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Meet Michael Albee Martinez and Frank Martinez III of Monkey & The Bee in Oaklawn

Today we’d like to introduce you to Michael Albee Martinez and Frank Martinez III.

Michael and Frank, please share your story with us. 
We started Monkey & The Bee as a way to help fund our wedding. Who knew that our little idea would have such tremendous support from the community. But we really hit our stride when we launched our first screen printed design called “Bear Hugs.” It’s a minimal design of two bears hugging, well trying to hug but their bellies get in the way. One bear says, “Hug me!” The other says, “I’m trying!” It’s a really cute design that introduced us to the Dallas community as a new t-shirt line. We launched this design online for pre-orders to gauge whether or not we were really onto something… well, apparently we were. We were able to fund the printing of our first design solely from pre-orders and from there we were not only able to reprint but, started looking into other ideas to expand our line.

Our focus has been to create designs that are a little tongue-n-cheek without being overly sexual. The innuendo is there, of course, because our primary demographic is LGBTQIA community but there is not a single design in our line that you couldn’t wear to go grocery shopping. Each of our pieces is a collaboration between us and all of them have a story.

One of the best stories that we have is with our Love Unconditionally “Awareness” Tee. We were approached to create a t-shirt that spoke to everyone with a positive message to be used as part of a fundraiser for a local theatre guy who had been assaulted and needed aid in paying for his medical bills. This design is the words LOVE unconditionally. A simple yet powerful message. The best part of this design is that the word unconditionally is written by Frank’s mom (my mother-in-law). A portion of the proceeds of this shirt are donated back to an LGBT charity because giving back to the community is very important to both of us.

Last year in June, we raised over $1000 by auctioning off 5 “artist edition” t-shirts on a Facebook live auction. These t-shirts were jeweled by a local costumer and we invited everyone we knew to log into facebook live and held an auction. The outpour from our friends and family was amazing and we were very excited to donate the money to the True Colors Fund to help LGBT Homeless Youth.

Honestly, we are blessed because our customers keep coming back to see what’s new and what we are doing next. Most of our core customers own more than one of our designs. I tease some of them that they own more of our designs that I do.

Our biggest concern is keeping up with demand because everyone is always looking for something new. When running a small business we don’t want to grow too big too fast and we are always trying to strategize what designs will sell. We also only produce original artwork from Michael (the Bee) with Frank’s (the Monkey) input on what designs he should draw and the overall concept of the design. We like to say, “We want to be the shirt that you actually wear!” Wear the shirt your love and love the shirt you wear!

Right now, we are focused on expanding the line, building our online presence (we’ve set a modest goal of 20 online sales a month), and doing more pop-up shops in different cities close to Dallas. In the past year, we’ve set up shops all over Dallas, in Ft. Worth, Longview, Houston… and are looking to set-up shop in Austin and San Antonio.

Has it been a smooth road?
Our biggest struggle right now is keeping up with demand for new designs while keeping stock of the “older” designs. Even though these “older” designs are just a year old, we have a great support community in Dallas … so they are always looking for whats new. But as we expand outside the Dallas area, our “older” designs are still new to those markets, so we try to keep those in stock as well, without breaking the bank.

We want to deliver unique original tongue-n-cheek designs on a quality garment without charging over $25. Most of our line runs between $20-$24 dollars, so we have to be very strategic when placing orders for new designs while maintaining the stock of the other designs as well.

So, as you know, we’re impressed with Monkey & The Bee – tell our readers more, for example, what you’re most proud of as a company and what sets you apart from others.
We specialize in graphic tees and tanks that have a fun unique take on the graphic tee. All of our artwork is original and we work together to create something that is really eye-catching and somewhat quirky.

As a new small business, we are very proud that we’ve been able to donate back to different charities. We love giving back and want to do more and give more in the future.

What sets us apart… that would be that we try not to compromise our product. We only want to deliver an original graphic tee/tank on a quality garment and still keep it in a price range that is reasonable.

Let’s touch on your thoughts about our city – what do you like the most and least?
We love Dallas. We’ve both been here for quite some time and the LGBTQ community in Dallas is very supportive. There is tremendous support from everyone and it’s great to go out on a Friday/Saturday night and see people wearing our stuff. We know they like it because… well… they wear it!

Pricing:

  • T-shirts – $24 (most designs)
  • Tank Tops – $22 (most designs)
  • Hoodies / Sweatshirts – $35 (most designs)

Contact Info:

Getting in touch: VoyageDallas is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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