- Associated Press - Sunday, September 20, 2015

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - In an Internet-distributed world of do-it-yourself product design, the Oklahoma Shirt Co. has still been able to carve its own niche.

The trick was finding the overlap between community investment and a sense of exclusivity, said Amy Wopsle, who holds the job title of customer evangelist.

Oklahoma Shirt was launched in 2013 by entrepreneur Justin Lawrence, who is now head T-shirt designer and a University of Oklahoma medical student, The Journal Record (http://bit.ly/1OZTXTZ ) reported. Lawrence wanted to produce something cool that reflected his pride in the state, and T-shirts had a low overhead and entry cost. He handled screen printing in his home, literally a garage startup.

That meant competing against online portals such as Etsy, CustomInk and CafePress, where people can design and sell their own designs on shirts and other products. The company needed an edge.

Wopsle said Shirt of the Month was the answer: a T-shirt each month with a fresh, Oklahoma-themed design, mailed to the subscriber for about $13, including taxes and shipping costs.

“When we started it, we didn’t want to call it a club,” she said. “But then our subscribers started calling it a club and creating a sense of exclusivity and community. They’ll see each other out and about and experience that sense of instant recognition and connection when they recognize a design. I had a customer from Austin (Texas) email me, saying, ‘You’re never going to believe this, but .’”

Wopsle wouldn’t discuss subscriber numbers. She would say only that the company has grown quickly and now ships shirts to 48 states - six subscriptions in Hawaii alone - and more than 100 cities in Oklahoma.

The company supplements its T-shirt subscriber base with a few custom print jobs for companies and organizations. Oklahoma Shirt also has wholesale accounts with a few local companies such as Bricktown Candy Co.

In addition to Wopsle, the company has three other employees who handle graphic design, screen printing and sales. Wopsle described Oklahoma Shirt as a small family with all the benefits and drawbacks of that level of workplace intimacy. That means she has been able to get a lot of work done in her pajamas, but the company’s stock has been stored in closets in her home.

“When we started, we thought we’d keep every style or design on hand forever,” she said. “But shirts stack up quickly and take up a lot of room.”

That environment recently changed, as Oklahoma Shirt has moved into offices in the Automobile Alley district near downtown. Wopsle said the limited-edition shirts will be sold to walk-in consumers for as long as supplies last.

“We have evolved, and just in time, thank goodness,” Wopsle said. “I was about to drown in shirts.”

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Information from: The Journal Record, http://www.journalrecord.com

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