The Origin Story of Geenyus Brand

Geenyus Brand began in 2013 when Kirk Johnson, creative director at Nashville web design studio 323 Design, decided to start making t-shirts as a fun side project. Here's the story as told by Kirk...

How it All Began

I've always loved t-shirts ever since I was a kid. Now that I'm grown I still love them, but finding a well-designed t-shirt with vintage style on a super soft fabric that fits great is not easy. So, I decided to start designing my own t-shirts, the kind I wanted to wear. 

Initially, my goal was to sell enough t-shirts to cover my printing costs and keep a few for myself. This felt like a genius idea. Hence the name Geenyus Brand.

Creating the First Shirt

The first t-shirt I designed was for my hometown of Franklin, TN. I wanted to create something that was clean and classic, but also had a vintage look. I stressed over font choice, layout and design details to get it just right. 

Then, one weekend I decided to setup a booth at the Franklin Main Street Festival.

I sold over 100 shirts in 2 days and knew I had something. I realized that other people really liked the same type of t-shirt that I did. 

Creating More Shirts & Selling Online

After the initial success at the Main Street Festival I decided to make 2 more t-shirts. I created a Nashville t-shirt (we live 10 minutes from Nashville), a Chicago Cubs t-shirt (I grew up a Cubs fan and my wife is from Chicago) and started an Etsy shop to see if I could sell them online.

To my surprise, the t-shirts started selling on Etsy. I created more designs (Boston, Colorado, California) and sold more shirts. I couldn't believe they were actually selling.

Turning a Hobby Into a Business

I enjoyed selling t-shirts online, but it wasn't a business. It was a hobby. The serial entrepreneur inside of me began to think of ways to turn my little hobby into a business.

I began to reach out to local retail shops in Franklin to see if they would be interested in selling my shirts. A few shops said yes and then something really cool happened. The t-shirts started selling, and they started selling fast.

Shops were calling to order more shirts than we had in stock and our online sales were growing too. I spent hours late at fulfilling online orders, folding shirts and pulling stock for retailers. My wife Rebecca and our kids would even help pack orders from time-to-time.

Before I knew it, my t-shirt hobby had turned into a real business and I began to put together a small team of people that could help me make my operation more efficient and run it like a true business.

Where We're at Today

The demand for our t-shirts has continued to grow as we partner with more stores in Tennessee and throughout the country and we've begun expanding into products outside of t-shirts such as hats, sticker and posters.

I'm thankful to be able to do something that I love every day. I never get tired of seeing a new order come in from the website or dropping t-shirts off and chatting with retail shop owners.

A Little More About Kirk Johnson

I hail from the rough-and-tumble streets of Brentwood, Tennessee. These days I live in Franklin with my wife Rebecca and our four children (Logan, Lilly, Josie and Isaac). We love our church…we eat out way too much…we sleep way too little…and live in absolute terror of a future with 3 teenage girls in one house.

I was blessed to have the opportunity to play quarterback for the University of Illinois from 1995-1999. Every now and then people ask me what it felt like to play college football. Well, it felt a little bit like this…check out my college football “highlights” video below.

Our Design Studio

Our studio is located in the Moran House in the heart of historic downtown Franklin, TN. Charles Moran, an accomplished cabinetmaker, built the Moran House circa 1820. In his shop on the premises, he made furniture for the finest houses in the area.

Dr. Thomas A. Pope bought the house in 1896 and practiced dentistry in the office next door until his death in 1947. Miss Mary Pope taught piano here for over 60 years. The Moran House has received a preservation award for the sensitivity with which it was converted to a private residence.