What It's About
Two college students discover an untapped market for custom screened t-shirts at their own school.
Words of Wisdom
Rishi's has some important words about hustling, "It never gets easier. No matter what size your company is, the next stage will always be more difficult, problems are all relative. If you don’t love the grind, this may not be the path for you. Embrace the grind."
The t-shirt itself is a fairly new apparel staple dating back only to the 19th century. It began life when laborers would cut the sleeves of their jumpsuit to keep cool during the summer months. Although, it wasn’t until 1920 that the term t-shirt was included in the Oxford English dictionary.
Notes from Chris
In 2001, Rishi Narayan was a sophomore at University of Michigan. He’d been interested in starting some kind of business, and he was struggling with his Chemical Engineering degree. His childhood friend Ryan Gregg, a Civil Engineering major, felt the same. After brainstorming ideas, they landed on the concept of building dorm room lofts and managed to nab a couple of builds quite quickly. But they quickly realized this idea had one huge problem. Students only moved into dorms once per year. That meant the business was only really viable for one week, and they needed something to keep them busy the other fifty one. They scratched that idea and decided to move onto something else. But inspiration for a unique and interesting second business just wasn't coming, and so they decided to settle on... t-shirt printing. There was no real reason, other than everyone they knew wore t-shirts, so why not?!? Their hook would be custom prints. They would transfer any design that someone came up with onto a shirt. They decided to call themselves A1 Screen Printing. They figured they’d come up first in the phone book that way—remember, this was 2001 when phone books were still a thing. The best part was, they didn’t have to fork over any money. Their plan was to use a local printer and simply act as the middleman. They were the only custom t-shirt printing game anywhere on campus, which meant business came quickly. College friends who ran university organizations and often needed t-shirts for members or special events became their first customers. So far, they’d had great success with their own school and a few others nearby. But, in order to really grow the business, they knew they'd have to branch out. First, they purchased another local t-shirt printing business, this one with an actual warehouse space. That business was called Underground Printing. They liked the name so much, they rebranded their existing operation to match it. Over the next decade, Underground Printing grew in leaps and bounds. So much so, that what started as a ragtag operation between two childhood friends now has a presence in over a hundred colleges and universities across the country and has transformed into a multi-million dollar business. They’ve shown that you don’t need to enter the corporate world in suits and ties to make serious money… wearing t-shirts will do.
MENTIONED IN THIS EPISODE:
- Design and print your own custom apparel at Rishi and Ryan's company, Underground Printing.
- Alcohol Fueled Idea Sells Over 1,500 Shirts in Less Than a Year: After a night at the bar, three friends come up with an idea to add huge pockets to the front of t-shirts.
- Catholic Designer Creates Stylish Apparel Line: What shall it profit a man to gain the whole world but not sell any t-shirts? This designer cast his bread upon the waters and ended up with a profitable fashion line.
- Designer Goes Viral with Playful T-Shirts; Earns $445,000: A freelance graphic designer turns his work research into a gold mine.
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