Custom-designed T-shirts are a hot commodity among tech startups, and custom screenprinting and design studio 8/7 Central (87c) has positioned itself as the provider of choice for the local entrepreneurial community.
“I’m not smart enough to be an engineer or developer, but I always thought it would be awesome if I was,” said Ben Anderson, 25, co-owner of 87c. “I hold the tech community up as my role models. I think what those people are doing is pretty awesome, so anytime that I can help those people out it makes me happy.”
Late last year, Ben Milne, founder of cash-transfer startup Dwolla, approached 87c about creating Dwolla T-shirts to hand out in the community. Anderson and his brother, 87c co-owner Zach, 28, have produced multiple iterations since.
“Most (of the local tech startups we’ve worked with) are small enough that the founders are still out beating their drum to get their idea heard by the public,” Ben said.
“It is a pretty unique time because people making decisions are accessible at Startup Drinks or other networking events. It also helps to have a fun product – who doesn’t love T-shirts?”
Ben and Zach are entrepreneurs themselves, having run multiple businesses together. They currently split their time between 87c and Crown Cleaners, a dry cleaning business with three area locations.
87c was originally the custom services group within SMASH, a T-shirt shop in the East Village. SMASH rebranded itself into two parts in November 2009, with the retail store taking the name RAYGUN and the Anderson brothers’ group operating as 87c. Four months later the sale went through and 87c became a completely independent business
While screenprinting accounts for the majority of 87c revenue, the company also boasts a growing list of other creative offerings such as Web design, branding and graphic design. In addition to tech startups, their clients include artists, musicians, bars and restaurants. The 87c team has nearly doubled in size over the past six months.
“Our goal is to pretty much elevate the collected experience of living in Des Moines through making everything look better – whether that’s T-shirts, websites, logos, business cards or whatever,” Zach said. Neither of the brothers claim to be able to produce creative work on their own, and instead praise the creative team for 87c’s success. “We’re very fortunate to have the guys we have, they’re all just ridiculously talented,” Ben said.
Zach calls his and Ben’s relationship with the seven-person design team “symbiotic” and notes that as newcomers to this industry, the brothers are able to take an objective look at pricing, costs and other business issues that can detract from the creative process.
As their business continues to grow, don’t be surprised if the next cool T-shirt you see around town with an odd company name screenprinted on it came off the press at 87c.