What starts out as a small hobby often leads to something bigger, and this couldn’t be truer for Andrew Dixon and Matt Goldberg of White Bear Lake. Something they loved doing evolved from a fun activity to a time-consuming hobby, and now into a start-up career for both of them.
The guys grew up across the street from one another, and have been collaborating on different projects, big and small, since they can remember. If they shared a passion, they teamed up, so it only seemed normal to go into business together.
In 2011, the two launched Da Missing Ink, a high-quality clothing company that offers apparel with a simple twist: less ink. “We both wanted to be our own boss, and having our own brand and clothing is where we felt we could do that,” Dixon says. “The two of us are still figuring things out as we go, but every day is progress, and we have come a long way since day one.”
They knew they wanted to start a business selling clothes because, as Dixon puts it, “we have both been fairly fashionable guys and like to be presentable and look good.” The idea to use less ink came from Dixon and Goldberg seeing a need in the clothing industry to save the ink and make a more wearable product, which they sell online and at occasional events around the Twin Cities.
(Left: SnapBack Hat, $25; DMI Sunglasses, $8; MN Swirl Tee, $21; Right: Winter DMI Beanie, $15.50; Red Tri-blend MN Tee, $21; ‘SotaProof Full-zip Unisex Hoodie, $60.)
Da Missing Ink sells everything from tank tops to fall- and winter-weight hoodies for men, as well as women’s shirts, sunglasses, winter hats and Snapback hats. And all the products somehow include the duo’s shared passion for art, design and music. “If we could put our own spin on some clothes and show off our styles, we thought, why not?” says Dixon.
Many of the designs use more outlines then filled-in blocks of ink, but Dixon and Goldberg don’t think it takes away from the designs themselves; less ink is actually an advantage in some cases, and makes the designs look cleaner. The garments are more breathable and wash cleaner with less ink, and, of course, are saving on the amount of ink printed on clothes.
Dixon has always been interested in art and design; he handles the design work with input from Goldberg, and all the designs are originals from the duo. The pair is also interested in music and supporting local music artists, as they consider themselves local artists as well.
“Music has always been a huge part of our lives,” Dixon says. “Our brand has an urban twist to it.”
The company’s fall and winter line is called ’SotaProof, a name coined by the guys last year; it’s their best-selling merchandise. They tried to focus on the Twin Cities’ interest in Minnesota-themed winter wear. “We have gotten a lot of positive feedback on this line and—we hate to brag—but the logo is pretty cool!” Goldberg says.
They use a local screen printer, Streamline Design, for their embroidery and printing needs, and have gained advice and lessons from the company’s owner, Bill Kochlin.
With Dixon doing the design work and Goldberg handling the company’s finances, it’s pretty much been just the two of them running the company and bringing in money, plus occasional help from friends and family, such as when they were invited to vend at Soundset Music Festival, “which was amazing,” Goldberg adds. While this has worked for them for a long time, the pair thinks it may be time to up their game and are looking forward to the changes ahead.
“We’ve mainly been trying to grow the company organically with little financial assistance,” Goldberg says.
Dixon and Goldberg are excited about the future of their company. They hope people notice the time and effort they put into every article of clothing, and the quality that results. The community has been very supportive, they say, and their journey has been the ride of a lifetime.
“There have been many Mountain Dew- and boneless-wing-fueled nights of design work, but in the end, it is definitely worth the baggy-eyed mornings!” Goldberg says.
(Photo by Eli Schwartzman)