Created by two born-and-raised Hoosiers, Graham Brown and Grant Gilman, United State of Indiana locally designs and produces apparel to celebrate our beloved state.
Like many small businesses, USI had to make quick changes in order to keep the company afloat, all while doing what they do best: supporting and loving on their community. We spoke with Brown to learn more about how things look for them these days.
For people who may not know, what does United State of Indiana do?
United State of Indiana started out as a simple clothing brand. Our designs were all focused on Indiana, taking-pride-in-where-you’re-from type designs. That was about 10 years ago, right after I got out of college. The biggest change since then is we now also screen print everything in-house, doing custom screen printing for other organizations in the area, as well. Over the years we’ve stuck to a simple thing of making shirts and products for people who love Indiana and want to show it off, whether they live around here or have moved away and want a piece of home.
What effects on your business have you seen as a result of COVID-19?
Right as it all started, we had the same moment that all small businesses had, that everything-is-about-to-change moment. A decent amount of our business is wholesaling, so we knew that was done because those places were shutting down. The biggest question mark at this point is events. Another part of our business is setting up booths at local events like Indy Pride and the Indiana State Fair, so there’s some anxiety around that.
The day after everyone got locked down and there was this shroud of fear around the whole world, I didn’t want to just be like, “Hey, remember us? Buy some t-shirts!” So we created some new designs and repurposed old designs to support nonprofits that are doing work related to the pandemic. We made a shirt that says, “We’re all in this together,” and the “in” is the shape of Indiana. That shirt supports a food bank where I’m from in Fort Wayne and one where Grant is from in Terre Haute. We knew Indy would have a lot of support because it’s such a strong community, so we wanted to give back to the smaller communities where we grew up.
We’ve since rolled out collections that support other local organizations, like the United Way of Central Indiana and the Brewers of Indiana Guild. We’ve given over $3000 so far, which is awesome. It’s also kept us busy. We could’ve tried to just make it through, but it’s nice to feel like we have new stuff to work on and shirts to print every day.
What are you looking forward to in the future?
I’m looking forward to restaurants being open again, for the sake of the community and also so I can get out of my house. We have friends who own retail shops, so we’re excited for them to open their doors again. I’m also looking forward to having more places to go. I’ve worked from home for a lot of my life, but when I say that, I mean from a library or coffee shop. I’m eager to get back into the community.
Business-wise, we’re just trying to make enough to keep going to the next day. Because so many of our sources of income have disappeared, we’re trying to get new stuff up on the site every week to keep people interested. We have more local organizations that we’re working with and more designs in the queue. I have no idea how many times we’ll have to reinvent something or take a new approach to get through this, so right now we’re taking it a day at a time.