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KISS ME, I’M IOWISH’

Small town business finds big success

Published: Monday, April 29, 2013 11:30 a.m. CDT • Updated: Tuesday, April 30, 2013 11:09 a.m. CDT
Caption
(CNA photo by SARAH BROWN)
Matt Brummett delivers an order of Iowish onsies to Bette Sellars at the Amish Country Store and Iowa Welcome Center in Lamoni.

For Creston resident Lauri Long, 2007 was the launch for what has become a national clothing concept for her trademarked slogan, “Kiss Me, I’m Iowish.”

One wouldn’t think a T-shirt bearing the Iowish brand would be worn anywhere but Iowa, however, Long says more than 75 percent of her T-shirt sales are by former Iowans living outside of the state.

“It’s interesting,” said Long. “People who live on the east and west coast, who will never move back, still want a piece of Iowa.”

How it started

In 2007, Long and a friend picked up some Iowa postcards to show people where they were from and stopped at a Des Moines airport gift shop before heading to Washington, D.C.

“She kept forgetting the postcards at the hotel,” said Long. “So, I thought it would be nice to wear something people can see. To start the conversation.”

Long said she’s been using the slogan for more than 30 years in her projects and eventually approached a friend to create a design prototype.

Shortly after Long brought an Iowish T-shirt and letter explaining her story to the Des Moines Register, she was contacted by the lifestyle editor.

“He said, ‘I’d like to do a story on you,’” said Long. “The article came out the next day.”

Long said, once her story was published in the Des Moines Register, she was contacted by various people, asking if she was going to protect the word “Iowish.” In 2008, she did just that.

“I am so glad I did,” said Long. “There are so many people fighting me to use that word.”

Knock-offs

With sales doubling every year, it’s no wonder other companies are creating their own, yet very similar, version of the Iowish shirt.

Long said, the first time she discovered knock-off Iowish shirts was when she received an email from a woman in 2011 claiming her granddaughter bought one at Walgreens in Ames. Apparently, a larger company began distributing “Iowish” T-shirts without Long’s knowledge.

“We asked them to stop,” said Long, “There’s always going to be people out there selling them without me knowing.”

Despite the copycats, Long is embracing the enthusiasm of the larger companies and planning to work with them next year on expanding the Iowish brand.

“It’s just something people need to be more aware of — to see if something is trademarked,” said Matt Brummett, Long’s son, who also manages the marketing efforts, web presence and social media of the Iowish brand.

Customizations

The backside of the original “Kiss me, I’m Iowish” T-shirt featured tidbits on various small towns and most importantly — pointed out Iowa to be the corn, not potato, state.

The standard Iowish design features an outline of the state of Iowa with the word “Iowish” across the state. Some designs have “Kiss me, I’m Iowish” emblazoned across the top, while others have added a shamrock. Some customers will even add their own “Iowish” name to the back of the shirt.

“The Spurfsledge family asked to have ‘Mama Spurf, Papa Spurf and Spurf one, two and three so they could wear them in Hawaii,” said Brummett. “The Carroll family had a large reunion in Missouri and each offshoot of the family wore a different color shirt.”

Long said it’s not uncommon for customers to send them photos of ‘alterations’ to their Iowish shirts.

“They alter them to make them look designer,” said Long. “It’s kind of neat.”

Brummett said Iowish T-shirts, sweat shirts and onesies may be purchased in bulk or individually in any color.

Iowish for a cure

For the latest Iowish design, Long and Brummett have replaced the ‘o’ in Iowish, with a silhouette of a ribbon, which is symbolic of support for a variety of causes.

“We have created an opportunity for nonprofits to fundraise with our shirts,” said Brummett. “The shirts will be available in all colors, such as pink for breast cancer awareness, blue for autism and so forth.”

The clothing, which is printed on high-quality cotton shirts from American Apparel, are currently available at the Amish Country Store in Lamoni and on the Iowish website, www.iowish.com and will soon be available at She-Nae’s in Creston and seasonally at select Walmart stores and Raygun in Des Moines and Iowa City.

For more information or to place an order, visit www.iowish.com, email iowishtm@gmail.com or call (641) 344-5336.

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