Being curious who our customers are and what motivates them is part of our culture. We’ve learned over time that behind every t-shirt order there is a story. Sometimes it’s a story of a family or a fundraiser or an event. But frequently, it’s a story of branding. We love interacting with our community via social channels so when we got multiple shout outs from the creator of Joey's Garage we had to do some investigation. Joey is self-admittedly not an online social networking person by nature but you wouldn’t be able to tell that from the following he has on Twitter and his You Tube Channel which focuses on DIY mechanical instruction and product reviews.
Building a personal brand is a concept that is becoming more commonplace and we’re astounded at how quickly his brand has grown and the steps taken to develop it. We asked him some questions about his background and the driving force of Joey’s Garage as a personal project.
"There are several factors that inspired me to launch a YouTube channel.
I love helping others, and I love the satisfaction of fixing something broken. I'm the type of guy that people come to when they are having mechanical problems. On numerous occasions I have had friends and neighbors knock on my door saying something was wrong with their vehicle. Just like a commercial mechanic, I would tell them to roll it in my garage, and start fixing the problem. Numerous times after helping those friends and neighbors they said I should be a mechanic as a part-time job. But that isn't possible with my full time job, wife, and kid.
I am also a member of online motorbike forums. Members ask for help and others reply with answers. I found with the more complicated answers, a video is easier to understand than typed words on a screen. The concept of helping others with instructional videos started increasing my interest.
Sometimes when I need help fixing something I check YouTube to see if others have had the same problem and what the solution was. I understand I don't know everything. And there are several YouTube channels that I watch regularly that deal with project cars and bikes, typical mechanic car work, and scientific answers of why cars/bikes do what they do and the physics behind them.
So combining all those factors, the concept of "Joey's Garage" was born."
"My latest project, a motorcycle restoration, started because I wanted to adventure outside my comfort zone. The smaller engines, ATVs and scooters I feel I've mastered, so to expand my knowledge and appeal on YouTube, a motorcycle restoration was an obvious progression."
"My favorite type of project is product testing and review. So far everything for my channel has been self-financed, so if I am able to buy a product to test the claims of the manufacturer, I will continue. That way another person can make an informed decision on what automotive products to use. And I also love developing and testing a review process, and I try to make it as scientific as possible."
"I do get a lot of positive feedback for my instructional videos and product reviews. I also get some constructive criticism which I listen to in order to improve. The materials and concepts of each video are also dependent upon how much can be budgeted for the video. As the brand, business model, and budget evolves over time, more detailed tests and instructional videos can be done."
"The one thing I like the most about the motorbike community is the overwhelming acceptance of others. Whether it's a small engine scooter or a large engine motorcycle, the entire community looks out for each other since we all understand the vulnerability motorbike riders face upon the road."
"The main reason I decided to order custom t-shirts was to continue to develop and establish a brand for myself. When I first started the channel, I had several DIY Network shirts that I had previously won from the TV network’s contest. I usually didn't wear them day to day, but thought they were a perfect fit for the concept of my channel since I want to empower others to fix things for themselves. The shirts started wearing out, so instead of continuing to advertise someone else's brand I decided to establish my own. Models have shown that branding is essential for any business or YouTube channel to maintain the whole image of an adventure."
We love the diversity we see in our customers here at DesignAShirt.com. Vehement Knives in Longmont, Colorado caught our eye and we just had to know more about them after taking a look at the website. The sheer beauty of the knife designs as works of art make it easy to forget the high degree of functionality they serve. We got in touch with Jonny Bahlatzis, a maker, designer, process engineer and idea guy at Vehement Knives to find out what it means to LIVE VEHEMENTLY.
How did Vehement Knives get its start?
Jonny Bahlatzis - Vehement Knives started out of passion and necessity in 2011. Our owner, Matt, was working “on the grid” in Okinawa, Japan as a certified Unexploded Ordinance Technician and needed a tool that would allow him to carefully and efficiently excavate hazardous ordnance and ready them for disposal. However, there wasn’t anything purpose-built for that on the market. As a result, he came up with the EOD/UXO Dig Knife and sketched it on a scrap of paper while out in the field. This workhorse has been serving military and contractor personnel in the field ever since, and feedback was so positive that moving into knife-making full-time seemed like a logical choice. Everyone at Vehement Knives has a passion for edged tools, but we all feel that there is a gap which we can fill when it comes to “regular-use knives for hard-ass people.”
EOD/UXO DIG TOOL
Knife making is an ancient skill; how does one go about teaching new knifemakers the craft?
J.B.- Unfortunately, there is no specific formula to teaching or learning the craft. Obviously, some of it relies on a person’s raw skill with handwork and machines, but the majority of it comes from creativity, problem-solving skills, and attention to quality and details. One must be able to look at a raw piece of steel and envision something completely different. They must plan out each step to get to the final state, while paying the utmost attention to how each decision in the design and execution will affect the function and aesthetics of the knife. Once a person has the foundation of these qualities, the next step is familiarizing them with the various functions of each knife or tool, the features that drive them, and the processes to create them. This does not happen overnight. There are many books and videos on how to make knives, but there is no book or video on how to make a Vehement Knife.
What is the most complicated aspect of making a custom knife?
J.B. - When making a custom knife, there are two paths that one may take: Either you are taking a design that has never existed before and making it a reality, or you are making a knife that is reminiscent of something that has previously existed but required performance improvements to live up to modern needs. Either way, you need to take something intangible and turn it into something physical that functions and performs beyond the user’s expectations with very little previous example off of which to base it.
Custom Made EDC
What do you feel makes a knife made by Vehement Knives outstanding?
J.B. - At Vehement Knives, we pride ourselves on creating the utmost standard of fit and finish for our knives, but this level of quality is almost paradoxical in the knife industry when it comes to the near-indestructability and sheer performance capabilities of our knives. Every one of them is designed and built with the end-user in mind and with an attention to detail, ergonomics, and aesthetics that we feel is unique for hard-use tools.
The Elemental with Natural Micarta Scales
Have any of your customers shared any unusual stories that involved use of their purchase from Vehement Knives?
J.B. - One of the most gratifying aspects of creating knives is the fact that in a survival situation, a knife is arguably THE most valuable tool a person could have. Whether on home soil or overseas, we have had a number of customers send us reports about being in life-threatening situations and being able to overcome adversity with the help of their Vehement Knife. We have received emails and calls ranging from hunters being caught in whiteout snowstorms and being able to build emergency shelters, to young women deterring a violent attack. When we are designing or making a knife, these are the people about whom we are thinking.
What makes your customers “Knife People?”
J.B. - One of the things on which we pride ourselves at Vehement Knives is that most of our customers weren’t actually “knife people” when they first purchased a Vehement Knife. We love the knife-enthusiast community, but we founded this company with a much larger goal of promoting responsible knife ownership and usage and the idea that a good quality knife is an indispensable tool and companion in outdoor and everyday life for any person or family.
Which product has proved to be your most popular?
J.B - By volume, that would be Matt’s first design and creation, the EOD/UXO Knife, but we all have our own favorites!
What was the purpose of ordering custom t-shirts?
J.B. - We put a lot of time, effort, and even a little money into building our brand as a standalone image and idea outside of just knives. Our T-shirts are more than advertisement or marketing. They are a call to action. To "Live Vehemently" is to constantly pursue a life of intense passion—to fight hard for what brings you satisfaction in your life. The graphic logo (we call "Louis") represents the heirloom quality of our edged tools. Our knives will outlast us and anyone who reads this; they will outlast any past, present, or future kings. This is not a matter of arrogance, but rather, it speaks to the fact that quality steel takes centuries to degrade back to its constituent elements. That longevity is motivation for us to do our absolute best work when making each knife. “Vehement Knives” will still be emblazoned on the knife long after the actual shop is gone.
Custom Printed Vehement Knives T-Shirts
We’re located in the Sonoran Desert of Arizona so we’re pretty used to reptilian neighbors. One of our local customers caught our eye recently because of the interesting name of the business, Radical Reptile Fun. We caught up with Mike McAllister, co-owner of this business along with his girlfriend and fellow reptile enthusiast Tegan, to talk about the entertaining and quirky side of reptiles as they are the stars of this show. Here’s what he had to say:
Would you tell us what Radical Reptile Fun is about?
ike McAllister - Radical Reptile Fun is the most affordable reptile experience in Arizona. We bring reptiles to birthdays, schools and any event and make sure kids get an up close experience with the reptiles. We are about promoting education of up to day knowledge of our scaly friends. Our biggest goal is conservation of reptile species and showing that they have a place in the world and they are just misunderstood.
Radical Reptile Fun Birthday Party
How has the company evolved since you first went into business?
M.M.- We started out slow with only 20 reptiles with just the general 1 hr. show. We’ve gotten to know our customers and now we have 6 different shows with a 7th coming up in the fall. We have gotten to the point where word of mouth is our biggest asset.
What do you feel is the most important thing for people to understand about reptiles?
M.M. - That they have a place in this world and as long as they are respected and understood we can coexist. The most common question I get is "Will it bite me?" I want to change that aspect on reptiles. I don’t want your first question to be this when I bring out a snake. I want your first question to be a positive one like "where is that from" or "why does it have those colors?"
Hopal the Albino Burmese Python
What do you think is the fundamental difference between people that love animals with scales versus fur?
M.M. - We are just so used to seeing animals with fur that we know them all. You see a giraffe or a lion you automatically know what it is. However I can bring out several snake species of different colors, patterns, and shapes and you have no idea what it is except that it’s just a snake.
Radical Reptile Fun is also a reptile rescue, would you elaborate on that?
.M.- We do rescue reptiles. The word is used generally. Most of our rescues are animals that have been taken care of extremely well by previous owners. Most of the time the kids have gotten bored of it and the parents just don’t want to take care of it. We do have some banged up rescue animals but we provide them a good home. We do rehome our rescues but usually to private individuals who we trust. WE DO NOT RESELL OUR RESCUES and we are proud to say that. A lot of "rescues" just take in animals and flip them for a profit, we don’t do that. We only sell animals we have personally bought or bred.
Hubert Cumperdale the Crested Gecko also known as the Eyelash Gecko.
What advice would you give to someone looking to have a reptile or other exotic creature as a pet?
M.M. - READ, READ, READ. The more you look up the animal and read about that animal you obtain all the knowledge about how to care for the animal. Also make sure you have a plan. If the animal is going to get big make sure you know what you’re going to do ahead of time before it gets big.
What’s the strangest rescue creature you’ve taken in?
M.M. - We took in some tarantulas that were rescued from a friend of mine. She got them from a school that was done doing venom testing and was going to euthanize them.
Rose Hair Tarantula
Why did you order custom t-shirts?
M.M. - We have had sooooo many customer requesting us to provide T shirts for our business. So we listened and so far we have delivered. Out of all the t shirt sites we picked you all because you were the most affordable and didn’t have silly clauses after buying t shirts nor did you screw us over in shipping cost! Even when there was a minor problem you fixed it completely and timely that we were extremely impressed. Can't wait for our next order!
Custom Printed Tee Shirt
Traci Gauthier is the author and webmaster of The Bloggy Dogs, a blog site that features articles, advice, tips and recipes geared specifically toward the canine lover. And of course, lots of pictures and details showcasing the escapades of the stars of the show, Goji and Oreo. We asked Traci to share with us some of the backstory on why she developed The Bloggy Dogs and her viewpoint on a few issues surrounding dog adoption and the relationship between humans and the friendly little tail wagers known as man’s best friend.
Goji and Oreo
What was the vision behind developing The Bloggy Dogs?
Traci Gauthier - The Bloggy Dogs is about sharing the stories of our experiences with our dogs, particularly my experience as a first time dog owner. The goal is to connect and share stories with other dog lovers and better understand the human dog relationship. Eventually, the blog will lead to the creation of a book, so it's like a living book editing process too.
Do you have a favorite breed of dog?
T.G. - I'm probably a Border Collie/Heeler type because of their working type character and physical esthetic. I would never get a dog from a breeder though, I'm all about adopting, so when it comes down to it, I'll adopt a dog that connects with me and my lifestyle...which could be any kind of mix breed!
Oreo and Goji see a squirrel
What can dogs teach us humans?
T.G. - That's a huge question, so I'll simplify here- I believe a dog is mirror of a person's character because of two reasons: 1. They've been bred to work for us in a number of capacities, so they're very in tune with human behaviors and 2. They can reconnect us with our most basic animal-selves, like communication without words and unconditional love without judgement. Humans just have to remember that dogs are dogs, but we can be companions for each other.
What are some insights you can share with anti-dog people that might make them change their mind?
T. G. - Some people just don't like animals for any number of reasons, so I really have no idea what it would take to get some anti-dog person to love dogs. Some people think that they need to own a dog, but owning a dog is a huge responsibility and someone who already has negative feelings toward them would probably create bad human/dog relationship. Most people who are anti-anything are simply lacking experience in the thing they hate...they probably just need to hang out around more good dogs. I was a cat person for years and thought dogs were dirty and slobbery, but dogs are very moldable creatures. They simply want to please you- so who could hate that!?
Oreo helping in the kitchen
Do you have any specific opinion on adopting a dog versus buying from a breeder?
T.G. - There are great breeders and there are great shelters...and bad on both sides too. I spent 2 months searching for a dog that suited my lifestyle and esthetics and about 6 months of dog research before that...I sought to only adopt because there are great dogs already out there, I didn't need to wait for some breeder to make one. When looking for a dog companion to share the next 10-20 years with, it's worth seeking out breeders or shelters that are doing the best they can to fit your personality with the personality of the dog. However, I will always say adopt because many dogs and pets in general are already out there waiting for some wonderful human to look after them.
Goji, the mighty hunter
The site has a very particular style with great imagery, do you
handle all the photography and design in-house?
T.G. - I'm a graphic designer and photographer by trade and passion, so I basically combined my love for my dogs with my love for art and put it on the web. I'm always reinventing my style too, so I imagine the site will go through many style changes through the years.
What purpose do the custom Bloggy Dogs T-Shirts have?
T.G. - I've been making shirt designs for years, so I thought I'd try branding my dogs too. It's really just for fun at this point. I'm working on a whole new set of designs that will cater to the dogcentric person as a whole. Some it will be custom work for people and other designs are simply that, dogcentic art on a shirt! Once I get more established with my online store, I'm going to partner up with a national charity organization and donate most of the proceeds. I just have to research which charities will be the best fit first.
We recently had the pleasure of interviewing the very charismatic and enterprising owner of Beard Monster. Austin Pressley owns and operates his business out of Peachtree City, Georgia specializing in handcrafted beard care oils, balms, and washes along with mustache waxes and complimenting gifts and accessories. This DesignAShirt patron piqued our interest quickly as he offers uniquely formulated products for a very unique breed of clientele, the free spirited and unequivocally masculine bearded man.
What inspired you to start Beard Monster?
Austin Pressley- I've always worn long hair and facial hair. I learned about beard oil and tried it, and liked the results. When I looked into the ingredients and realized it was made of olive oil and fragrance, I was flabbergasted. Did I just pay $20 for a bottle of olive oil?! I wanted to make a better product for a better price, and knew that with a little effort, I could.
Which product was the first ever offered?
A.P.- Our beard oils were the first products we offered. I introduced our five main scents at the same time, along with a sample pack with a small bottle of each. We were originally selling on Etsy, and our first sale came through a couple of days after we opened up.
What if any, are your views about beards as a form of self-expression?
A.P.- Beards are as unique as the hair on our heads, and can be every bit as useful for self-expression. I think beards have become an important part of the expression of our identities as men, too. Grow them long, or keep them short if you choose. Braid them, stick flowers in them. Let them express who you are. I've always been a bit wild, so I have always had long hair and some degree of beard. But a beard can reflect the opposite, with a shorter, neater trim. There's a lot you can say with your beard that you can't really express with a smooth face.
You have a passionate fan base, what is about your brand that compels such devotion?
A.P.- The Beard Monster brand appeals to what some might call a "niche." Every other beard product company out there sells men on the idea that with their product, you'll become a dapper, well-coifed gentleman. As though every bottle of their beard oil came with an Armani suit. That's not the kind of guy I have ever wanted to be, and not the kind of guy my lady (and business partner) is interested in. Other beard companies try to appeal to the bearded man's desire to be George Clooney. We appeal to the men who would rather be Rob Zombie. The public has responded, I think, because that's a lot more men than anyone thought.
Why do you feel beards have made such a strong comeback in recent years?
A.P.- The "metrosexual" movement was something of a rejection of traditional notions of masculinity. And rejecting tradition in favor of a new way of thinking is great! But I think when men started "manscaping" and slipping on pink cardigans, we were going to far in the opposite direction. A lot of guys (myself included) saw that and pushed back. I didn't feel the metrosexual thing, and I showed it with long hair and a big beard. When a lot of guys started doing that, the trend pushed back toward a more traditionally masculine look. It's ultimately about accepting ourselves, I think. Be yourself, and express who that is with your look. And if you embrace the fact that you're a man, a mammal, and therefore a hairy beast, then grow out your mane and be proud of it.
Do you formulate your own oils and balms or work with a team?
A.P.- It's all me. My gal is my partner in crime, and she helps with making our products and shipping them, but the recipes all come from my twisted little brain.
Does beard etiquette exist and if so, can you detail what that involves?
A.P.- There's a quote that I see pop up a lot online: "When two beards cross paths, the larger beard has the right of way." It's funny, but it does reflect a kind of truth. A study I read (yes, I read studies about beards - I swear I'm not boring) said that with a nice beard, you're more likely to receive compliments from men than women. And it's true. I do receive compliments from women, but more often it's other bearded men who pass me in the grocery store and nod and say "nice beard, man." And I do the same. Beards are one of the only things guys always seem comfortable complimenting each other on. I don't know if that's an etiquette so to speak, but bearded men certainly have a sort of kinship.
We see you have retailers as far away as Brazil. How did that aspect of the business evolve?
A.P.- Honestly, our retailers have approached us. We started getting inquiries as our social followings grew, and we typed up a set of wholesale rules and began sending that out to anyone who was interested. We keep saying that we are going to get to work approaching some retailers, but we stay so busy with our own retail that we don't really do it. We just make the wholesale deals when interseted retailers ask about it.
What is in the works at Beard Monster?
A.P.- Right now I'm unrolling 5 new fragrances (one of which was anounced last week - the Witch's Brew, a coffee scent). I've also created a couple of new products that I will roll out in time. We are about to overhaul our beard kits as well, with some new tools that will make them way more complete. We're sponsoring a competitor in the Southeastern Beard and Moustache Championship in May, and we'll be going up there to cheer him on as well.
What purpose do the custom t-shirts serve?
A.P.- Beard product companies have a lot to do with expression and identity. The company you prefer speaks to who you are, and so there's a lot of brand loyalty. People want to wear the shirt of the company they buy from. We used to get a lot of requests for shirts, stickers, hats, that sort of thing. So we figured if our customers were asking for them, we better provide!