Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Don't forget your MITTENs!

Sweet companies, yeah Michigan has some of the coolest cats you could find! We have Michigan Awesome, Bell's Brewing, Cherry Republic, M22 and Great Lakes Proud. But there is a new group to the scene: The Awesome Mitten, a great company that is focusing on their 365 Days of Awesome campaign where they feature one super dooper cool thing about the land shaped like a hand each day! We are not talking about a little blurb, we are looking at solid copy on something new and awesome each day, how sweet it is!

Through correspondence with Alex Beaton, Business Development & Marketing Director for The Awesome Mitten, over the past week I have gotten the goods on what makes The Awesome Mitten so sweet:

1.       Where did the idea for the Awesome Mitten come from?
Well, this is the long-short version of it. I moved back to Michigan in September 2010 after living in Nashville, TN. When I decided to move back, my Tennessee friends didn’t understand why, which I understood, because most of them had never been north of Kentucky. What I didn’t understand, was why my Michigan friends were asking me why I was moving back. Since I had left, I had heard about all these cool things happening in Michigan; incubators were popping up all over the place, as were co-working spaces. There seemed to be tech movement of some kind going on in Detroit, TEDx events were happening all over the state, Grand Rapids now had Art Prize and seemed to position itself as this progressive hub -all of this stuff plus so many others I thought was incredible! So in a frustrated fury, I wrote a letter to the editor voicing my confusion: why weren’t Michiganders proud of all these things going on? How did we expect the rest of the nation to speak positively of us, if we couldn’t even muster up anything good to say? It’s kinda like the self help bullshit that I scoff at: “You have to first believe in yourself before you can expect anyone else to believe in you” - but its true. So one sleepless night in late September I bought the domain, started up a Facebook & a Twitter and went from there.

2.       What kind of products are you currently offering?
Just t-shirt and pins. We really aren’t aiming to make retail our primary business, but  instead focus on the content. Retail is merely a way to fund our adventures!

3.       Do you support any local projects or groups? 
We support anybody who supports MI!
Lilac Festival (Photo by Mel Libby)

4.       Favorite piece of Michigan lore?
The story about the Sleeping Bear Dunes! About the mama bear and her cubs! This just made me realize I don’t know that many Michigan tales. Hmmmm, I feel a new section of the website being born...

5.       Best Beach:
Empire. North of Traverse City. Hands down my favorite! Though I am also partial to an awesome beach along Highway 2 in the UP!

6.       Best Meal:
How can I choose?! I can’t, I just can’t. It literally changes every month! And depending on the city. I travel so much! Right now: In Traverse City, I’m a huge fan of the bruschetta at Stella. In Lansing, the pesto chicken club at Tavern of the Square. In Grand Rapids, the grilled cheese The Electric Cheetah. In Detroit, the mac n’ cheese at Cliff Bells.

7.       Best MI Beer:
I’m such a girl, I don’t drink beer....but my favorite Michigan wine (so far!) is Chateau Grand Traverse Late Harvest Riesling.
Founders Fest in GR (Photo by Chad Cramblet)

8.       Favorite Great Lake:
I’m very biased on this one. Lake Michigan. I grew up in Traverse City!

9.       Favorite outdoor activity in Michigan:
Are campfires an outdoor activity? Because I’m a big fan. I’m outside all summer long (as much as my schedule allows), usually on a lake!
Balloonfest in Howell (Photo by Brittany Green)

10.    Favorite Michigan based product:
This one is so hard!! My current obsessions are Great Lakes Potato Chip Company’s Sea Salt & Vinegar chips and Michigan Ice Cube Trays. The ice cube trays are so ridiculously cool! (no pun intended)

11.    Best advice you have been given about your company:
Have journalistic integrity. Anyone can pay to be listed on a site, but what we’re offering is free promotion of thing we genuinely enjoy doing! That same person told me, don’t try to do it all right off the bat - don’t be afraid to launch sections/features/products after your initial launch. That I really appreciated because I am such a type A personality, that until that point, in my mind I had to have this SUPER product at launch. And it was going to be perfect. But as a user of a great many websites and web apps, I enjoy the upgrades! They make me feel like the company is listening to my feedback, and cares about creating a better, more useful product for me. 

12.    What music do you guys jam to when you are packing boxes?
I wish I could rattle off some awesome Michigan artists, but I’m currently working on discovering them (with the help of our Music Director, Jon Miller)! So right now its the Black Keys.
(Photo by Jon Miller)

13.    Largest order filled to date:
This depresses me. I feel like it should be some outrageous number! We’ve only been selling for three weeks! 10 - a person bought them for all of their visiting family.

14.    Where is the farthest that you have shipped an order?
            Denver, CO

15.    If you were a pizza topping what would you be?
Feta, cuz feta makes it betta!

16.    Advice you would give others in starting your own business:
I think you can’t be afraid to talk about your business, no matter what it is or where it is in the development process! I have made so many truly valuable connections and met some awesome people, all because I reached out to talk to them. I might not have even known exactly why I needed to talk to them when I first reached out, but it yielded some great results! Also, find someone to do it with you. Ask for suggestions! Two of our most important things were suggestions - the t-shirt logo, and the “365 Days of Awesome” campaign. The campaign was such an incredible suggestion because it really helped us articulate a clear, concise goal for year one. Also, starting a company by yourself sucks - I’ve done it (not the Mitten), and its hard. Its so important to have someone who shares your vision and is there to collaborate with!

17.    Have you considered making Awesome Mitten Patches?
YES! We have so many ideas of the type of products we’d like to do! Retail is a icky business though, and requires cash to maintain inventory. Therefore we’re taking baby steps and testing the demand.

18.    Future plans for Awesome Mitten?
Too many to count! We’ve got an events calendar launching early next week, and a “Little Mittens” (stuff to do with kids) section coming in July. We’ll be hosting a launch party in September. Events are going to be a pretty regular thing for us starting in late 2011/early 2012. Obviously we would like to expand our merchandise offerings. We are also hoping for an optimized mobile site. I could go on and on with our plans, but we’ll leave it at that for now.

19.    Do you guys have a website, Facebook or Twitter account where people can check you out?



I would like to thank Alex for taking the time for this pseudo interview. We cannot wait to see what the next campaign is. (while thoroughly enjoying this one of course)

Please check out their daily blog:, it is chock full of great stories from all across this great state. You will be hooked in no time.



ChadCramblet said...

Thanks for the article on the site! And for posting my picture of the Founders cups!

miadventure said...

Thank you guys for the awesome project!