InnerDialogue Shirts is Michelle Horan’s Edina-based business born out of what would seem like an everyday task, to replace a favorite but worn out T-shirt. When she couldn’t find a suitable replacement, she decided to design her own. Little did she know this would lead to her launching a charitable business venture and a broader vision of helping people combat those inner thoughts that often impede progress toward our personal goals.
“I wanted a simple T-shirt,” Horan says. “Something that had something on it but not crazy.” She also wanted something sustainably made which further reduced the options. At the time she was struggling in a relationship to an organization she’d been connected to. In order to combat any negative feelings, she would tell herself to just “do the work.” That’s when she realized she wanted that mantra on a shirt.
“My brother-in-law and sister-in-law own Gear Sports,” Horan says. So, they connected her to a screen printer willing to create a short run of white and grey T-shirts with her own design that say, “do the work.”
“My friends thought the shirts were cool,” Horan says. “They wanted to know where to get them.” Horan decided to create and sell a variety of T-shirts with her subtle but powerful slogans like “boldly go,” “dig deep” and “why not.” She believes people are drawn to her messages because they’re not the flowery stuff of dreams but instead are inspiration grounded in reality. A bonus is that part of the proceeds would support the charities Horan is most passionate about.
Horan thanks her sister-in-law and a friend for encouraging her to move ahead with the project. “The inner dialogue part is the thing I still struggle with,” says Horan, thus the name of her business. She admits that starting a project like this and putting herself out there is terrifying. That inner voice can undermine her resolve with questions like, “Who am I?” and “Why am I doing this?” But she recalls someone telling her to walk into the fear. She says, “One of my new things is going to be to ‘own it’ whenever I’m struggling to tell my story.”
Horan is finding that people really connect with that inner dialogue. Because we all have those negative voices we need to combat with simple and effective mantras like what’s on Horan’s T-shirts.
People also love the idea of sustainably sourced products. Horan sources her shirts from one company that uses 100 percent organic cotton and bamboo and another company that creates fabric from recycled materials. All of the paper and stickers used in packaging are also completely recyclable.
Because Horan’s business is still small and professional screen printers have minimums, she does all of her own screen-printing at home. “I create the design and send it to the screen printer,” she says. “They put it on a transfer sheet and send it back to me. Then I transfer all of the designs to T-shirts in the basement of my house.” But Horan’s hope is that her motivational T-shirts will be sold in local shops and orders will grow enough for her to eventually outsource the screen-printing.
Her larger dream is to help people connect and communicate about those inner dialogue messages. It goes beyond wearing words on a shirt. The words can also impact those reading it and can start conversations around powerful messages like “i’m enough” or “why not.”
Charities supported by innerDialogue include:
- Beacon Interfaith Housing Collaborative
- Conservation Minnesota
- TU Dance
- NAMI Minnesota