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Our Story

The Dream

Years ago, I had a question: why was it so difficult to find fresh, high-quality, unique items in a modern aesthetic?

Just one month after I graduated college, married my high-school sweetheart, moved to Burlington, VT, and started a full-time design job, I found myself brainstorming the solution to that question. I would design and launch a few t-shirts centered around my love for typography and minimal design. I felt like the design culture at the time was really lacking in this area, and apparently this sensibility connected with many people all around the world.

What started as an entrepreneurial experiment and outlet for my passion quickly grew into much more than just selling a few shirts.

That was August 2008. I had just four designs and 200 total shirts. But things accelerated quickly and all of a sudden, Ugmonk was being featured on several blogs, and sales started rolling in from countries all around the world. Those first four t-shirts were really well received, and before I knew it, I was sold out and needed to make a decision: call it a success and close up shop, or find a way to keep this unexpected business going.

I decided to keep going.

Then things really took off with the release of what’s become Ugmonk’s signature design, And Then I Woke Up, which remains one of our best-selling designs.

Going Full-Time

Through the first two years, I continued to build Ugmonk by working late nights and weekends to refine designs, organize logistics, and pack orders. Each new release received an enthusiastic response from the community, and knowledge of the brand spread organically through word of mouth and online features. My dream of starting my own brand was no longer just a dream.

I decided to follow my passion and make the jump.

Just before Ugmonk’s 2nd anniversary, I decided to leave my full-time design job so that I could focus all of my energies on the passion that I had for Ugmonk. As part of this change, my wife and I moved back to our hometown in PA, and my parents graciously agreed to allow their house to become the Ugmonk warehouse and shipping center.

It started with a simple idea & our mission remains the same: Create high-quality, well-designed goods that I would want to buy myself.

Ugmonk didn’t start with a formal business plan, and in fact I had very little background in business. Rather than following the “traditional” model of starting a business, I just tried to apply common sense and research to figure things out as they came up. I’ve found that the best way of learning is by doing.

It’s more than just t-shirts.
It’s a mindset.

Ugmonk always has been a project rooted in my passion for design. It’s not about reinventing the wheel, but about creating for its own sake, and making better versions of the products I want to own and use. This mindset of creation and attention to detail has allowed us to find success in unconventional ways, and to pioneer our own path as we’ve grown into a full brand.

We’ve shipped to over 67 countries around the world.

Of course, I never could have gotten the brand to this point without the support of thousands of people who appreciate Ugmonk and want to tell their friends about it. We’ve relied almost exclusively on word of mouth, and with the help of the Internet and social media, our reach has become truly global. We’ve shipped Ugmonk products to customers in more than 67 countries around the world, and have been featured in print publications and on various television media outlets. I’ve also been invited to share the Ugmonk story and my design philosophy at a variety of design conferences.

Giving Back

Another pillar of Ugmonk is the desire to give back to those in need. Just a few months after opening shop, we decided to hold our first annual Ugmonk Gives Back charity drive—donating a portion of each sale during the holiday season to provide meals to children in orphanages around the world. To date, we’ve been able to supply over 50,000 meals!

With your support we’ve provided over 50,000 meals for kids

We partner with a great organization called Rice Bowls, and they are extremely efficient in stewarding the donations they receive to serve the children in orphanages around the world. My wife and I got to experience this first hand when we were invited to visit a few of the orphanages in Honduras and Nicaragua. We are so grateful for the support of our customers that enables us to give back to these children!

Keeping it Personal

Even as we grow, one thing that I’ve always wanted for Ugmonk is to maintain the personal touch. We don’t try to make Ugmonk look like a big corporation. We are as transparent as possible. This is why I share a lot of the behind the scenes about how I design products and run Ugmonk. No matter how big Ugmonk gets, I always want to be accessible to fans and customers. I love connecting with people on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

A Family Affair

Ugmonk is truly a family-run business. My brother is my business partner and technical guru, my mom keeps track of our inventory and ships all of the orders, my sister-in-law handles the customer service and communication, and my wife has been a huge help in a variety of ways over the years. Making it a family affair has been fun and exciting.

What’s Next

Ever since the beginning, Ugmonk has been about my passion for design. Yes, we have more than four shirts available now. We’ve grown in a lot of ways, but at our core, we’re still the same. Every single item is still personally designed by me, and I think the designs are maturing alongside my own taste.

I quickly discovered that there was a lot more to running a brand, but it’s still the creation process that fuels me to keep going. Ugmonk will always remain a design-driven brand where design and quality come first.

The Face Behind the Brand

about-15

I’m Jeff.

I live in Downingtown, PA, with my wife, son, and our Boston Terrier, Pixel. I go by “Ugmonk” on all our social media platforms because the brand and I are so intertwined. Here are 5 other things you should know about me:

  1. The name Ugmonk is a secret. We’ve never shared where the actual word came from. But we field a lot of guesses.
  2. I’m kind of obsessed with my workspace. (Apparently a lot of other people are, too, since photos of the space have been downloaded over 1 million times.)
  3. I love good sourdough bread and good coffee. Chances are really high that I’m enjoying some right now while you read this.
  4. My wife and I love to travel. On our trip to Iceland I shot a video for fun, and it now has over 80,000 views!
  5. I do everything left-handed, but can only use the mouse in my right hand.

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