Monday, March 30, 2009

Interview With Jason Diehl, Owner Of Chestees

The following question and answer post is taken from an informational interview I conducted with Jason Diehl, owner of a company called Chestees, which is an online t-shirt distributor that features funny, original screen-printed t-shirts. Alone, he runs, designs, prints, and ships all of the shirts on the website. I found this interview extremely motivating and was surprised at the valuable information he was willing to share with me.

1. What made you decide to pursue this career?
Me and a buddy of mine had a band and wanted to print shirts for the band in a series. Outside vendors would be too expensive and wanted small quantities rather than bulk, so I looked for other alternatives. I soon realized I could do it myself and bought my own equipment. The project snowballed from there!

2. What are some of your favorite aspects of this job?
The creativity. All of the ideas come from me mostly, which I am proud of. Some other come from friends with great ideas. I have complete control, so if I thinks it’s funny, I put it up. The company is driven by me and only me, and I like it that way. On top of my full time job at Boost Media Entertainment, this side project lets me be creative in my own way. In my opinion, the only way to keep sane is to have side projects and hobbies.

3. Do enjoy being an illustrator on the side?
Yes, of course, but it’s one of the things I’m worst at. That's funny because it’s what I want to be the best at. It is a learning process. I will admit that some of the better illustrations on my site are from other illustrators who I directed to create the exact shirt design I wanted.

4. From where do you draw your inspiration?
Haha! There are many places actually. Obscure movies and pop culture or even movies from my high school and college days spark most of the designs. I'd really love to one day be able to draw all inspiration and ideas from my own head, so it's solely my idea and my own creation!

5. How did you start your business and how do you gain customers?
First off, it is very expensive and time consuming. The only reason I was able to start and own this business was because I built the website myself and print the shirts myself using my own equipment. The more you can do on your own, the easier it is. As for keeping customers, I try to have as many designs to put out on a regular basis as possible and send many emails. The Facebook group helps grow and create my web presence. I bought Facebook ads, but sparingly because that can get quite expensive. Google ad words are also a great resource to get lots of traffic from people searching “funny t-shirts.” But, most of my customers come from the Chestees blog traffic.

6. What would the requirements be for someone wanting to start up their own t-shirt company?
Marketing yourself and getting customers is the hardest part. It doesn’t matter if you have the best designs and site, you need people to come to it and getting them there is the hardest part. If you can do that, you will be set.

7. What advice would you give a student wanting to create a business like yours?
If you don’t have the money to start right up there are other sites that you can pay a monthly fee and have your own store, like CafĂ© Press. Use these! You can start your own store at a low cost and get your feet wet.

8. Where do you see Chestees in the future?
I want to grow to the point where I don’t have to print and ship the shirts myself. I don’t think I will ever make a living off of this site, but I would love to someday. Mostly, having a fulfilling company, so I can market and keep designing is my ultimate goal and it looks like I'm going in the right direction!

I would like to thank Jason for participating in this interview. I thought I was interested in this career before the interview, but if anything, I am now even more motivated to start my own company now, thanks to him! Please visit and buy a couple shirts to show your friends! They are hilarious, trendy, and well made shirts that will get you more than a laugh.

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