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Matt Shapiro's favorite thing about living in St. Pete is "the laid-back vibe and awesome energy." After starting his business in February 2020, the pandemic brought a wave of new challenges for Shapiro. He adapted by creating a line of sarcastic and unique face masks as well as a line for diehard Tampa Bay sports fans, in addition to his traditional designs. Shapiro's vision is to create high quality, unique designs that both locals and tourists can enjoy.

Years in Tampa Bay

31 - Proud Native

Hustle (job)

Owner, Creator, Maker, Shipper - Jack of all trades.

What do you do?  

I am a local apparel designer/creator.

Why do you do it?

Starting 1771 Designs and creating the entire line has been an amazing journey. It has allowed me to combine my love for the Tampa Bay area and my passion for graphic design. There are few experiences cooler than turning onto Central Ave and seeing people wearing my shirts.

What was your Catalyst? (How did you get started?)

My fascination for graphic design began in the late '90s at the ripe old age of 8. My Mom is a clay artist and had a studio in ArtSpace. Her neighbor was Clay Bennett, an Editorial Cartoonist for the St. Pete Times. I would go into his studio and watch him create in Photoshop. Fast forward eight years, now a student at Lakewood High School – CAT Program. My love for design and skills took off. I became the graphic producer for a 30 minute TV show that aired on Fox13. After graduating high school I was off to UCF. I studied graphic design and worked with the athletic program creating videos, motion graphics and still graphics for various projects and athletic teams. After graduating from UCF I moved back to St. Petersburg and quickly realized how special and unique our city had become. As our skyline grew and the architecture became more unique I noticed an opportunity to showcase our town. I was tired of wearing apparel featuring New York, L.A., London, and other big cities. With help from my sister, we began photographing and creating shirts that featured St. Petersburg. It has been an amazing journey to get to this point and I am very excited to continue to grow my line and showcase the area in an artistic fashionable way.

What’s a common misconception or unknown aspect of what you do?

I think the biggest misconception when you see most apparel is it's “just” an image on a shirt. Every design, even the “simple” ones, takes hours and days to create. It starts with an idea, then you have to create it, modify the design, ensure the design can be transferred onto the apparel, tweak the design, test the design, get feedback, adjust the design and finally add the design to the line.

What’s the most challenging part of your Hustle?

The most challenging part of the business so far has been marketing in the middle of a pandemic. My original plan was to participate in several local markets and weekend fairs. I wanted the community to meet me, see the product, and feel the product. Since the pandemic, I have been forced to market online. Breaking through social media “noise” is a daunting task, throw in a worldwide pandemic, and its a bit of a challenge. However, this challenge has forced me to get more creative with my marketing approach and I've met some amazing people so far.

What’s the most valuable piece of business advice/insight that’s helped you?

“If you don't have emotion and you don't have passion, then you shouldn't be in business, because money is a byproduct, not the purpose.”


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