Hello everyone, Six Zero here with another installment of:
SIX QUESTIONS WITH MGOSTORE
Inspired by the official site’s “Two Minute Drill” series and TomVH’s famous Q&A segments with potential recruits, this weekly feature highlights some of the more famous personalities here at MGoBlog. Without pulling back the infamous veil of blog anonymity, we’ll get to know some of your favorite posters better and possibly shed some light on their definition of why it’s so darn Great, To Be, A Michigan Wolverine.
The MGoStore is alive. It actually senses your UM apparel needs and makes all of our maize and blue wishes come true. And when it’s not reading the minds of Wolverine fans across the globe, it likes to surf the Internet, and actually is an avid reader and member of MGoBlog. It’s a big fan of UFR, and loves any reference of the Muppets.
Actually no, the store is not sentient… BUT its very owner does maintain a profile and presence here on the blog, and does interact with the rest of us from time to time. So it’s my pleasure to spotlight Rishi Narayan in this exclusive interview:
1. Rishi Narayan, the mastermind behind MGoStore and ultimately Underground Printing as a whole. You’ve already told the Ann Arbor News about how Underground started upon your graduation from UM, but tell us, who where you when you originally launched the business and what was your vision then, and where does it all stack up to what UGP is today?
Although I'd love to take credit, Brian is obviously the mastermind behind the MGoStore, he always has been. We are just working really hard to legitimize it, make it something other than a site that sells a couple shirts here and there.
When we started the business, my partner Ryan Gregg and I were just two engineering students who figured out quickly they didn’t want to be typical engineers. Underground (then it was called A-1 Screenprinting, first in the phone book!) was initially just a way to try something else out because we were bitten by the entrepreneurial bug. Although I love shirts, it wasn't the love of shirts that got us going, it was the need to figure out a different path OTHER than working as an engineer.
Where does that stack up to what UGP is today? Well we definitely aren't engineers (although somehow I got roped into getting a masters in ChE). Honestly, we just really love entrepreneurship and small business. Our growth is just our way to keep things interesting, new opportunities and avenues. We obviously love t-shirts, but it really could have been anything for us, our ultimate goal is really to make something of this little college startup.
How then, did Underground Printing get involved with MGoBlog? Describe the partnership that culminated in MGoStore.
We obviously have known and loved MGoBlog for a long time and thought that we would be a great fit running Brian's store. However, somehow I missed the time period when Brian switched from Spreadshirt to the other company that shall remain nameless and felt like we missed an opportunity.
However, I was introduced to Brian by email through a friend of a friend (thanks James Jarvis if you are reading this). He had heard of us through the grapevine and specifically because of our sponsorship of the student section at Yost (which we would still do this day if Adidas hadn't taken it back away from us). I guess we agreed it was a good fit and the rest is history.
2. Some people may not realize that MGoBlog is just one of the many facets of UGP-- You guys not only produce UM gear for the good people of Ann Arbor and beyond, but also field similar operations in such non-partisan locations like West Lafayette, Minneapolis, Madison, Champaign, Bloomington, Evanston, ahem, East Lansing, and others. You’ve even expanded into non-conference territories such as Morgantown, Lexington and Pittsburgh! Dude, are you taking over the world?
No, we just really love college life. Note that you didn't say Columbus, and you never will. We made that decision we decided to open up stores.
Amen, brother. For each of these locations, are you looking to specialize in school culture shirts for each perspective school (like MGoStore), or is the role more akin to a custom screenprinter for fraternities, sororities, and other local organizations?
We really feel that our bread and butter will always be custom printed apparel. However, we are beginning to build up our retail presence as well, and shirts with local "flair", like MGoStore shirts, are a big part of that.
Gotta heart the Flair. One of UGP’s claim to fame is doing the on-field championship shirts for the Steelers when LaMarr finished off Kurt Warner for their last Super Bowl victory. How was that deal put together? Any other big projects on the horizon?
That was through our relationship with Reebok/Adidas. When we first started, before we had developed our store model, it was all about printing more shirts for bigger customers. We have been printing for Reebok for about 6 years now, and as we have grown we have printed for Superbowls, World Series, NBA Finals, etc. It's fun, and cool to be a "part" of it all, but printers that specialize in that are essentially always betting. You live and die by the hot market print.
We decided it wasn't worth getting bigger like most printers...if we were going to print 40,000 shirts, we would prefer it be for 400 customers rather than 4, which is the basis of our store model. So our big projects now revolve around opening stores, although we are currently working on some relationships with former Michigan greats, much like our relationship with Jalen Rose.
3. The MGoStore is thriving, and one of your products was even featured on a History Channel program. What are the best-selling shirts in the line, and if you don’t mind, what’s your personal favorite?
That was awesome, I was pumped when I heard about that. Ironically enough, the kid who was on that show wearing the shirt sent us an email shortly after and told us that he is a history major currently, so being on the History Channel in an MGoBlog shirt was basically the perfect for him.
Worst State Ever is hands down the best seller ever, even after all these years. All the anti-Ohio shirts are pretty popular (shocking), as is Mascots and Catch and Release.
My favorite is Space, Bitches. Because it so perfectly illustrates Michigan domination. I also really love Free the Fab Five because I have this dream that one day everyone will reconcile and we will get our banners and wins back, and we can get a reunion in Crisler.
4. Tell me about your recent purchase of Moe Sport Shops, how did that come about? What is changing and what is staying the same?
Getting involved with a campus institution like Moe's is one of the coolest things we've been able to be a part of. We met Buddy through a mutual acquaintance and hit it off right away. The Van de Wege's are some of the nicest people we've ever met and Buddy is a class act. We starting tossing around a lot of ideas about our places on campus and how we could work together to do something really special that no one else was doing.
Through Underground we've been able to take care of our customers with custom printing and new, fresh retail items like MGoBlogStore and American Apparel brand Michigan Apparel. Our goal is to expand the reach of the store while keeping it "Moe's" by respecting the past and putting a lot of energy into continuing the legacy moving forward. As Buddy likes to tell people, "we've handed the baton to next generation."
In preparation for the coming football season we'll be looking to rearrange somethings so that Moes can carry more styles and items than ever before. Buddy started the process with the addition of a "Kid's Room" a few years back and we're working with him to complete the vision (We talk almost daily and he stops in often to talk to us and old customers). The new improvements should not only allow us to carry more inventory, but begin the transition of adding some MGoStyles to the staple of Adidas, Champion and Retro Brand. UGP will continue to carry the full line up with some of the most popular styles being added to Moe’s for the fall!
5. Obviously, Underground Printing is what you do for a living, and I’m sure you’re a busy man. But what do you like to do for fun on your own time?
This question is sorta depressing, I dont have a lot of interesting extra-curriculars to talk about. I'm a tennis player, trying to get into running (although it’s pretty boring) I am in involved in a few other companies in town (BTB Burrito, Good Time Charley's, and the BTB Party Bus), which takes a lot of extra time. And I am heavily vested in TV, I love TV.
Yes, I too am a fan of this ‘television.’ Describe the perfect meal.
One word: Nachos.
6. The beauty of that answer is in its simplicity. Can you explain why you are a Michigan fan?
I'll be honest - it really came to fruition for me in college. I was born in West Lafayette, and after Michigan Basketball still find myself rooting for Purdue Basketball (love me some Gene Keady). My family moved to East Lansing and my dad is a professor at Michigan State. But I was never really a state fan, I loved the Fab Five and loved my all time favorite wolverine (don't want to ruin question 10). But the decision to come to Michigan was driven by academics and big ten campus feel...I didn't even apply to State. That is where I fell in love with the school, the town, the culture, and the tradition ...most importantly the tradition. I like to think that even though I wasn't an orientation leader I can give a pretty good tour of campus.
Finally, who's your all-time favorite Wolverine?
I knew this was coming, I would say MaliVai Washington. Why? 1) No other MGoProfile's gave the small sports any love and I am a tennis fan 2) I grew up in the Lansing Area and everyone was gaga over Todd Martin, but it was all about Mal for me. 3) I really wanted to say Rumeal Robinson, but I changed my mind. Even just being accused of swindling your mom is just not right.
There you have it. Legitimate proof that T-shirt & merchandising czars are people too. Rishi seems like one of us because he IS… he’s sat in the student sections, he’s walked the Diag, and he’s even lived through the Horror.
The MGoStore will be updated today with more shirts from the MGoShirt Alert, and later today I’ll be unveiling them in a second exclusive premier post. AND I’m told I can share a little secret with you—Rishi has put together a special offer on the Store that I’m sure you’ll all want to check out. Look for that post later today!
The season will soon be here, my friends, and MGoProfile will go on hiatus for the course of the 2010 schedule and the rest of the calendar year. So there’s only two more profiles left… and who will they be?? Stop by next week to find out who’ll be the next MGoProfile!!