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Tania is currently the Founder & Editor-in-Chief of The Hudsucker, and Senior Editor at the Nashville, Tennessee based PopCulture.com. With past writing and editing credits with Womanista, Quietly, the International Women's Media Foundation (IWMF) and NBC Newsvine, she is currently a member of Indianapolis based, Society of Professional Journalists — one of the oldest organizations in the U.S. that promotes and represents journalists. She is an avid Indianapolis Colts, Elvis Presley and baseball fan as well as a lover of pancakes and fine cheeses, film, and music. Tania is a Hoosier at heart with a passionate wanderlust for always traveling and giving back to those in her community. She is currently studying at Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana. Follow Tania on Twitter: @westlifebunny.

United State of Indiana: Wearing Your State on Your Sleeve

Wear your pride on your sleeve: United State of Indiana t-shirts available at USI online. {Image Credit: United State of Indiana}

Wear your pride on your sleeve: United State of Indiana apparel available at USI online. {Image Credit: United State of Indiana}

Since its inception in 2011, United State of Indiana has firmly believed in collaboration over competition, personal over perfect, and better over bigger. For an online shop situated in the heart of the Midwest, USI is the dominant artifact displaying state pride and love through their apparel, and working hard as a booming and creative small business.

Created by Anderson resident Graham Brown, the small business first burst onto the scene in the spring of 2011 with the simple message, “Never forget your home.” Reminding fellow Hoosiers that there is something here that you cannot find elsewhere, the message soon spread among residents, turning USI into a household name in Indiana.

After graduating college with hopes to delay adulthood, Brown ventured into music and began designing shirts for his hip-hop group, Anderson’s Most Wanted. Creating a simple image that defined everything he ever wanted to say about the love for his home, the design soon ignited a passion and struck a chord with those around him. Bold, ambiguous, and moderately controversial, Brown began printing designs for friends of a vertical American flag with the silhouette of Indiana instead of stars. Through his phantom business skills and constant enthusiasm, the venture grew into a full-fledged company. Along the way, the young entrepreneur decided upon the name, “United State of Indiana” and believed in his heart there was no better mission statement for this project than those four words.

My first USI purchase back in 2012! {Image Credit: Tania Hussain}

It was reported in 2013 that USI had sent over 900 packages to Hoosiers residing in 45 states and four countries. While it might seem like everything a small business owner would aspire for, in an interview with Formstack, Brown explained that it’s not the business or financial benefits that make him proud but the love of home shown by fellow residents.

“I’m proud of what it says about Indiana’s people and their unwavering pride for their home, regardless of where they may be living now,” he said. “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.”

Over the past few years, the company has set out to create high-quality products for people who love Indiana, support the state’s artists and entrepreneurs by promoting their products, finding ways to collaborate, and fostering a culture in the state that encourages local shopping, collaborative commerce, and the celebration of harmony.

Brown’s outlet for collective excitement paid off when Build Indy awarded him a $5,000 reward in 2013 for his budding venture. The guerrilla art project that was once envisioned all those years ago transformed into more than a single outlet. With many retailers in Indiana currently carrying apparel from Brown’s online boutique in their own stores, USI has become somewhat of a love letter to the state as it continually blossoms.

“It’s not a small world. It’s a huge world,” Brown said in his company’s mission statement. “But when you’re committed to eating, drinking, working, talking, buying, writing, and singing close to where you live, you’re constantly surprised at how connected we all are.”

While it might be known to many that Indiana is my second home and I am an adopted Hoosier, the USI online shop is one of my all-time favorites on the web. Constantly updated with new merchandise and designs, the items in their shop are innovative, funky, and so very different than other “state-centric” online boutiques. Their vibrant designs embody distinct freshness that highlight simplicity, pride, and positivity.

What’s really lovable about their products is that you can wear your state-pride in various ways. Selling an array of items in their shop like t-shirts, tank tops, sweatshirts, bags, posters and prints, koozies and mugs, shoppers can buy various items for the whole family, and show off their Hoosier love however they’d like.

Since first learning about USI in 2012, I’ve become an avid fan of the company and follow them closely on social media in hopes of getting my hands on a new design or taking advantage of a sale. (Because who doesn’t love sales?) I proudly wear my “Hoosier pride” out and about thanks to my three t-shirts and one tank top, or through the stickers and buttons that I happily place on binders, folders, and jackets for all to see.

Wearing one of my favorite United State of Indiana tees, a women’s heather green USI flag v-neck tee. {Image Credit: Nadia Hussain}

But what do I love most about my purchases? That their tees are super soft and of great quality fabric. I’m 110 times more huggable when I wear one of their 90/10 cotton/poly blend t-shirts. Exceptionally cozy and easy to wash too, they are literally the perfect tee. Best of all, the colors never fade so you get that nice vibrancy everywhere you go.

Indiana is a place I love and adore, and to be able to wear one of USI’s designs makes me feel proud to take a piece of home wherever I go. In many ways, it banishes feelings of alienation or loneliness often experienced in a foreign place because you have the backing of an entire state that remembers you.

Over the course of three years, I’ve been ordering items from their website and am always pleased with their customer service. In charge of shipping and processing is Brown’s right-hand man, Grant Gilman. Brown, Gilman, and the team at USI are so congenial and cordial, and that’s not common for many online retailers. Most times dialogue can easily get lost in translation and you wait days to hear back with inquiries, , but not with USI. With everyone so prompt and helpful, it’s a surefire reflection of their founder, Brown—someone who takes pride in getting to know fellow Hoosiers.

“My mission is Indiana and local and all of the things that that flag, logo implies,” Brown said at Smartups Indy last year.

The flag implies so much more than love and unity for the state though. By interweaving such admiration with other small businesses and helping each other grow, Brown is building a network of connections and strengthening Indiana’s startup culture and commerce. Through their sharp artistic designs and array of products, it’s evident that USI firmly believes in the power of connection. No matter where we live or however far we travel, it’s the invisible threads we sow in our day-to-day lives that are the strongest ties we have to not just our roots, but each other.

As Brown said, it’s a not a small world—it’s a huge world, so why not take a little bit of home with you along the way?

For more information on United State of Indiana, visit their official website, and follow USI on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest. If you’re looking to pick up products in person, check out which stores in Indiana carry USI gear.

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  1. westlifebunny - August 27, 2015

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