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T-Shirt Designer - a Young Entrepreneur to Watch

  • Deborah Block

Micha Weinblatt is considered one of the 10 ‘Generation Next’ entrepreneurs to watch. The 28-year-old T-shirt designer launched his Crooked Monkey company in 2005. The designer's creations - shirts that are playful and irreverent - appeal to a younger generation.

Entrepreneur Micha Weinblatt says he likes to make people laugh, especially through his T-shirts. In 2005, he scraped together enough money to start Crooked Monkey to make and sell T-shirts.

"And 'Keeping it Fresh’ is just kind of a mentality, making sure you look good, having a good time," said Weinblatt.

His parents provided the corporate headquarters - the basement of the home where he’d grown up in Potomac, Maryland.

"Welcome to Crooked Money International Headquarters,' he said. "Let me bring you over to the men’s sections. This is where all the men’s T-shirts are."

Weinblatt combines witty sayings with vintage graphics inspired by designs on T-shirts from earlier decades.

"This is one of my favorite T-shirts," said Weinblatt. "It’s ‘Keep the Ratio Strong’. It basically means that when you go to a party, you want there to be one sausage, one guy for every two buns, two girls."

He comes up with his own ideas but also gets some from other people. He says he got his humor from his father, Stewart, who is a rabbi.

"Some of them are a bit risqué but it’s a fun kind of a thing, and so he and I have an agreement - and the agreement is he doesn’t censor my sermons and I don’t censor his T-shirts," said Stewart Weinblatt.

Many of the shirts are designed for high school and college students.

"It shows that you don’t take yourself too seriously, but yet we also have that fashion angle on it as well so you still look good," said Micha.

Weinblatt and a friend launched Crooked Monkey at a bar near the University of Maryland, where he was a political science student.

"One of the main shirts that we sold that night was our 'Never Leave College' shirts," he said. "We were seniors at the University of Maryland. We didn’t want to leave college and we knew a lot of our friends felt the same way. So this was a top seller that night and has continued to do well for us."

The event was so successful that they decided to expand the company to include more T-shirt designs. Later, Weinblatt bought out his partner.

Now that he’s left college, his brother, Noam, who’s also at the University of Maryland, keeps him on top of the latest campus trends.

"Probably only two of my shirts that I own are not his. I’m a walking billboard," said Noam. High school interns who work for him in Maryland also keep him up to date, as do 10 staff members who work in Crooked Monkey showrooms in Los Angeles and New York.

Micha Weinblatt constantly changes his catalog to add or drop designs. He says animals dressed in clothes are popular now.

"So he’s wearing cool looking glasses, a fedora and a scarf," said Micha. "Looks like he’s ready for the winter. And so we’ve had a lot of fun with these animal T-shirts."

Weinblatt is now marketing a new high end line called 'Blueprint'.

"The shirts have architectural accents on them and it looks like it has that rough draft feel when someone created that first blueprint," he said.

Crooked Monkey has also expanded to include T-shirts for children.

"This says ‘You’re the vanilla to my chocolate," he said. "Vanilla and chocolate syrup always go very well together. And so it’s a good message and it’s a cute message."

Crooked Monkey shirts are sold on the company website, as well as in more than 500 stores in the United States and around the world.

"We’re sold in Guam, in Japan, in Saudi Arabia, in India, we have a distribution center in Canada and also in the Philippines," said Micha.

Weinblatt says fierce competition in the T-shirt business is making him think more creatively. From its modest beginnings, Crooked Monkey is expected to make $750,000 this year.