Raygun founder on how to win brick & mortar

Mike Draper, founder of Raygun, holding a raygun.

In an era of big box stores and eCommerce behemoths, Mike Draper of Raygun made an ultra-successful brick-and-mortar business selling… T-Shirts? Draper explains how brick-and-mortar is a huge untapped advantage when competing with large out-of-touch big-box retailers and eCom companies.

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Mike Draper, Founder of Raygun

Mike Draper is the founder and owner of Raygun. Raygun is an Iowa-based business that “puts words on stuff.” Those words end up on clever t-shirts, apparel and anything the team thinks up. Draper says, if you can put words on it, they’ve tried it.

Raygun and Draper found renown by doubling down on local Iowa “inside” jokes with a sarcastic tone. Phrases that are commonplace around the state, are probably his creation.

Raygun famous Iowa phrases:

  • Iowans: The Few The Proud, The Extremely Attractive (Buy It)
  • Iowa: Wave The Next Time You Fly Over! (Buy It)
  • Des Moines: French for The Moines (Buy It)
  • Iowa: 75% Vowels, 100% Awesome! (Buy It)
  • Kiss me, I’m Iowish (Buy It)
  • Entrepreneurship: The Gray Area Between Employed and Unemployed

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Mike Draper background

Draper got his start making custom t-shirts during his senior year of college at the The University of Pennsylvania, looking for ways to finance graduate school. After traveling around the east coast following his senior year, after traveling around the east coast he found success in custom printing and selling.

Draper realized he needed to find his niche which brought him back to his native land Des Moines. Starting with one storefront, he is in the process of opening up his 8th. Stores are now located all over the state of Iowa, going as far as Chicago, Kansas City and Omaha. 

Founded as “Smash” many years ago, the company changed its name to Raygun.

Iowa Brick and Mortar Retail

In a world where e-commerce seems to be taking over, Draper emphasizes the importance of brick and mortar, and how irreplaceable face-to-face interactions are. It’s vital to find a niche you succeed in, instead of trying to compete with national companies that offer everything.

Draper’s advice for Iowa businesses owners, and anyone else for that matter, is treat every customer like a performance or audition, you are talking to the customer and their 7 closest friends.

At the end of the day, Draper and Raygun are trying to leave a positive impression on the community with funny t-shirts, some about events as they happen. There is no direct competition for them because no other business knows the clientele like them. They live in the community, and are immersed in the culture. This is a clear advantage Raygun has over e-commerce and they don’t take it for granted. Raygun found their niche in Iowa and are taking advantage of it everyday, showing up with the drive to run a business and leave a lasting impact on the community.

Check out more from Raygun here

Support Raygun here

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