Mike Draper: Founder/Owner of RAYGUN
How did RAYGUN start?
I started selling t-shirts in college at the University of Pennsylvania in 2004 — just on campus out of a bag. In 2005, I moved back to Iowa and opened the store at East 4th and Locust. Now we’re bazillionaires and come to work via helicopter.
How did you come up with the name?
It used to be called SMASH and then a clothing company in California also called SMASH threatened to sue us, so we had to stop that. I wanted a noun, 4 or 6 letters and spelled properly. RAYGUN made it on the list and we could trademark it!
Where do you get all the ideas for the shirts? Do you sit down once a week with employees and just shout them out:)
We try and have regular brainstorming sessions, but sometimes get too busy. Still, a lot of the ideas come out of group idea sessions, just trying to come up with as many slogans on a topic as possible. Other times there is a just a “flash of genius” — and we use “genius” veeerrrrry loosely — where an idea occurs to someone and we start on that.
Do you see the brand going nationwide? What’s next?
We’ll never go physically nationwide. We’ll keep the brick and mortar stores only in the Midwest (so Nebraska to Ohio, Missouri to the Canadian Border). We’d like to be exclusively Midwestern. So not in NYC or LA or Austin or Portland. So kind of a lame exclusivity. Like a members-only Applebee’s.
What is your favorite t-shirt that has been made past or present? Why?
Des Moines: Hell Yes. is still my favorite. We sell a lot of it and you don’t pay rent with sunshine. However, it was the first shirt that started to really capture the voice of the store, and also showed that other people in Des Moines were “in on the joke.” that we all love Des Moines, live here, but no one should be THAT excited about Des Moines!
Check out all the t-shirts, onesies and koozies on the RAYGUN website.