From time to time, we like to highlight new and growing small businesses in Michigan. It’s part of our shop-local philosophy, and these growing entrepreneurs often have exciting stories to tell. For example, Brian Lewis approached Thumbwind Publications about doing business with them. We found that the Midwest State of Mind appeal company gives 10% of net profits back to Midwest charities, non-profits, and other groups committed to keeping the Michigan Midwest great. During our exchange, we thought Brian and his wife Anne had a great story on how they managed to bootstrap their company and quickly grow an appraisal business with a Midwestern flair.
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What motivated you to start A Midwest State of Mind?
My wife & I grew up in the Midwest, raised our kids there, and wanted to create a lifestyle brand that celebrated all the great things it has to offer. Exceptional people, beautiful natural resources, fantastic cities, and iconic towns & villages. Seasonal roads, bike trails, festivals, beaches, excellent schools…kindness, culture, diversity, neighbors & four magical seasons…the list goes on forever. So that’s why our tagline is MIDWEST—where life is better.
We did early product samples, and my wife Anne (and co-founder) modeled them, and we took photos. The reaction was so positive that we moved forward with the entire line.
How long has A Midwest State of Mind been in business, and what is its history?
We have two other lifestyle brands that have done well (www.statelywear.com & http://www.lesswork.com), so we had a framework of how to build the brand. My wife & I saw an opportunity to celebrate what we love with the Midwest State of Mind™ brand and bring the Midwest vibe under one roof. Connecting all the states together has power to it. If you ask people who aren’t from the Midwest about the vibe, they always smile and say, ‘Absolutely, there is a special vibe to the Midwest. It’s friendly & inviting.’ Sometimes when you live here, you can forget how special it truly is. Midwest State of Mind™ launched in early 2022, and the response has been spectacular.
We just signed a license agreement with Imperial Sports, one of the oldest and best companies for hats, t-shirts & hoodies. They are Fanatics’ #1 supplier and sell 500,000 t-shirts/week. Early on, I asked them if they could handle the Today Show selling 2,000 Midwest State of Mind™ hats in a day, and they said, on average, they sell 20,000 hats & beanies per week. We feel lucky to be with them, but we showed them the designs, and they instantly connected. It makes sense since they are in Missouri.
We now have over 100 affiliates signed on who sell our products. Stores, influencers, and new media partners are signing on. It’s perfect for newspapers & magazines. If you love the Midwest or your customers are in the Midwest, then the Midwest State of Mind™ brand is a great fit to partner with.
What are the products and services you offer?
Every Midwest state has its image as part of the Midwest State of Mind™ brand. Then each state has its own t-shirts, hoodies, cropped hoodies, leggings, tote bags, and drawstring bags. On top of that, we will be offering our designs at no charge to any state tourism office, chamber of commerce, or store that promotes tourism.
What are you doing with A Midwest State of Mind that you are particularly proud of?
Every product is expertly made one at a time. Our materials are environmentally sourced, and we use modern biodegradable inks & dyes that are bold, vibrant & colorful. They look fantastic. By making products this way, there is no waste. No extras end up in a landfill, which is a big problem in the apparel world. It takes 3-6 days to fill an order, but we think protecting the environment is worth it.
I would also say that we are very proud to be able to share the Midwest vibe with people who live here and ones that, for whatever reason, don’t anymore. While most of our orders are from the Midwest, we have customers across the country who proudly wear the Michigan Midwest State of Mind™. Last week, we got an email from a customer in South Carolina saying they have a group of people originally from the Midwest who use our bags and do yoga in our leggings. It makes you smile.
Additionally, it is connecting with Chambers of Commerce and state tourism offices. Because we celebrate the Midwest, it is a natural connection to work with them. A billboard that has our tagline with a special Midwest image is captivating.
How did the Covid-19 pandemic affect A Midwest State of Mind?
The pandemic became an opportunity for stores and us in the Midwest. With our affiliate program, stores can sell our products but never have to take inventory. We can be revenue generators for them, and they have no risk. This is also an excellent opportunity for stores if the economy gets rocky, which it looks like it might. The store can put our products on its website and send an email to its customers that links to our site. They get a commission on orders. It is easy. Again, we have over 100 affiliates, and it’s growing. The Today Show loves the brand, and doesn’t be surprised if you see some of our products there this fall.
What changes will you be making, or what things will you be doing going forward with A Midwest State of Mind?
Product-wise we will be adding Camelback™ water bottles and Champion™ windbreakers for each state.
On a more significant level, we’ve heard from people like John Mellencamp and other celebrities that I can’t mention right now who love the brand. So we will work with them and tourism offices, chambers of commerce & stores to share the Midwest vibe. We will offer our brand designs at no charge to these groups. Giving them the rights to our designs to put on billboards & other advertising to promote the entire Midwest is suitable for every state and business. It is the most exciting part of the brand.