March 28, 2008
We interview Mathew Reiffe and Shaun Boatner, owners of online clothing shop “BurnTees.com”.
TM: How did you come up with the name?
BT:The name BurnTees is a combination of quite a few things, but it mostly comes from the use of the word made famous by That 70’s Show where they use it to rub it in after someone is insulted.
TM:You seem to have a lot of New Jersey t-shirts. How has playing to the local crowd worked in your favor?
BT:We started out designing New Jersey tees because that’s what we know. We’re both from New Jersey and went to Rutgers University and so we started designing t shirts that we ourselves would want. We know the demographic because we are the demographic, and we know what they need and look for in a wearable message.
TM:Your shop has a HUGE collection of designs? Out of all these designs, which one is your favorite?
BT:Using a print-on-demand company like CafePress allows us to offer a larger amount of designs than we’d be able to if we were printing the shirts ourselves because of inventory issues. It’s really been great because it allows us to offer designs that we may not have been able to if we were paying up front to print the shirts.
Our personal favorites are actually two of our oldest designs. Our Jesus Saves, Passes To Mosses design and our NJ We Don’t Pump Our Gas, We Pump Our Fists design. These have also proven to be favorites of our customers as well.
TM:How long have you been in the t-shirt biz and what have you learned?
BT:We started our site in June of 2005 and we’ve learned a ton since we first started. Neither of us had any experience doing this before we started and we’ve sort of learned everything as we go. The main thing we’ve learned is that each year, there’s more and more competition and it becomes harder and harder to distinguish your brand. It’s important to continue to put out unique designs that customers want or else you’ll become just another t shirt site that offers the same thing as everyone else.
TM:How do you go about creating a t-shirt design? Do you go with the first funny thing that comes to mind or do you plan out and allocate time to creating a design?
BT:We start by brainstorming which usually just means arguing over whether or not something is a good idea or not. There are many times when each of us thinks something is funny or unique and the other just doesn’t agree. It’s important for us to put up quality designs, not just fill the site with everything we can think of. Even though we do have a lot of designs, we still value quality over quantity. From there we come up with an idea of what type of image the design should be…text only, text and a graphic? From there we actually design the shirt which usually involves illustration and typography.
TM:What has been your greatest accomplishment so far as a t-shirt shop owner?
BT:When we started out, it was a small side hobby which turned into a real business. We never thought that we’d be selling the amount of shirts that we do and each month that we grow, we’re more amazed. It’s incredible that completely random people visit our little site and actually want to purchase what we’ve created. It’s a great feeling. There’s nothing better than walking down the street and seeing someone wearing one of your shirts or getting an email from a celebrity who wants to buy one of your designs.
TM:What tips could you give to others trying to get into the t-shirt biz?
BT:It’s more than putting a design on a shirt. It’s about branding and distinguishing yourself in the marketplace. You could have the greatest product in the world, but won’t sell a thing without consumer awareness. Nothing sells itself.
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