Ukulele/Side Show

July 11, 2008

Ukulele Shirt WorldSide Show Clothing Co.

We interview Gavin Smith of Ukulele Shirt World and Side Show Clothing Co.

TM: What made you decide to make a shop all about Ukuleles?

GS: Quite simply, I play Ukulele and I wanted to buy a tshirt to let people know. I really couldn’t find anything that appealed to me, so I made my own. People who play ukulele are madly passionate and hate the fact that most people think “Tiptoe through the Tulips” when they hear the word Ukulele. My goal with Ukulele Shirt World has always been to try and bring Ukulele out of the “Tulips” and into popular culture. Most of the designs draw on other non ukulele areas of life for inspiration

TM: What’s the idea behind Side Show Clothing Co.?

GS: Side Show Clothing actually started back in the late 80s when I used to sell screen printed shirts with 50s logos on them at craft markets. I did alright, but life moved on and I got way too busy to keep up with it. Side Show Clothing 2008 has evolved into a different beast altogether. I really wanted a line of shirts that were somewhat offensive, but only to those in the know, or at least with an ability to use urban dictionary. Although, the web being what it is, you never know who is going to buy what. I have had a couple of “Cock Star” shirts bought by people with prize roosters going to poultry shows and I got a real kick out of getting an order of a ladies size Angry Dragon shirt from a man just before Mother’s Day. Breakfast in bed maybe.

TM: Do you have run both of your shops alone, or do you have a team?

GS:Just me in between a number of other ventures and a real life as well.

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

GS: I like them to be as unique as possible and I really am designing for myself, things that I would (and do) wear. I am right in the middle of my target market, so I usually hit it right. I draw on all sorts of things, media, movies, sport, anime, whatever really.

TM: How has having a shop on Printfection benefited you?

GS: Printfection has been terrific for me. They provide the most customisable free premium quality store fronts around, so I have been able to draw on my web design skills as well to have a really unique web presence for my brands. I also run a Store Design service at as well which has grown out of Printfection’s customization possibilities. As far as the actual products go, Printfection’s DTG printing is terrific, as good as I have seen.

TM: What are the best marketing techniques you have used to promote your shops?

GS: Because of the unlimited free stores at Printfection, I can keep my niches very separate and market accordingly. Ukulele Shirt World regularly features on Ukulele blogs and forums, so I get plenty of traffic from there. I have done a lot of work on SEO, so I get 90% of my traffic from Google and MSN, people searching for Ukulele Shirt.

Side Show Clothing also gets a lot of traffic from Google, although the search terms are a little more varied and pretty much unrepeatable in polite company.

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

GS: I’ll keep adding designs as I go. I hope to turn Ukulele Shirt world into more of a central hub for enthusiasts, so will be shortly adding sheet music downloads as well as general Ukulele information. I think it is often important to offer as much value as possible. Someone may not be ready to buy a shirt today, but if you give them a reason to remember you and come back, they eventually will.

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

GS: 1. Design what you love and don’t try to be someone you are not, Be as unique as possible without being too odd.

2. Focus on your brand and its value. I’ve done Web Design for a number of successful stores that are pitching a lifestyle to their customers. Try and work out who you are and why your stuff is cool to your market.

3. Don’t be afraid of Print On Demand. Companies like Printfection take care of all the production and fulfilment and you get on with design and marketing.