Most people believe dreams are distant goals, but that wasn’t the case for 21-year-old Christie Killeen who took a sketchbook full of designs and launched her dream t-shirt business.
For Killeen, now a senior, it all started out as a small idea during sophomore year of college. But, it was during a car ride with her sister that she began to consider making this dream a reality.
“I started thinking of different things I could print my designs on,” Killeen said, wearing an unconventional t-shirt, similar to many of her designs. On campus, she is often seen wearing fun, avant-garde t-shirts.
When she made her business official, Killeen decided to call it “Chrispy Designs.”
When Killeen presented the idea, her family and friends were supportive of it. “I thought it was a great idea based on the designs she had and the potential they had,” said Luc Patberg, Killeen’s boyfriend.
The start of her business seemed like fate.
Killeen, who worked for her uncle’s architecture studio at the time, was required to take photos of a building when, one day, a storeowner came out and confronted her, asking what she was doing. Killeen explained she was there for her job, so he let her get back to work. But it was not until after Payne went back inside the building that Killeen realized the store she was taking pictures of was a t-shirt printing business.
“I had already been doing research for about two months, trying to find different printing companies. I was trying to find somebody local, so I could build a relationship with them,” Killeen said.
Killeen walked into the shop and spoke with the storeowner for about an hour. Luckily, she had her flash drive with her that day, so the storeowner printed two t-shirts to give her an idea of what the final product of her designs would look like.
From the time she met Payne, to getting all of her t-shirts printed, it took approximately three months to get the business fully launched. Killeen funded the entire business herself without financial help from family or others. She is the creator, curator and manager of the whole operation.
While grateful for her business, one thing Killeen has struggled with is time.
“Being a college kid, I was really limited in the amount of time, money, and effort I wanted to put toward creating and really developing my brand. I was taking 16 [credit] hours during that semester I actually got the t-shirts printed, so there was only so much time I could devote to it – with all of the schoolwork I [had].”
Although Killeen was balancing school and her business, her mind never stopped thinking of new creative ideas. Most of her designs come from the sketches and doodles she has in her sketchbook. She scans her sketches and then does some final editing in Photoshop.
Right now, Killeen is putting “Chrispy Designs” on hold. It was difficult to manage a business, in addition to school work.
But Killeen’s supporters are sure she will grow her business and brand in the future.
“I think this business has so much potential. After she graduates I feel like she will either find a job that allows her to work on her products, or I could see this being her job on the side while she is working [elsewhere],” said Madeline Suelmann, ’19, a close friend to Killeen.
Until then, Killeen will be focusing on her academics – while the creativity flows from her mind to her sketchpad.
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