Poptastic Groovy Tees

April 25, 2008

We interview Cynthia Arre, of Poptastic Groovy Graphic Tees.

TM: When did you decide that t-shirts was your thing?

CA: My husband Arnold and I are both full-time graphic designers but because we’re always churning out work-related stuff for our clients, we felt that we needed a hobby that would give us the creative freedom to design what we wanted. T-shirt design was the obvious choice because it provides instant gratification to both the consumer and the designer. (If someone likes our shirt and they buy it, then that makes us all happy instantly.)

TM: How long have you been in the t-shirt biz? And what have you learned?

CA: We opened Poptastic just a little over a year ago, in January 2007 to be exact. We’re pretty young in this business but so far, we’ve learned that it really takes a lot of creativity, patience, passion, and hard work to maintain an online t-shirt shop especially if your niche — pop culture graphic tees in our case — is in demand. There are a lot of t-shirt shops out there with great-looking merchandise so we are constantly keeping an eye out for trends and ideas that will make our shop “pop”, so to speak. Another thing we’ve learned is to not see these other shops as competition — in fact we’ve made friends with other shopkeepers who sell similar-themed merchandise and we link to one another as a way of keeping the niche alive. This keeps the market healthy.

TM: How has having a Cafepress shop benefited you?

CA: The beauty of the Cafepress service is that our shop can have as many designs as we want and we won’t have to worry about the physical handling issue as our designs are available on a print-on-demand basis. Cafepress also promotes community interaction and technical support and its always reassuring to know that there are CP representatives and fellow shopkeepers who are ready to help when trouble arises.

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TM: Which of your shirts is your absolute favorite?

CA: We like all of our designs equally but my favorites at the moment would have to be the “Meh” designing featuring a cartoon drawing of an indifferent goat, “Cool Beans” which shows a cute illustrated bunch of well, cool beans, and “What’s up, duck” . Our retro/80s designs seem to be customer favorites.

TM: Do your run your shop alone or do you have a team?

CA: The “team” is made up of just my husband and myself.

TM: Where do you get your inspiration from when it comes to designing t-shirts?

CA: Since our shop’s overall theme is pop culture, our ideas come from everywhere – from watching the news to hanging out in a coffee shop to driving through side streets. We always keep notebooks in our bags so we can jot down ideas that come to us on the fly.

TM: What would you say your niche is and what has been your best marketing vehicle in targeting that audience?

CA: I would say our market is comprised of people who are basically like us — pop culture fans who are looking for unique tee designs to express themselves and have other like-minded people say “hey, where’d you get that shirt?”. These fans get a lot of their information on the internet so when we have new designs, we make sure to spread the word by blogging about them and interacting with possible customers via social networks and forums (spamming is a no-no, though!). We also have a newsletter that our buyers have the option of subscribing to when they make a purchase.

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TM: What’s in the works for the future of your shop?

CA: Poptastic will remain a small home-based business until the next couple of years or so but new designs will be added pretty frequently and regularly. We actually make it a point to come up with new designs every week so that the selection is always fresh. Once we amass a wider variety of designs and earn enough to quit our day jobs, we’ll possibly set up a full-fledged (but still home-based) t-shirt business.

TM: What tips could you give to others trying to get into the t-shirt biz?

CA: Don’t be discouraged if sales are slow in the beginning, it will definitely pick up if you invest a lot of your time, passion and determination into your shopkeeping and shop promotion. Keep an idea book handy because you never know when inspiration might strike. Also, try to avoid making designs that are not your specialty. If you think flashy shirts with snazzy vector graphics are “in” but it’s not really your thing, don’t force the issue because there’s a big possibility that the design won’t come out right because your heart’s not into it. If you design something that you like, chances are there are people out there just like you who will want your shirts too.