T-shirt tailors try out talent

Jane King and Jane King

With its vintage T-shirts that display corny pictures and catchy phrases, Shamplade got its start in Bowling Green, but now attracts customers across the United States.

University alumni and creators, Mike Young and Andy Lyon, started the online T-shirt business while still studying at the University. After graduating, they packed their bags and headed west to L.A. in hopes of seeing Shamplade flourish.

And that’s just what happened.

Many of the T-shirts are even sold at Urban Outfitters stores across the United States.

As college students, Young and Lyon often discussed everyday life while sitting around having a few beers. These discussions turned into the creation of T-shirts that read: “My vacuum sucks, my fan blows but my fridge is chillin’,” “Puberty: It’s hard,” and “You ain’t gettin’ nun” with a picture of a nun on it.

And that’s how it all started.

But of course it wasn’t that easy.

As undergraduates, both were webmasters and had experience in designing Web sites. The hard part was learning how to start a business, according to Young.

After researching online and talking to his boss at Toledo.com, he learned the basics of entrepreneurship.

“It was really a learn-as-you-go type of thing. I believe that’s one of the best ways to learn something – by doing it,” he said. “Simple things such as where to obtain a permit and what type of permit I needed took some time in figuring out. Taxes are another issue.”

Of course, money was an issue. After being denied a loan by the bank due to their “poor college student” status, the next best place to ask for a loan was mom and dad, according to Young.

However, it wasn’t until they started to work with a large retail company that they even needed a loan from the bank.

“The large part of running an online store is the initial startup,” Young said. “Once you get it the way you want it, all you have to do is sit back and relax.”

A typical day for Young and Lyon includes waking up; checking e-mails for any new orders; logging into the ordering system; and printing out the shipping labels and packaging slips.

“All we have to do is toss a few T-shirts and stickers into a package and drop it off at the local UPS store. That’s about it,” he said.

While still new in the industry, Young and Lyon worked with only one company that cut, dyed, printed and shipped their goods.

“The process was very slow and I think it was because we were actually too small of a company to be working with them,” he said. “It sometimes took two to three months.”

Once they moved to L.A., Young split up the process into multiple companies and now they can come out with new T-shirts in two weeks once the designs are ready.

“The downfall is that I pay a little more for each T-shirt,” he said. “This is something I was willing to give up if it meant that I would get them sooner.”

Jenna Kary, a University student who visits the Web site often, said that an appealing aspect of Shamplade is the reasonable prices.

“They’re cheaper than most and they also have sales on all the old T-shirts,” she said.

Young said they studied their competition’s pricing to see where Shamplade fell in the market.

“I not only looked at how much they sold for, but figured out why they sell them for that much,” he said.

And before they knew it, their very own products were sitting in Urban Outfitters alongside their competition.

The process of getting their T-shirts sold there was very simple, according to Young.

“We contacted them and were able to get the information of one of the buyers,” he said. “Once we sent some samples to the buyer, they called us that next week letting us know they were interested.”

Though getting their products sold at Urban Outfitters didn’t hurt business, Young said word of mouth is their biggest marketing tool.

“We do from time to time advertise on other sites but found that we actually have a better [Return on Investment] when we don’t advertise at all,” he said.

Young and Lyon are proud to say that the Shamplade name is now a registered trademark with the U.S. Patent and Trademark office as before it was only TM.

Both have packed schedules with full time jobs and graduate school for Lyon. So, aside from some new ideas for Shamplade, finding the time to implement them is another thing, according to Young.

“We don’t set deadlines often, so it’s whenever we get around to it. I think that’s what we like best,” he said. “It’s a very flexible company with little to no stress that makes us a little spending cash from time to time.”

The two have discussed opening a store but came to the conclusion that it would take too much work at this time. Their future plans right now simply include coming out with new T-shirts.

“I’m sure our customers can’t wait for another good laugh,” he said.