The Power of Expression

Tanish-RobisonPrint Syndicate is different. There are many places, online and off, where a consumer can buy quirky T-shirts or mugs. But Print Syndicate provides what co-founder Tanisha Robinson calls “a much more curated experience,” reaching out to less-served populations of social identities and enthusiasts.

Robinson and co-founder Michael Limes met when the pair was working at Skreened.com, a website that allows users to be able to design and upload their own T-shirt ideas for others to purchase.

“The longer we worked there, the more opportunity we saw for better designs on more than just T-shirts,” says Robinson.

In November 2012, Robinson and Limes decided to launch Print Syndicate, a technology, design and marketing company that sought to let niche perspectives find ways to express themselves through tees, throw pillows, iPhone cases, posters, and many other products. The company recorded $4 million in revenue in its first year and by 2014 jumped to $12 million.

“We serve ‘tribes’ that find it difficult to express themselves with off-the-rack merchandise. Try to find a shirt at a retail big box that expresses your views. Look Human [a sub-brand of Print Syndicate] has dozens of shirts alone for cat lovers, or introverts. Or alien believers. Have a particular fandom? We have hundreds of T-shirts, totes [and] phone cases that help our customers express their love for their particular tribe. Our entire business model is based on creating products for social identities that no one else is making products for,” Robinson says.

The company does not shy away from cutting-edge ideas, although it avoids hate speech.

“We have a lot of fun with social and cultural commentary, and live in parody and satire,” Robinson says, who has been profiled by CNN Money, Essence, Huffington Post, among other national outlets.
Print Syndicate gets its ideas from monitoring social media and other centers of Internet communications and has a rapid turn-around from idea to execution.

“We’re looking at what our customers are telling us they want, creating it that morning and shipping that afternoon,” says Robinson.

Print Syndicate’s unique perspective comes in part from Robinson’s unique background; she grew up in a Mormon family in small-town Missouri, and became an Arabic linguist in the Army before founding several Internet companies.

“I’m a woman, I’m black and I’m gay, so obviously, I’m very interested in social change. The future for us is to keep paying attention to social identity trends and provide our cultural commentary through our products, ” says Robinson, who is enthusiastic about the power of Print Syndicate. “I want to build a world-class company that supports self-expression and acceptance. I would like to believe that it’s important to Ohio, and our community in Columbus, that we exist here and that we can use our business and people as a lever for impact,” she says. Print Syndicate gave over 2,000 hours of community service and gave tens of thousands of dollars-worth of in-kind donations.

“We want to build a great company that also does great things in our community. It’s a huge motivator for me,” she says.

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