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The Scarlet & Black

T-shirt company exhibits, educates, donates

Have you ever dreamt of starting your own business? Have you ever wanted to go out on a limb and just take a shot? Mike Draper, co-founder of the apparel company RAYGUN, did just that when he started his own business from scratch. Today, Draper’s business sells more than one million dollars’ worth of products each year.

Draper graduated from University of Pennsylvania in 2004 without a clear plan of what he wanted to do with his life. He began designing and selling tee shirts out of a bag on various college campuses throughout the country. Over time, this business expanded to include two stores and the distribution of shirts to over 20 stores across the U.S. In fact, one of those stores is our very own Pioneer Bookshop, where loyal Grinnell students can find the popular RAYGUN shirt that reads “Grinnell: Miles away form ordinary… and from everything else.”

Last Friday, RAYGUN held an exhibit in the Grinnell Arts Council Building at 926 Broad Street. The event, coordinated by Molly Rideout ’10 of the Grinnell Area Arts Council, started off the fall season with a bang, thanks to the t-shirt company’s visit.

“I was thinking how could we move things in some way to attract the 15-40 age range and that’s where I thought of RAYGUN because they’re so incredibly popular on campus,” Rideout said.

Draper’s exhibit featured the transition between early RAYGUN designs and more recent styles as well as the company’s history.

“The show [chronicles] not only how the style has developed and what different shirts we have done, but I’m also including notes on the business side of things to give people a window into the parallel sides of a creative company —the business side and the art side—that grow in tandem.”

The exhibit was an eclectic mix of art and business. The designs reflected the ups and downs of the company, turning from left wing political messages to a homier Midwest feel at the time when the business was undergoing financial and legal troubles. The exhibit also drew a variety of visitors, from RAYGUN fans to people with an interest in the business.

Draper designed the exhibit to educate people not only about RAYGUN but also the ins and outs of running a business, art-related or otherwise.

“I not only hope to attract anyone who is familiar with and wants to learn more about RAYGUN, but I’m gearing the show toward anyone who wants to make a living selling art or running any company,” Draper said.

RAYGUN donated all profits from t-shirt sales to the Arts Council.

To learn more about RAYGUN or to purchase RAYGUN clothing, visit

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