If Kansas City has an abundance of anything, it’s wearable pride, said Dave Lindahl.
“Charlie Hustle invented it,” added Lindahl, owner of HyperKC — a local apparel company that channeled the New York-transplant’s passion for KC into an all-inclusive brand that celebrates local artists and serves as a de facto welcome center for out-of-town visitors who find themselves in City Market.
“[Maybe] people come here for a conference. They won’t know anything about Kansas City, but they’ll get on the streetcar, and the streetcar will take them to Crown Center or it will take them to City Market,” he said of the cut-and-dry route up and down Kansas City’s Main Street.
“They’ll get off, they’ll walk around, they’ll start to discover … then they walk into my store where they have an opportunity to sort of spend some time with us. We’ll tell them about the Nelson Atkins [Museum of Art] or Joe’s [Kansas City Barbeque] or whatever kind of thing they’re looking for.”
Serving as a community advocate and unofficial welcome center for Kansas City is a bonus for Lindahl, who came to KC from the Northeast, unsure of what he’d find as he took a tech job at the University of Missouri-Kansas City.
With little initial knowledge of happenings in the City of Fountains, its sense of pride, culture, and people quickly captured his heart, Lindahl said.
“I got laid off about three-and-a-half years ago,” he said of the way his initial tie to Kansas City dissolved. “I wasn’t sure what to do because the job that I had was really tied to working in large university library systems and that would have meant I had to move … but I love Kansas City.”
Instead of staying comfortable, Lindahl took a leap of faith, stepping out as an entrepreneur and combining his interest in working for himself with his newfound KC pride — a decision that shows itself as full circle each and every day, he said.
“We have that opportunity — sometimes the first opportunity — to tell people what to do when they’re visiting. There are so many things to do here!”
The mission of HyperKC offers much of the same: serving as a space for local artists and designers to see their work come to life on cotton, he added.
“All my artists will always make a portion of the proceeds of the sales of the shirts,” Lindahl said of his advocacy for creatives. “I’m trying to keep my business connected in every way to local Kansas City people. Local Kansas City people are printing the shirts; local artists are creating the designs.”
Boasting the “softest shirt in the city,” HyperKC also aims to provide an off-the-wall, original aesthetic that goes beyond the standard slogans, phases, and icons that make Kansas City recognizable, he said.
“[One of our first shirts was] a take on the KC Scout Statue in Penn Valley park. It’s got the scout at the top and it says, ‘Kansas City, Missouri’ on it. It was our take on a stereotypical souvenir shirt and then it has some curve text on the bottom. … In really fine print it says, ‘Go ahead and say what you will, but we’re better than St. Louis,’” he laughed, recalling the initial rollout of the shirt and what remains one of the store’s most popular designs.
“We created a shirt that has the shuttlecock with a little cartoon character sitting on it and then says, ‘Get off,’ underneath it.”
From graphic design to hand-drawn illustration, each HyperKC shirt tells its own story — and gives its wearer one to share, Lindahl said, noting such an accomplishment validates his entrepreneurial journey.
Click here to shop the latest finds from HyperKC.
“Sometimes it’s scary. But the level of weight lifted off your shoulders — to know that you get to decide what you want to do every day, and you get to decide how much effort to put in — and you see the amount of effort you put in is the amount that you get back from it — there’s so much freedom to it. It just feels really great.”
And while fewer people are traveling to Kansas City amid the COVID-19 pandemic — a time when many people have felt less than free — HyperKC has continued to stand strong, Lindahl said in reflection of 2020 and the holiday shopping season.
“We have good foot traffic. T-shirts are probably pretty pandemic proof. They’re a basic purchase for people. The challenges for my business this year were being closed for a while and the uncertainty of what’s coming in the future,” he said, adding a boost from Small Business Saturday could greatly help the small shop truck on until Kansas City can once again greet droves of visitors, curious about the best barbeque or in need of directions to the nearest stadium.
“Traditionally Small Business Saturday is one of our busiest days of the year. We typically will have a really good sale for that — so come check out our store,” he said eager help a new batch of customers check their holiday shopping lists.
This story is possible thanks to support from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, a private, nonpartisan foundation that works together with communities in education and entrepreneurship to create uncommon solutions and empower people to shape their futures and be successful.