What do playing punk rock and selling t-shirts have in common? Apparently they’re both tons of fun for Chicago transplants and longtime friends TJ Mapes, Paul Friemel and Matt Ingleby, who together recently took their growing start-up RIPT Apparel full time.
Conceived on a road trip back to their shared hometown in Iowa, RIPT is a unique online t-shirt retailer in that they only sell one t-shirt design at a time and only for a day. The price is a flat $10 for the standard tee; the design is limited to the number ordered and according to the website, never to be seen again except on the bodies and bedroom floors of those lucky enough to own them. Not to be restricted to just t-shirts, RIPT Apparel also offers hoodies, women’s tees and kids sizes all the way down to the wardrobe staple of all babies — the onesie. It’s a family suite of collectible, wearable art.
And art it is, having initially begun by scouting out about 250 artists and approaching them with the chance to show their work, they now receive a steady stream of artists looking to jump on the opportunity. The three get together and decide what they’d like to print through what co-founder and Design Director Friemel refers to as “secret formulas”. Though the final decision is ultimately up to them, they’ve created a Facebook group specifically for the artists in order to provide them with an interactive sounding board for ideas and designs.
Looking at their business model as a sort of Groupon/Threadless hybrid, like Groupon each design is only good for a 24-hour window and then it is retired into the Graveyard, the idea of which inspired the site name — Rest In Peace Tees. Like Threadless, the designs are submitted by real people and artists, but as co-founder and Director of Technology Mapes puts it, “unlike Threadless we don’t let the general public vote on any of the designs we print” and artists get to keep the rights to their work. As far as I’m concerned, this gives them a leg up on Threadless who assumes ownership of the designs they put out there, which prevents those talented but possessive artists from contributing.
Initially using social media recon tactics to get their name on the lips and browsers of others, co-founder and Managing Partner Ingleby explains they relied on Twitter and Facebook, but also “would contact blogs that associated with our design for the day. If the tee had birds on it, we contacted bird watching blogs. They would post about our shirt, and we would drive that traffic to our Facebook page from our site.”
The future feels bright for the trio and their business, having recently executed the entrepreneur’s dream: they quit their day jobs. Tech.li asked them what has changed since making this momentous move and the consensus was time. Since RIPT meetings are no longer crammed into the few hours left between day job and sleep, “we have so much more time to hash out new ideas, plan ahead for the future, discuss issues right when they come up […] it’s wonderful, ” says Mapes; Friemel and Ingleby can only agree.
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