Hi! My name is Eric Terry, and I’m the guy behind Linty Fresh. Linty Fresh started back in 2006 when I printed my first tee, Once Upon A War (below). I had originally submitted the design as an entry to a tshirt design competition, but when it didn’t go anywhere I took things into my own hands, not really having any idea what I was getting into. I’ve found that sometimes its those little spurts of naivety that result in life’s biggest surprises.
I’ll never forget the feeling of seeing my first batch of shirts arrive in the mail. Peeling that cardboard box open and rifling through all those tees – I was literally jumping and yelling around the house. But once the excitement wore off, the reality settled in: I’d just sunk $500 dollars into a pile of cotton. Now what?
(Me after the jumping and yelling, realizing how much work lay ahead. The chart on the wall in the background is a list of orders waiting to go out!)
At that point I didn’t have a site, or any sort of online presence apart from an email I’d blasted out with an ad featuring the design. That helped to rake in a few sales, but to sell the rest I knew I needed more. And thus began the slow and painstaking process of learning how to build a website, how to run an online store, how to ship orders, how to deal with customers, how to deal with the post office, understading customs and international shipping laws and so forth, not to mention the legal steps involved in registering my business. It was a huge undertaking, but with sales picking up slowly I still had enough wind in my sails to see my new enterprise head off in the right direction.
The next tshirt came a few months later, also a design that had been rejected in a design competition. I hadn’t quite made it out of the financial hole of the first printing, and this one put me deeper in, but my friends and family encouraged me to keep going and reminded me that ‘most businesses lose money in the first 3 years’. In other words, ‘don’t quit your day job waiting tables, Eric’. So I didn’t.
But week after week, month after month, things began picking up, with new tees slowly trickling out here and there. But the biggest change ever was about to come, in 2008, which would hugely impact the way I ran Linty Fresh.
(The first few tees from Linty Fresh, when they were few enough to fit on a small shelf in a closet…)
To be honest, I can’t remember exactly what it was that spurred this particular change, and it’s more likely that it was a series of thought processes I had after being more and more exposed to the tee industry, online shopping, and marketing articles. I realized, sometime in late 2007, that while Linty Fresh was releasing cool tees and people were buying them, it was lacking identity. Linty Fresh was merely a label to print shirts, but it didn’t have its own personality. I realized that in order to be viable in the industry and grow, I needed that. So I sat down and rethought everything Linty Fresh had been doing, and where I wanted to go with the designs, and who I was as a designer and as a person.
That’s when things really started to take shape with Linty Fresh. Instead of random designs, there was a common vibe to all the items, and the style became more consistent. And to give each shirt a sense of meaning, an additional layer, I started writing short poems for them. Each shirt would have its own story, it’s own legend, making it more special, both for me and for customers.
(Selling shirts in the rain at Renegade Chicago, a huge indie craft show. My mom stands helpfully in the background)
(The ever-growing LF inventory, early ’08)
This was a good strategy. Just 8 months later Linty Fresh became my full time job and I began travelling around the country selling my wares, which had at that point expanded beyond tees to include hoodies, belts, buttons, stickers, and decals. I moved from my bedroom into a separate apartment since the inventory was now growing by hundreds of shirts a month. But another change was on the way.
In 2009, I had the opportunity to live for a few months in China with a good friend of mine from Atlanta. The experience, while short, changed my life and caused me to rethink what I wanted to pursue most. (To see some examples of my experiences living abroad, check the VIDEOS section. While I loved running Linty Fresh, I realized that there was so much else out there to be experienced. In the end, I made the decision to move back to China in the Fall of ’09, leaving my company in the capable hands of my mother, who did an amazing job running it for many months. But because I was living so far away, it was impossible to keep up with things the way I wanted, and production on new items slowed.
In 2010, Linty Fresh went through another big change, with a close friend deciding to take the reins as co-owner of Linty Fresh while I continued life abroad. This worked out well for awhile, but unfortunately we were forced to discontinue this arrangement in 2011. With no one left to run the company, I had to close its doors.
Linty Fresh remained shut for about a year and a half. I began working as a teacher in China and often wondered how and if I could ever get LF back up and running. The answer to these questions came in 2012, shortly before getting married to my wife, Moah. The company that had been printing my tees offered to fulfill orders on behalf of Linty Fresh and manage my store front. Since they had the space, the manpower, and the business saavy, this was the perfect solution for me and Linty Fresh.
Linty Fresh came back online in late 2012, and is slowly being tweaked to make it even better than the old site. With new products on the horizon and a fresh new chapter in its life, I’m confident that Linty Fresh has many good years ahead of it!