A Message Tee for Every Mood

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Crowd-sourcing works for lots of stuff that exists in the world — art projects, video games, help with outrageous medical bills — but what about silly or cool T-shirts? That's the concept of TeePublic, a venture launched by Josh Abramson, 31, the co-founder of College Humor and Vimeo. After Abramson began running Busted Tees, the leading online purveyor of funny T-shirts — he pairs comedians with designers to birth shirts like "Reunite Pangea" and "Poehler-Fey 2016" — he realized that a lot of "designer-artists had great work that was never making its way onto a T-shirt," he says. "There's Threadless on one end of the spectrum, where you can only get a T-shirt on if you win their competition and are selected by their editors. On the other end of the spectrum, there's CafePress and Spreadshirt, which have so many designs that you feel like you're at Wal-Mart."

TeePublic, now in its second week, has received designs like a piece of French toast saying "Bonjour!" and a delicate drawing of Dalí's mechanical elephants. If 30 people in a month agree to buy your shirt, TeePublic commits to putting the design in production and hands the designer $5 for each shirt sold. "Anyone can sell 30 shirts if they put their mind to it, and if we can't get 30 people to say they want something, then it probably isn't worth making anyway," says Abramson, who has about 80 T-shirts with sayings on them in his closet, though he admits that he's wearing more solid-colored T-shirts now that he's older. "I'm hoping that TeePublic becomes the largest platform for selling and discovering T-shirts online — it's definitely possible!" he says. "That being said, I'll still be pretty happy if we just manage to create a little self-sustaining community of T-shirt designers and T-shirt lovers. Small is fine."