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Meet Alec Johnson and Dave Gostenhofer of Shirts on Tap in Mission Valley

Today we’d like to introduce you to Alec Johnson and Dave Gostenhofer.

Thanks for sharing your story with us Alec and Dave. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
We are a monthly Box Club for Beer Fans – each month, we team up with a local brewery, design a shirt with them, and send it to our members with coupons to the brewery, a brewery bio, stickers, and more. We started this company in November 2013 and have been growing like crazy ever since. While we are headquartered here in San Diego, we operate this box club in 5 other cities across the US.

The whole concept of Shirts on Tap was born in a garage with some old screen printing equipment and has grown to a full production screen print shop with 7 employees in a relatively short amount of time.

The two owners- Dave and Alec- have been buds since high school and for some reason, enjoy working together. We love our craft beer and always wanted to be in the industry. We figured we suck at brewing beer, so that was out of the question. Then we thought… “Breweries sell two things: beer and t-shirts.” We wanted to be the guys who make the t-shirts. And we’ve been having the time of our lives ever since!

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
Growing a business is never a smooth road. Over the years we have refined our process to be as smooth as possible, but there is no way of avoiding folding thousands of shirts every month. Making sure that the right person gets the right shirt in the right size from the right brewery has always been the hardest part- but we’ve got a pretty good system in place now.

Honestly, the hardest part of running this business has been, well, running a business. Knowing what taxes to pay and when. Understanding the different types of insurance that we have to carry. Figuring out how payroll works with different types of employees. Making sure all of the bills are paid on time and all of the accounting is up to date. Learning the difference between an LLC and an S-Corp and what implications that has on our personal income taxes. It’s bonkers… we have 15 years of college between the two of us with business degrees and MBAs and never once did we learned anything about how to operate a business day-to-day.

Trial and error is essential and entirely unavoidable.

Shirts on Tap – what should we know? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
We are masters of brewery shirts. Considering brewery shirts are really their own genre of clothing, nobody does them as well as we do. We print almost exclusively for breweries and I love that when you google “Brewery Shirts” we show up at the top of the list on the first page.

We are unique as a box club because we really are so much more than a shirt a box. We have always had our focus on local engagement- which is why include coupons inside each box to the brewery along with the shirt. It is also why we expanded city-by-city rather than doing one, big, generic brewery shirt club (which would have been a LOT easier). Our members absolutely love being a part of the SOT community and members are always spotting other members in their SOT shirts around town.

We are also different than any other shirt in a box club because we allow our members to customize their shirts each month. You can swap the shirt out for another city’s box one month, you can choose between 6 styles of cotton (tank tops, V-necks, etc) and you can ever choose where you want the design on the shirt – big on front, or big on back. You can even upgrade to a hoodie or long sleeve during the winter months. This kind of customization would never be possible unless you print the shirts yourself, in-house, like we do.

What is “success” or “successful” for you?
I would define success as finding happiness in what you do. I think most people associate “success” with money, but there are a lot of other metrics that should be used when finding that definition. We are able to spend time with our families, make our own hours, work with our buddies, be as creative as we want, and we get to drink beer during the day without shame. It’s simply “market research.” I know a lot of people who make a lot more money than we do, but they hate their job. I know people who love their job, but work 80 hours a week, and their family life suffers. I know people who have a really shitty job and make no money and well… they’re pretty miserable. I think we have a great balance of work, family, and fun and I think that makes us very successful.


  • Our Box Club is $18/month.

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Image Credit:
Shirts on Tap

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