GREENFIELD — Charlie Vetters is a renaissance man.
Part outdoorsman, part artist, part entrepreneur – the man from Greenfield has embarked on a business venture which he hopes will make the most of his combined talents.
As a Hancock County native and outdoor adventurer, he started his screen printing business, Organic Robot Designs, to develop a clothing brand focused on Indiana roots and outdoor recreation.
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Vetters said the unusual business name is based on the dichotomy of his professional life as a graphic designer who spends long days in front of a computer screen and his weekend life in which he embraces the great outdoors. It also encapsulates the way he wants to do business, combining technology and organic designs to create products.
While his goal is to open a storefront in Greenfield, for now Vetters works out of a store at his home on a farm just south of Greenfield that his family has owned since the late 1800s.
The journey that finally made him an entrepreneur began with the 2008 recession, which disrupted his business management career trajectory when he lost his job.
He chose to go back to school to get a two-year degree in digital art design at the Art Institute of Indianapolis, then started a freelance graphic design business, taking on a few screen printers as clients.
The thrill of creating designs that were turned into t-shirts, glassware and other products was a fun way to showcase his artistic talents.
In 2016, he started forming Organic Robot Designs as a side business, to get his creative juices flowing.
“I wanted to design and create things that I was passionate about, rather than just jerseys for football teams,” he said.
Vetters started her business slowly, opening an online Etsy store, and then started selling at a few events in her hometown like the Riley Festival.
In 2018, he and his wife, Debbie, decided to take the plunge and hit the statewide fall festival circuit. The following year, they began attending larger shows, such as the Indiana State Fair.
“We really did a lot better than we ever imagined,” Vetters, 55, said.
As an extrovert, he enjoys interacting with customers and getting positive feedback on his designs. For about 50 people walking past his booth and just taking a look at his merchandise, maybe one would stop and get really excited about his niche, he said.
“They were so excited to see things they don’t normally see — like Indiana designs and outdoor recreation designs,” Vetters said.
“So often you see Indiana clothing with clipart that was just pasted onto a shirt, but my designs are the ones that I personally created. It really seemed to resonate with people,” he said.
Vetters had a particularly busy time at the state fair last year. The 18-day event was a whirlwind for Vetters, who worked 12-hour days and then returned home and spent two to four hours printing more products to refresh his stock.
He used the growing profits from his clothing line to supplement his income, so he could start his full-time printing business.
He launched a Hoosier Shirt of the Month Club, through which members can receive one of his Indiana-themed shirts in the mail each month. Vetters encourages members to wear their shirts on the first Friday of the month throughout the year.
Things took a turn when the coronavirus put a halt to all shows so far this year.
Vetters was ready for a big show at the state fairgrounds in mid-March when event organizers called the night before saying it was canceled. He had just invested thousands of dollars in beefing up his inventory as well as a new point-of-sale system.
While sitting at home in isolation, Vetters began thinking of ways to help others through organic robot designs. He came up with the idea of helping local nonprofits and independent businesses gain exposure through fundraising for t-shirts, a service he had seen other screenprinters do at across the country.
For every group or company that hired him to print shirts for them, Vetters sold them for $20 and donated $10 to the organization.
While he didn’t get as big of a response as he’d hoped due to social distancing restrictions, he was able to connect with a few independent Greenfield businesses like Tattoos in Time, Hometown Comics and Porter Coffee, the helping to raise several hundred dollars.
Now that the economy is beginning to recover, Vetters hopes to start building more relationships and growing her customer base.
His goal is to become known as more than just a screen printer, but as an artist who works closely with his clients to create unusual products and designs.
While Vetters’ goal is to have his own boutique by early 2021, preferably in a historic building in downtown Greenfield, he knows that might not happen until the end of the year. next year.
“I love working with people and I love being outdoors, so this new venture is so much more satisfying than just sitting at a computer,” Vetters said. “There’s a creative process to designing things for people – you create something out of nothing – and that’s really awesome,” he said.
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Organic robot designs