Are you sick of seeing the same boring team apparel? Indianapolis-based t-shirt company 19nine can fix your dilemma! 19nine vintage sports shirts add personality to traditional athletic apparel. In anticipation of the 19nine pop-up shop at the Pattern store Saturday, March 28th from 11 a.m.- 5 p.m. Jenna had the opportunity to connect with 19nine’s Director of Strategy, Aaron Loomer, to discuss the business of hometown team pride.
Why are sports near and dear to your heart?
We all grew up playing and watching sports and some of our best experiences revolved around sporting events.
There are a lot of similarities between running a business and playing sports, which I think has helped us. We win or lose together and hold each other accountable every day. I think we also learned that success has to be earned through hard work and a commitment to doing things the right way consistently, there’s really no shortcut to building a winning team or a winning brand.
Why did you decide to focus on athletic apparel?
We saw an opportunity to improve the selection of casual apparel for our favorite teams. There is an overall lack of creativity and quality with most licensed collegiate apparel that is targeted to the masses.
We’ve always viewed a t-shirt as a personality billboard. It’s amazing what you can tell about someone just from their choice of t-shirt; where they’re from, what their interests are, etc. We try and cater to the connoisseurs out there that take pride in finding a t-shirt that nobody else is wearing. I think that’s something that, despite our different backgrounds and allegiances, we have in common at 19nine. It’s not about rocking the latest design or biggest brand, it’s about having a shirt on that people stop and ask “man, where did you get THAT shirt”.
How tough is it to work with multiple organizations?
We have a great working relationship with every school we produce shirts for, and we only launch product that is officially licensed. We take this seriously enough to expand the agreements we have in place at the collegiate level to the high schools we are working with on our Hoosier Hero line. A lot of people don’t realize that the licensing dollars generated through royalties at universities go to student scholarships and other programs that benefit schools. So it’s a good feeling for us to help contribute at the local level and why we are so adamant about getting the proper licensing in place before introducing a new product.
We have a lot of fun designing new shirts commemorating past history of each school. This is where the relationships really help us out, by getting to know the key players in each community we get access to a lot of untold stories that are waiting to be told.
Does 19nine have plans to carry more universities apparel in the future?
We are slowly and methodically expanding the number of universities that we work with. Our approach is to work with one partner at a time to ensure they get our full creative attention once we are granted approval to use their trademarks. We are very careful not to expand too fast or take on new licenses simply for the sake of adding to our portfolio, as that could compromise the quality our customers expect. It’s never easy saying “no” as a startup, but we are focused on building a strong foundation for growth brick by brick.
What are some of 19nine’s most valued experiences within the community?
19nine has given us the chance to pursue our passion around sports and introduced us to some incredible individuals. The relationships we’ve built throughout the local community are something we really value, and have opened doors to some great experiences.
Back in February, 19nine worked with Butler University to host a Whiteout at Hinkle Fieldhouse for their game vs. Villanova. We sponsored the event and provided a few hundred shirts to the Butler Student Section. We also worked with the University and the Hinkle Spirit Shop to make sure the rest of the crowd wore white to show their school spirit. We had tickets to the game and the atmosphere was amazing, it was surreal to see Hinkle Fieldhouse decked out in white and think that we contributed to that event.
We also had the chance recently to honor the Crispus Attucks 1955-56 basketball teams during a Celebration at Hinkle Fieldhouse. We provided members of the team and cheerleaders with our Attucks shirt and had the chance to talk about the impact they had on basketball in the state of Indiana. We also were able to listen to their stories about that magical run which is something we will have for the rest of our lives.
What makes your 19nine unique?
We are relentless when it comes to customer satisfaction and promise to provide people with their new favorite shirt with every order. We deliver on that promise by consistently using premium fabrics and inks, developing original designs and generally outworking the competition.
We get a lot of gratification in surprising our customers with service that exceeds their expectations. One way we do this is through hand delivering local orders whenever possible, which always catches people off guard. We have even had customers ask if we use drones before, which isn’t the case, just a lot of hard work and commitment!