American apparel

Printing shirts and a dream at 7Thirty8 Apparel

By Erin Callahan

Photo: Matt Overholt quit his day job to run 7Thirty8 Apparel full-time, to ‘live his dream’; photos: Cori Morse

7Thirty8 Apparel started with a 30th birthday, a year’s worth of money saved, and a beard.

Twelve years after Matt Overholt graduated high school, he decided it was time for a change. He quit his job of more than a decade, and used his spare time to revisit a passion he discovered in high school.

“I went to a joint vocational school and took a printing and graphic arts course there,” he says. “I was pretty drawn to screen printing; getting to wear a shirt that I made was pretty awesome. So after I left my job in 2012, I bought a screen printing start-up kit. Turning 30 just really got to me for some reason, so I wanted to do something new and different. This was just something fun and creative to do for the hell of it.”

Around the same time, Overholt was part of a beard and mustache club and competed in Ohio and surrounding states. On the way to a competition one night, one of his friends boasted, “I got 99 problems but a beard ain’t one.”

“I thought, ‘That’d make a great shirt,’” Overholt recalls. “So I made one, and that’s what really got it going. I listed it in my Etsy shop, and the owner of Simply Vague in Columbus reached out and asked if I wanted to sell it [on] consignment in her shop. It was never really in my plans, but one thing led to another and other stores started contacting me. I still wasn’t pursuing anything seriously at that time, but it started snowballing from there.”

Overholt held a few jobs screen printing for other shops while building 7Thirty8 in his spare time, but it wasn’t long before he had to make a choice.

“I had to stop doing 7Thirty8, or do it full time,” he says. “I was constantly working—I would come home from work and immediately work more. And on the weekends, I was driving to Columbus or wherever to drop shirts off, or I’d have a show, so it was just nonstop. It just came to that point where I kind of had to, and I didn’t want to quit my day job until I really had to. I had been saving so I had a year’s worth set aside, and it was an opportunity I couldn’t miss.”

As of June 1, 7Thirty8 is up and running full-time, and Overholt’s products are currently sold in 17 stores throughout Ohio. He also does contract work for other individuals and shops. Social media has played a big role in promoting his brand, as well as setting up at shows like Moonlight Market in Columbus. The brand 7Thirty8, named for Overholt’s favorite number, features many Ohio-themed pieces to represent his home state.

“I’m proud to be from Ohio,” Overholt says. “I’m from the very small town of Zanesfield, and Ohio isn’t the most well-known state, so it’s like the small town of the U.S. I’ve just always identified with it. I love the shape of it too—it’s really easy to utilize in drawings and designs.”

His pride for Ohio, and his love of exploring Ohio, also motivated him to create a line last summer under the brand 7Thirty8 Apparel called Ohio Adventure Club. It’s not an official club, he says, but more of an interest that he felt needed its own brand—but meet ups are still welcomed.

“I’m really into the outdoors and hiking, so Ohio Adventure Club has been my baby,” he says. “People have been pretty receptive to the clothing. I met a girl named Christa Luft who owns an Instagram account called My Ohio Adventure, so we’ve done some meet ups with people who follow us, one in Yellow Springs and one in Canal Winchester where we hiked a few miles and walked through the towns. It’s a lot of people with the shared interest who just want to explore.”

Now that Overholt is committed full-time, he’s moved his one-man operation from his spare bedroom into his insulated detached garage, complete with heat, air conditioning, electric, and water. He’s upgraded from his screen printing start up kit, printing one shirt at a time in one color, to a much bigger press to print multiple colors and shirts—even though his style still reflects the one-color design.

“I used one-color printing out of necessity for so long that it’s just how my brain works now,” he says. “It’s a common misconception that you need seven colors on a shirt to make it stand out. I’ve built a brand on one-color design, and I don’t want to change that. I love that people see a shirt of mine and know it’s mine.”

The use of color is just one example of how much details can matter to a brand. Overholt experimented with different shirts and materials until he found one he felt was best. After all, he says, he wants people to wear his product because it’s super comfortable, not just because it has a cool design on it.

Overholt also designs pennants, decals, and mugs, and he recently bought a poster press and wants to try printing on wood.

Moving forward with 7Thirty8, Overholt says he hopes to stay disciplined, grow the brand, especially the Ohio Adventure Club line, but still enjoy and appreciate the benefits that being his own boss can offer.

“It’s a privilege, and I’ve started to realize that more lately,” he says. “I’ll just think to myself, ‘Dude, you’re living your dream, you’re doing it.’ I don’t have to be at work at 8, but the drawback is I don’t leave at 5. I never clock out—I’m always thinking of a design, what color ink and shirts to use, just every little thing going nonstop in my head. It takes a lot of discipline to be self-employed. I know I have it in me, but sometimes I’m too disciplined. So, I’m really beginning to be more present, and to understand and appreciate the position that I’m in.”

To find products or for more information, please visit 7Thirty8Apparel.com.

Reach DCP freelance writer Erin Callahan at ErinCallahan@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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Erin Callahan
Reach DCP freelance writer Erin Callahan at ErinCallahan@DaytonCityPaper.com

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