Showing your city / state / university pride in t-shirt form has become a part of nearly every wardrobe. Columbus-based Where I’m From is outfitting the proud of Ohio with its line of locally-made t-shirts and apparel.
The name says it all.
“All our apparel really celebrates the pride of where you’re from,” says Co-Founder Ryan Napier.
“That means something different for everybody,” fellow Co-Founder Andrew VanderLind adds. “We want to celebrate that.”
Where I’m From’s apparel celebrates the ‘Merica proud, to Ohio proud, to city proud and shows some university love for many of the state’s biggest schools. It’s the location-specific focus that the duo says sets them apart from the sea of love-local t-shirts.
Launched in March of 2014, Where I’m From has quickly spread its pride throughout the state. The brand started with wholesale accounts and selling on consignment through other stores, but about six months in realized they would prefer to fly solo.
Instead of committing to a full-scale brick-and-mortar, Where I’m From opts for custom-built mini-shop mall kiosks that clock in around 150-400 square feet.
“We found this very expandable model with the mini-shops that we have been able to open so rapidly,” Napier says.
The apparel company just opened its ninth mini-shop in the sate at Polaris Fashion Place and number 10 will open at the Mall at Tuttle Crossing next month. Where I’m From also hosts kiosks in malls in Mentor, Strongsville, Canton, Cincinnati, Akron, Dayton, Cleveland and Monroe.
The mini-shop model solved their biggest hurdle, a hurdle many businesses face when getting started.
“One of the biggest challenges was just trying to figure out a way to get our apparel and our name out in front of people,” Napier says.
The duo found that if people could feel the shirts, see the creative designs with their own eyes, they were much more interested. Early on, going to local markets helped Where I’m From get in front of customers, eventually leading to the mini-shop strategy – a strategy that has put their apparel in front of eyes across the state.
The idea of going into business together for Napier and VanderLind has been several years in the making. Both grew up in Canton and became friends through mutual acquaintances when they headed down to Ohio University.
Both finance majors, “We had a lot of common interests and even at that time in college we had an idea that we would maybe like to go into business together at some point,” Napier says.
After school they would go their separate ways for a time. VanderLind headed to Columbus to work for a healthcare company, Napier heading back to Canton to open a restaurant.
Taking after his entrepreneurial family, “I grew up around the business world which gave me a lot of the drive to want to do things on my own,” Napier says.
VanderLind would realize he preferred the doing it on his own after starting an apparel company with his wife.
“We learned a ton about what it means to sell apparel,” he says.
Napier would come in to help the husband-wife team, when a late night phone call gave rise to Where I’m From.
2017 sees nothing but more expansion for the apparel retailer. The 11th mini-ship and first out-of-state location is set for Florence, KY. Other neighboring states might be feeing the Where I’m From pride as the duo eyes areas like Detroit, Indianapolis, Pittsburgh and Louisville for further expansion.
“We definitely want to open up a physical storefront in a downtown area,” Napier adds.
Where I’m From is looking at locations in Short North, Over the Rhine in Cincinnati and Cleveland.
For more information, visit whereimfrom.com.