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T-shirts propel student entrepreneurs

September 8, 2011

by Kayla Matteo

An original sketch by TJ Kennedy of Lo Key T Company (Kayla Matteo)

Students looking to start off the school year fresh now have some alternatives to buying the same old clothes at Crossgates. Two local businesses, Lo Key T Company and Made in Truth Clothing are now selling tees featuring original art. Both formed last fall, Lo Key T Company and Made in Truth Clothing showcase real business initiative by students living and attending school in the Pine Hills.

T.J. Kennedy, 20, a student at the state University at Albany and a resident of the Pine Hills, has exciting plans in store. Three new shirts will be released Friday, almost a year since his company first introduced itself in the fall of 2010.

Kennedy, who spent a good portion of the last year planning and promoting his brand, Lo Key T Company, said, “It started out as an almost unrealistic idea.” However, with the help of graphic designer Brian France, web designer Will Winkler, and designated head of finances Deven Gould, it has grown into an established brand locally.

The final product

Starting out with notebooks full of sketches done by Kennedy himself, the four meet regularly and discuss which designs they want to use. The images are then turned over to France, who reinterprets the sketches into graphic designs using a graphic design program on his computer. After that, the image gets sent to Central Rewards on Railroad Avenue, which re-sizes and then prints the images on t-shirts and tank tops in bulk. The shirts are sold on their website for around $15 each.

At their weekly meetings at Kennedy’s apartment on South Allen Street they also discuss promotional ideas and marketing strategies, along with planning events and trying to figure out how to best bring together a community of people with similar interests, like music.

Lo Key T Company plans to release two related designs weekly after starting things off this

Eugene O’Neill screen printing a Made in Truth original (Kayla Matteo)

week with three designs to “give everyone an idea of what we’re about,” said Kennedy. They are also starting a promotion where customers will receive a pair of Lo Key sunglasses with every order. They can be found  can find  on Facebook, Twitter, and at their website,

Another local brand in the t-shirt scene comes from the guys behind Made In Truth Clothing. Eugene O’Neill, 21, an art major at The College of Saint Rose, and Will Rowe, 23, a student at Bryant and Stratton, and a resident of Pine Hills, started Made In Truth and its sister company Truth T’s and Apparel in October of 2010. O’Neill, who makes music under the moniker “Subliminal Truth” met Rowe through music friends and told him about an idea he’d had to start a shirt company based around the idea of truth. Rowe was instantly intrigued and together they started coming up with ideas. The created the original Truth T, a design which they have continued to modify and work from.

Made In Truth t-shirts (Kayla Matteo)

In order to supplement cash flow for their own personal artistic business venture, they started Truth T’s and Apparel. Truth T’s prints shirts for local businesses like the Orlo School of Hair, and student groups like clubs and Greek life. With the revenues made from printing for Truth T’s, they then used Made in Truth in order to really express themselves with less of a financial risk.

“ We’re trying to represent how we feel and think about everything that’s going on around us,” said Rowe of the designs, which often include their logo – a barcode. “We know a lot of people and we know what they like and dislike. We know what’s hot,” said O’Neill.

What makes Made in Truth different from most t-shirt companies is the process in which they are made. Screen printing on their own saves them money and stress by eliminating the need for help from a screen printing company. The designs, which generally start out as graphics, are made into screens and printed onto shirts by O’Neill and Rowe themselves in a studio in O’Neill’s home in Averill Park. Printing shirts one by one is time consuming, but it is well worth it to them.

They are currently accepting orders through Facebook, email, and word of mouth. They hope to have their online store up and running this month and are always open to suggestions from the public. “We’re trying to incorporate everyone’s lifestyle into the way they express themselves,” said Rowe.

Both Lo Key T Company and Made in Truth promoted their t-shirt brands  at the Camp Bisco music festival in Mariaville this summer. Because students are their primary customers, the Internet also plays a large role in both businesses, saving them money on overhead. They use Facebook and Twitter for promotion and to cut down on costs.

Lo Key T Company and Made in Truth have similar goals and aspirations to bring the community closer through art and music, and they aren’t alone. Other companies have started recently and locally, including thINK Apparel in Schenectady and U IS Nation Clothing in Albany.

“I see more and more students coming in with little t-shirt lines,” said Jim Holodek, of ALLU Inc., a screen printing and embroidery company on Interstate Avenue near the University of Albany. “It’s definitely a trend.”  -30-


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