It’s not every day a Columbia Chamber of Commerce ribbon-cutting photo includes a yeti. The wooly creature politely posed at the June 5 grand opening for a new custom T-shirt shop, Fast Yeti Tees, located at the Broadway Shops.
Reid Lyle, a Memphis, Tenn., native who earned a strategic communications degree from the University of Missouri School of Journalism in 2005, opened the shop on April 8. Staff includes two graphic designers, Jordan Roudenis and Ryan Montgomery.
So why a yeti? We asked Lyle about that and his broader plan for success the day after his busy grand opening.
Tell us about the inspiration for your business.
We’ve all got an interest in art and a T-shirt is pretty much a completely blank canvas that can go in 100 different directions. One day you can do stuff that is very professional and serves a business purpose, and the next day, you can do something that’s a completely ridiculous gag gift.
We had one guy in the other day who needed his brother’s head on a dog’s body, and he needed this on a shirt. It keeps things interesting and makes things a lot of fun.
And the yeti?
How that came about, we definitely wanted to do something that was light and fun. We also wanted to do something that, just from a marketing standpoint, would stand out a little bit, especially as a new business, so we needed something that would get attention. We have people walk in all the time who are just wondering what the hell we’re all about.
I remember even the guy who was putting up our sign; he looked at me and said, “What’s a fast yeti?” So that’s great. It makes people curious and, we hope, makes people discover us.
Do you worry that it’s a little too ‘out there’? That people see it and don’t have a clue and don’t follow up?
Yeah, that is definitely a concern, and we have tried to strike a balance. When you come into our shop, it’s not in-your-face yeti stuff. It’s a really warm and inviting atmosphere. So, hopefully, it will spread through word of mouth that we’re not a zoo that keeps mythical creatures in here.
Aside from the yeti character, what sets you apart from your competition?
We do good work. We do quick work. One thing we do pride ourselves on here is we can do single shirts in 15 minutes, where a lot of folks have minimum orders of 12. We also employ professional graphic designers, and they all have professional experience. And, of course, we do larger run stuff, too.
In addition to that, we also have a Web element to all of this, so folks can submit art with us, and we pay them commissions if they sell.
And, this is in development right now, but we want to establish a local business section on our website where we put business designs online, so, say, you are a student who goes to school here and there’s some restaurant you really like — [we could put the business design on] anything we can physically print, so T-shirts, hats, polos, any apparel like that [and sell it on our website]. The business would get a commission.
If a customer doesn’t already have a design, will you help create one?
Yes, we’ll help you from start to finish, and that’s included in the price.
So should people look for the yeti out and about town?
[laughs] Yeah, the yeti does wander around sometimes. If you do see him and you happen to grab a picture of him, you can bring it in and show us on your phone for 15 percent off.