Colten Garland ’20 — This summer, I had the opportunity to work with Joe Johnson ’11 and his company Obvious Shirts. Based in Chicago, it is a small t-shirt business that makes witty Chicago Cubs-themed t-shirts. I’m very thankful to the CIBE and the Small Business Internship Fund for allowing me to spend my summer here in Chicago working with Joe and gaining this valuable experience. Through my daily responsibilities and discussions with Joe, I’ve gained much more knowledge about what it takes to run a small business successfully.

The majority of my responsibilities are centered around operating the online store. The company is growing quickly, and we have pretty steady traffic on the site every day, so I’m responsible for keeping track of our orders, inventory, and other online-related issues, including making sure any problems are dealt with. I’ve also been able to sit in on meetings with owners of nearby retail stores that sell our shirts as well, and other businesses in the area that interact with Obvious Shirts regularly. During these meetings, we negotiate new orders, discuss where we want the partnership to go in the future, and other similar important business matters. These meetings are nice for me to sit in on because I can gain first-hand experience of the deal-making process and I get to see many of the moving parts that go on behind the scenes in small business operations.

I came to the company at an exciting time. Obvious Shirts is in the process of expanding our reach and our audience. Rather than strictly focusing on Chicago sports, as of late June, we have shirts in several MLB stadiums, and that number is growing. We have been in contact with other major sports teams about potentially selling shirts in more team stores. It’s been exciting for me to witness the growth of the company and help move it forward in the process. Once again, thank you to the CIBE and the Small Business Internship Fund for affording me this opportunity with Obvious Shirts. It’s been an extremely valuable experience, and I’m very thankful for the opportunity Joe, the CIBE, and the SBIF has provided me.