Happy #mississippimonday! A day to bring you an artist, maker, brand, doer, creator or location in the great state of Mississippi! Our state is filled with so much talent and beauty, we HAVE to share it each and every week! Today we are bringing you a dear friend and RAD artist, Donivan Duffy! The founder of Donnie Wahl, brother brand of The Wahlstreets. Read on for more info about Donnie and what he has brought to our community!
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Who/What exactly is Donnie Wahl? First let's discuss the name. Donnie Wahl was born out of a long drive placing everything I saw or heard behind "Donnie" until I found something that not only made sense but sounded good. And I mean everything! Donnie Asphalt, Donnie Radio, Donnie Cloud, Donnie Carcass, Donnie Deer etc. At some point my dad phoned to check on the progress ending the conversation with "sometimes you just hit a brick wall!" It still didn't hit me until later that night but "wall" just stuck once it did. At that point I played around with spelling variations of "wall" deep into the night. The next day I went to the mall with my top three choices written on a piece of paper and asked upwards of 100 people to pick the one they liked best. "WAHL" was a unanimous winner!
When I returned from an extensive 4 year travel to anywhere a plane would take me outside the U.S., I took a job working a 3:30-midnight shift data entry job downtown. Miserable is an understatement. Shirts was more of a passion project during that time because passion didn't keep the lights on but after a very messy termination, passion was all I had left. Jobs were nil in the area. This situation gave way to the real answer of Who Exactly is Donnie Wahl?
It's no one, it's your dreams materialized, a means to improve your situation for the better and never look back. Whether you're a bank employee who sings in a band, a coffee shop barista who writes screenplays or a bouncer at a night club with dreams of being an actor, that's your Donnie Wahl!
How did you get started and what was the inspiration for taking the small business leap?
I knew nothing about tees other than how to wear them. An ex girlfriend introduced me to an up and coming designer/artist who helped create the first graphics. With that aspect secured I found a local screen printer online and struck a free labor deal to learn the screen-printing process and cut costs on future shirt runs. I'd work for several hours spending the last hour being tutored in Illustrator before racing home to shower and dress to earn a couple hours overtime at the data entry job. When that data entry shift ended it was Youtube tutorials till 3 or 4am only to repeat that process for several months. It was rough to say the least. Afterwards, through a series of fortunate events, I was able to acquire my own equipment, a work space & website which is where we are today still continuing the push for more success.
As for the inspiration part of the question... Living out west I'd become a huge fan of the branded tee, designer jeans & Vans or Chucks (think not of Ed Hardy & gaudy back pocket designs but more statement tees with diesel, citizen or sevens). In MS I found nothing that inspired me so I set about to make my own.
How does MS play a role in your business?
The people of MS play the largest role. This questionnaire for example is a great testament to that statement. Thimblepress is known nationally with a couple hundred thousand following on all social media accounts. Featured on Good Morning America. Despite the success, time is still found to reach back and shine light on those around them. MS is also a great word of mouth market. Everyone knows everyone. It takes the right person wearing a shirt and boom!
What are your goals for your brand?
Sustainability. I'm a one man shop. Graphics, marketing, web design, purchases, ordering supplies, shipping, customer complaints etc., all fall on my shoulders. Mind you this in addition to working a full time PR gig as well as running a screen-printing business in addition to having a social life and failing miserably at dating. The biggest goal now is to simply stay in the running as well as remaining relevant in hopes that the hard work delivers an expansion where other people can lighten the load finally. Oh and to get Jay-Z snapped wearing a shirt!
What is your background?
I'm not sure what to write here. My college degree is Business Management & Marketing. Born and raised in Jackson, MS. Traveled a bit. Now I'm back?
Where do you find inspiration?
Everywhere. In conversation. People watching. An old poster hanging in a friend's grandmother's basement. An outtake from a song. A person who's had too much to drink. The young kid bagging groceries. So much inspiration is also found when you turn off the world and just be. When you can rediscover the inner kid in yourself repeatedly. I also try to stay as organic as possible in my inspirations which is why I follow no graphic designers, typography blogs or shirt manufacturers on social media due to not having my creativity influenced by their own. Some people will disagree with that sentiment but my feeling is that in order to lead you must create original content or as close to original as possible. There's no greater feeling than releasing a design that people respond to with enthusiasm, knowing within that you used your vision completely.
What do you like to do when you "aren't at the office"?
People watching! I write screenplays so people watching provides great source material in addition to stellar entertainment. I also watch a ton of movies, older movies, think Powell & Pressberger's, "The Red Shoes" older movies. Nothing beats some good porch drinking with the boys. If there's a pool table or corn-hole on the table good luck getting me back to the office. I'm the guy that's willing to go a little further on situations than most because the threat of missing a good story to tell or write about later is simply too much to bear!
What are you favorite local places to shop & dine?
Coffee: Sneaky Beans would be tops because it also serves as my office away from the office. Drinks & dining: Some people would say I live at Fondren Public but I like to correct them in saying I only rent. Yes that made no sense but you got the point regardless. Apothecary & Saltine are also strong showings for me to drink and eat. Shopping: I shamefully admit I shop mostly at J. Crew.
How do you think what you are doing is helping to shape your local community as well as the image of MS?
I'm basing this response off the number of people I've helped start their lines or offered advice in starting. Being one of the first in my area to start a line I've been able to steer others clear of the lessons learned in dollars I faced. Competition drives me. I welcome it. Helping another brand grow to square off against in future is beautiful because you both or all push each other to create better content. Proportionate to that sentiment is more product in the marketplace. With more product in the marketplace from capable designers and printers aided with the current social media climate, one of us are bound to get noticed and help those not yet noticed become noticed as well. Thus MS is further cast into a positive spotlight.
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Want to know more about Donnie? Maybe buy a t-shirt (or THREE?) Check him out below for updates and new designs!