Hustle! What does that word mean? It’s a trendy word these days, but what is hustle really all about. Better yet, what does it take to start a clothing company and build a legitimate business from nothing? Or even better yet, what did it take for Mit Vongsouvane of Midwest Monstaz to build his brand?
At Twin City Tees, we print all of Mit’s stuff, and I had the chance to sit down with him and ask him a few questions about his business. We talked about challenges, passion, and the grind of owning a business. Mit had a lot to share.
Dan McCreight: Tell me about something you learned the hard way that someone new to the T-shirt business should hear.
Mit: Something that I learned is that it is not as easy as it seems. I live and breathe this every day. If I’m not selling T-Shirts, I’m doing something to promote the brand. I do sponsorships, I do club events, and anything to put the brand out there. It’s not just about T-shirts, it’s about your brand, your logo, what kind of message are you trying to send to the public.
Midwest Monstaz is not just a brand, it’s a lifestyle, and it’s for everybody. I didn’t focus on just Asians, or Blacks, or Whites, it’s for everybody, and it’s been real successful in the last 4 years.
Midwest Monstaz is a movement based out of Minnesota and making it's way through the whole Midwest, rapidly growing as a sign of unity amongst everyone. - @MidwestMonstazClothing - Facebook
Any advice I’d like to give to the new guys is, do your research. If you are just getting into the T-shirt business, and you go into a print shop and don’t know what you’re talking about, versus if you have good answers and know what you want, it just makes things a little bit easier for both of you guys. You have to have a vision in your head, know what kind of style you are looking for, type of material.
Me personally, I won’t print on anything I won’t wear myself. Just know what you want. Don’t just go in blindly and expect someone else to do the work for you. So come to the game with a plan. With a blueprint.
It’s not just about printing 20 or 30 shirts and trying to sell them. Understand that it’s going to take time. When I first started, there was a lot of things I gave out for free. Don’t think you’re going to make money right away. You need to give out free stuff to let people wear it, and feel it, and understand what type of clothing it is. The more information you have the better. You can’t just be like, hey here’s a T-shirt, wear it, it’s a cool logo, you know.
I did the whole documentary about my brand, and once I pushed that documentary out, a lot of people could relate to how I lived, grew up, how it evolved into a T-shirt brand, and a lot of people just stood up to support it. We’re like a household name now, anywhere I go people are like, oh it’s the Midwest Monsta guy, that’s the guy that do the T-shirt thing. Now I’m a promoter, I do some rap music, I don’t even rap, people just want to come and see me perform.
You have really built a strong brand.
Yeah, when I do a show, people know it’s a Midwest Monsta show, versus when people go to downtown. When I throw a party and they come to a Midwest Monstaz party, they already know what to expect. A Midwest Monstaz party is basically the people in the community. It’s the regular people you see everyday. A lot of the time downtown, they don’t let us go into the club because we look a certain way, dress a certain way. People like myself can’t get into the club, so I decided to do club events, and let everybody that can’t get into those places into my events.
How did you build such a strong community?
My name had already been established in the community. But it’s like, “I’m doing the T-shirt thing now”, and everybody just supported it. When I do those events, there are kids in the community that do rap music, and they don’t have the opportunities to go and perform their stuff. I make it possible for those guys in the community to go on stage, because some of those guys really got talent. They just appreciate what I do, you know, and then the word just goes around.
So it’s not just about Selling T-shirts?
It’s not. Sometimes I don’t even order shirts for a couple months because I’m so busy doing club events, or sponsoring a football team. I’m going to their practices and stuff like that. It’s not that easy. It’s draining, and it takes time from the family. When I first started, I had to reach out to certain groups of people, and it takes me away from home. I have to be out at the bars and social places, and promote the brand. It’s really part of the job, going out to meet people, meet DJ’s, meet other club promoters, owners of the places. It seems like it’s just hanging out, but it’s really working at the same time.
When people say they don’t have time, or make excuses like this or that, how do you respond?
I just let them go. I deal with that all the time. Sometimes people got family, sometimes I understand them, sometimes I don’t. But I look at the big picture. Because once they’ve already established that they don’t have time, I already know it’s going to fall short, so I just let it go. Basically now I’m just running the whole thing by myself. I’m doing all the clothing, all the shows, the whole thing by myself. I have less headaches.
What’s your favorite part about the whole thing?
The love I receive from complete strangers around the world, it’s an amazing feeling. I don’t even know these people. Taking pictures, I’m not even a rapper. People are like, “oh he’s a promoter, he sponsors our football team, he sponsors the bar down the street, does T-shirts with them”. I have my name in everything. Just trying to monopolize everything, trying to put the brand out there.
It sounds like you have built a lot of support one person at a time.
Yeah. One of my biggest supporters is my kids. Even though I don’t spend a lot of time with them, they are always wearing Midwest Monstaz, and when I tell them I’m going to Texas, they support me. They say, you do what you gotta do Daddy. Basically it’s like, at the end of the day, when I’m dead and gone, I want to have created something for people to talk about. You know, he started the T-shirt thing, he helped all these kids, and did all these things, sponsored this and that. I want them to have nothing but good things to say about me. That way when my kids get older, it’ll be nothing but positive, you know, dad did this and that. My kids go out now, they go out to the malls, or they go to house parties, and they’re like Dad, Dad, some guy just came up to me and started rapping, and told me to tell you they got a mixtape, and to check it out on Soundcloud or whatever. Or, Dad, people want to help sell your clothes, just message them.
At the end of the day, my friends said you did it man. You got all those people wearing your stuff. Ain’t you happy? I’m like nah, there is still more.
Where does that drive come from?
It’s just growing up with nothing, and trying to grow up and be somewhat successful, and just to keep that energy going. I can’t do bad, because if I was to do bad, I’d let so many people down. Because there’s so many kids that look up to me.
Sometimes I don’t feel like I did enough. But to everybody else it’s like, you took one little thing, and now it’s big.
Why do you print with Twin City Tees?
I feel comfortable with you guys, you got all my logos and stuff like that, I just call you guys versus having to deal with someone else. You know, I’ve created a relationship with Twin City Tees. Even when I’m down in Texas I’ll still be printing with you guys.
Let’s say you lost everything and had to start all over in a new city. Is there anything from what you learned that would change the way you approach the situation?
It doesn’t pop in my mind right now, but I did work hard, and I’m proud of myself you know, for everything I’ve accomplished. Sometimes I can be to hard on myself. But if you see me work, I work. I lost a lot of friends through this stuff because they tell me to slow down, my kids mom tells me to slow down. If I would do anything different, I would spend more time with my family. Because a lot of my relationships with the people I love fell apart from this. Because I’m so serious about this thing that I talk about it all the time. The people that are with me all the time, they hear it all the time. They hear it, they hear it, and they don’t want to hear it you know. And sometimes I get offended. This is my thing, this is my freedom, this is my life. When they tell me I need to stop talking about this thing that I’ve built so far, I get mad.
People think that they want to sell T-shirts, go ahead, try. I see a lot of people come and go. A lot of people ask me to help them promote their brand. So yeah, the one thing that I would do different is to spend more time with my family. Be more sensitive to their needs. Being around them more you know, and friends. I get my head into this thing so bad that nothing else matters. That’s why if anyone wants to do this thing, they better have my mentality, because I go hard. So they better go hard.
Any last thing you would like to tell everyone out there?
I just wish anyone who comes up next the best of luck. Knowledge, just know what you're getting yourself into, know about the brand, the business, the investments, that you're not going to get money right away. You sell shirts to make money, then you put it right back. It’s just like the drug game. People make money, put some aside, put it back in and keep it cycling and cycling. There is a lot of times I took big losses, I never gave up, I never told nobody, you know what I mean. Sometimes with my shows not enough people come, or I put too much into it you know, but I always keep my head up high, I still fight. Sometimes I had to take money out from my account from my clothes to cover some of this stuff. So now I have to work hard just balancing and maintaining, and managing. Everything in my head is all numbers, I know how much I made, how much I need, how much I need to put aside for Alex. I know everything. It’s not that easy. Printing shirts is the easy part, but now I got the product, what do I do with the product, who do I give all these shirts too?
You mean to tell me the shirts don’t magically sell themselves?
No, it doesn’t sell itself. But I have a big support group in the community. It’s not always about selling T-shirts, it’s about giving back as well.
After talking with Mit, it’s clear that he is serious about his brand. He lives, breathes and bleeds Midwest Monstaz. On paper it looks like Midwest Monstaz was an overnight success. Mit started it in 2013 and just 4 years later it has grown into what it is today. The fact is, Mit has been building relationships for years. After he printed his first shirt, he has been putting everything he has day and night into the business. He has sacrificed a lot to build something he is proud of. Mit is giving back to the community, and continuing to build relationships that will last long into the future.
We are proud to have Mit as a customer. Check out Midwest Monstaz!
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