Can you believe it’s been almost seven months since our Build Indy “Celebrate the City” event in May? If you couldn’t make it, Formstack hosted an “all-things-Indy” celebration, complete with a local goods auction and a cash award to three local organizations. Two organizations, decided by audience vote, split all of the funds collected at the door and through our silent auction, while one winner (decided by a panel of judges) received a $5,000 prize.
The grand prize winner, United State of Indiana, was selected in advance by a panel of Indianapolis professionals, from a total of 96 nominations. USI is known for its original “six stripes and the state of Indiana” t-shirt, but United State of Indiana is more than just a t-shirt company; it’s an initiative to rally and celebrate Hoosier pride through a distinct symbol. All of the clothing is designed by local artists and produced in Indianapolis, providing an outlet for creativity and supporting local screen-printing shops.
We followed up with Graham Brown, the founder of United State of Indiana, to learn more about the company’s most recent community initiatives.
Spotlight: United State of Indiana, Graham Brown
Describe your overall experience at the Build Indy “Celebrate the City” party on May 16.
The entire evening was a wonderful experience. The Celebrate the City party really brought together some of the most interesting and inspiring people that I’ve met in Indy. Many that I were first introduced to on that night have now become folks I’m regularly interacting and working with.
I believe I spoke about it that night, but my favorite part of the evening was the fact that the look and feel of the ceremony mirrored the people being honored by it. There wasn’t a lot of bells and whistles (there weren’t even chairs), just a lot of hardworking people who were excited to share their endeavors and learn about the work of others.
How did it feel to have your name called as the Build Indy $5,000 winner?
Great. I can honestly say I had no expectations of taking home the big prize, especially considering the individuals and organizations who had also been nominated. Overall, it was just a really fun and encouraging way to be reminded that this city rewards creativity and is collectively excited about seeing small, seat-of-the-pants ventures like mine take off.
What were some immediate reactions from your friends and coworkers after hearing that you’d won a Build Indy crowd favorite prize?
I think everyone was a little shocked. As a business, USI started very slowly and organically, and there wasn’t a clear moment where it went from a little project on my bedroom floor to a full-fledged company. I think for both myself and the people around me–from my parents to my co-workers–hearing that USI had won such a well-recognized award served as that moment where the project went to the next level in our minds.
The award really got us all excited about USI taking deep root in the Indianapolis community (it began in Anderson, Indiana) and setting out on a long journey of trying to create and collaborate with as many cool people around here as possible.
How have you used the Build Indy prize money to improve your organization or the Indy community?
We’re actually still in the process of rolling out the project that will utilize the award money. At the moment, USI is in a transition from being a company that pretty strictly only sells apparel (the products I actually produce myself), to a full shopping hub for awesome Indiana-made products from artists and entrepreneurs around the state. We’ll be bringing these Friends of USI onto our website and into our family with the goal of building a growing community that people around Indiana turn to when they’re looking for the most interesting and innovative products coming out of Indiana.
The award money will be used to help us create videos to profile these new Friends of USI. With the goal of extending the same support and encouragement to small companies and creators that USI has received these past few years, the videos will be a part of the way that USI shares the stories of these Friends with our audience and helps their efforts grow around the city and state.
What is the one thing you have accomplished since May that you are most proud of?
This year, USI has sent out over 900 packages to Hoosiers in 45 states and four countries. It’s not the business or financial implications of that fact that I’m proud of, but instead, I’m proud of what it says about Indiana’s people and they’re unwavering pride for their home, regardless of where they may be living now. I’m proud that we’re able to tap into and illuminate such a positive and proud culture, one that existed long before we printed our first shirt.
What’s on the radar for your organization in 2014?
We’ll be introducing many new Friends of USI and carrying their awesome products on our website. You’ll be able to find us out at even more events, fairs and festivals around Indy (it’s our favorite way to meet some really cool people). Of course, there will be plenty of new designs and apparel to keep everyone’s shirt closets stocked up with Indiana love.
2014 will be an exciting year and USI may look a lot different at the end of it than it does now. But, I’ll certainly keep the core elements the same–those elements that were really first officially recognized by Formstack and the Build Indy Award–as it grows into a hub for Indiana’s pride and creativity.
This post was an installment in our Build Indy Follow-Up Series. Thank you to everyone who participated in any of Formstack’s Build Indy events or initiatives. As we move into 2014, we plan to continue supporting the Indy community through service projects, sponsorships and other local efforts. However, we have decided to discontinue the Build Indy program, effective Jan. 1, 2014. If you follow any of Build Indy’s social media accounts, please follow Formstack on Twitter or Facebook for more information about our various community involvement activities.