It’s pretty amazing to think that while I’ve been spending countless hours surfing the internet and checking Facebook, fellow college student Matt Trigaux has been building and maintaining a company. What’s even more amazing is that he has been able to build up TrickGo, his screenprint T-shirt company, into something with an internet shop and a storefront/gallery space on Antique Row from having no business experience whatsoever. “Everything I’ve done has been through trial and error, internet research, and a whole lot of mistakes,” says Trigaux, which includes giving away half of his entire inventory at an early-on party. “People were so excited about it… but that could have been the free beer.”
Since then, he’s developed a lot more business acumen, learning about budgets and accounting by sitting in on Philadelphia University business classes, then eventually speaking there about how he got started. He’s even managed to attend a few business classes at Harvard, posing as a student: “A sweater vest and pastries can get you past most security guards on the Harvard campus,” he says. Balancing the business with school and gallery events has definitely been a challenge, although Trigaux keeps it reasonably together these days by trying to stick to keeping all his focus on school one day, the business the next, freelancing after that.
Founded in 2007 out of a UArts dorm room, TrickGo is now operated by Trigaux and three other full-time UArts students, Gab Bonghi, Maxine Kramer and Courtney Brown (plus anyone who’s willing to help out). The little Pine Street store specializes in selling limited-edition shirts from Philly artists like Nose, Adrienne Langer, Bradford Haubrich, Steve Streisguth, and Courtney Brown, but sometimes does double duty as a gallery, where many of those same artists can display their non-T-shirt work. There’s also Movie Night, where student and local filmmakers, like Khyber Jones (Lavender Moments), Isaac Ruth (Experimental StopMotion) and Ray Davis (Chestnut), can screen their stuff.
TrickGo’s logo is a van that you may have seen on stickers around Philly or on the violin of young Philly musician Justus Rivera on that one episode of Ellen. Why a van? It just seemed to Trigaux to be a symbol of DIY culture and the community of artists making a semi-living doing what they love: “I know artists that live out of their van, bands that tour the country in a little panel van, even screenprinters that made their own studio in a van.”
Trigaux plans to stay involved in the arts community with future events already in the works. “Right now we’re planning some guest teachers to come in and teach DIY projects, screening printing, stuff like that.” He’s also planning a sand mandala-like project called 4=4, which will have artists creating a collaborative mural in the (open) store each week of July, with a different theme and palette each week, each mural on display for six days, then painted over.
Even though he has lots of stuff in mind for the future, Trigaux admits that the he’s not 100% sure of where TrickGo is headed. When he opened the storefront, he says, people thought he was crazy. He had no prior experience in retail and, with the recession, stores all over Philadelphia were already closing all over the place. However, with the help of his experienced shop manager, it’s sustainable at the moment, if not quite profitable. “No one really makes money from this,” he says. “We’d rather see how far we can take it and how much we can do for the art community rather than take a check and run. That’s what keeps it fun and what keeps it going.”