One night (and day, and night) in particular I stayed up for 52 hours preparing for a trade show, printing shirts, driving for hours, going to meetings. It was nuts.

After a couple years Goodie Two Sleeves was like this crazy monster out of our control. The brand was being carried in Hot Topic, Urban Outfitters, Delia*s, Nordstrom, Zumiez, Journeys, a whole slew of places, but I was only nineteen when we started and we were sort of learning as we went.

Well, our growth was sort of like locking a teenager in a mall with mom’s credit card. It was the coolest ride until we got home and saw the bill (and the 26% interest). We were still pretty much kids and we just couldn’t figure out how to make it work even after several years. It strained our friendship and the company closed in 2006, my friend and I going our separate ways.

That was a pretty terrible time actually because it all coincided with some awful news at home. I can definitively say that was the worst time in my life, but amazingly it gave me perspective about the everything. The purpose of what we do, of the company, is to try and be a positive clothing alternative to all the low-brow, crass t-shirts out there. I’m personally very motivated by my faith in Jesus and I feel like he really saw me through that time because in January of 2007 the Goodie Two Sleeves® trademark was able to come back under a different parent company. That year it did better in every way then it ever had under the old set up. Just remembering the unlikelihood of Goodie rising from the ashes is staggering and pretty amazing (dare I say, awesome?). I wouldn’t do anything differently only because the bad times give us perseverance, and perseverance builds character; and character, hope.

Coty: If someone were to ask you what your brand was all about what would your response be?

Gabe: In an industry filled with easy outs and sometimes scandalous content, Goodie Two Sleeves is on a mission to ‘keep it clean.’ We want to make people feel good on the inside and out (our shirts are really soft). More then that we just want to make people laugh and use encouraging humor to do so. Furthermore, we love what we do and we have a lot of fun with the company.

We are also big advocates that you can do anything if you try. Goodie started with two people and as much as we’ve grown we still operate with only a few more. If Goodie Two Sleeves could come out of that, I am so excited for the ideas that other people have!

Coty: Captain Awesome is one of my recent favorites from the Goodie Two Sleeves collection (I’m thinking about picking that one up!). What are some of your favorite Goodie Two Sleeves designs?

Gabe: Man, that’s difficult. We’ve cataloged over 600 designs over the last several years so picking one is a tall order. I really loved this one we did of Motorcycle CHP officers riding giant goldfish and it said ‘FiSH & CHiPs’ on it. ‘This Is Prolly My Awesomest Shirt’ is a fun one. I also like the stomach ache tee we did that shows you the stuff you ate, and some stuff that’s been in development for a while. My all time favorite might be ‘There are cooler ways to die’ just because it’s one of our oldest. Oddly enough it’s one of our most ripped off shirts too.

Coty: One of my favorite parts of the Goodie Two Sleeves website has got to be the celebrity sighting blog posts. What’s it like seeing your tees in a major periodical like Rolling Stone and InTouch?

Gabe: That’s one of our favorite things too. For me, it’s the same feeling seeing Danny Masterson wearing one of our shirts as it is seeing someone I don’t know wearing one of our shirts. It’s so encouraging to know that someone liked what you do enough to invest in you, to wear your idea and artwork… It’s just an amazing feeling.

Coty: What has been your most memorable experience, so far, running Goodie Two Sleeves?

Gabe: That’s hard too. It seems like something happens every other week that’s crazy. Getting to hang out with Relient K on warped tour was awesome, meeting P. Diddy was memorable (his diamond earrings were as big as grapes), and even really old stuff like when we use to sell shirts at concerts and getting our first warehouse. We had a book keeper steal some money from us which was more funny than anything, we spun out and got turned around on a freeway in Mexico (which was wicked awesome and terrifying), we hand printed shirts for rad bands, our ‘Wall of Boxes’ in our garage before we had an office, convincing our roommate we got robbed while he was out of town, starting an acoustic band to help fund the company, getting into our first real store, seeing a ‘cat-owl’ in the middle of the night on some feeder road and freaking out like we were 4 year olds…. The entire journey is full of experiences that I will never forget.

Coty: Finally, any words of wisdom for aspiring indie tee designers?

Gabe: Do what you love and do what you want. No matter how much work it takes, if you believe in or enjoy what you’re doing, it will be immensely rewarding. Be confident in your choices, but be humble if they work out. If you’re going to work with friends, be sure you treat each other like colleagues and not buddies. Do your best not to borrow money from loans or IOU’s, but reinvest what you earn back into your business, even if that means you’ll need to keep your day job for a couple more years. Try to stick to your word. If you know something will be late, then say so from the get-go. Also, enjoy it while it lasts because we aren’t guaranteed tomorrow.

Even the really difficult times can be rewarding. Wine grapes grow best in dry, rocky soil because they have to work harder, thus giving the grapes more character, but lazy grapes make for crappy wine. Those struggles help us become awesome grown ups.

Number of times the word ‘awesome’ was used: 15!

I’d like to thank Gabe for 1. making the most out of the word Awesome and 2. giving us some insight into the Goodie Two Sleeves history! I wish you and the rest of the Goodie Two Sleeves gang all the best.

Be sure to check to check out the Goodie Two Sleeves website to browse and purchase some awesome tees!

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  1. [...] Coty Gonzales is a blog author and t-shirt enthusient extroidonaire whose penchant for writing has garnered an amazing catalog of information at your disposal. For the last several weeks he’s been profiling various clothing companies out there doing their thing and this week we had the great fortune of sitting down with Coty to answer a few questions. Check out the interview at his website, http://www.CotyGonzales.com. [...]