Tiny Bay Area T-Shirt Company Promotes Powerful Message on Peace

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Bay Area T-shirt company, run by bi-racial cousins, wants everyone to "show the world their rootz". We offer unique, high-quality t-shirts and tank tops proudly displaying one's heritage on the front and hip, funky logo on the back. These are not your typical "joke" shirts. They are meant to be serious and show the world how different, but alike, we all are.

So, what are you anyway?

All her life, people have been asking Alisha Karandikar the same question: "So, what are you anyway?" Rather than take offense at what some might interpret as a MYOB moment, Karandikar, who is African American and English, decided to design a tee-shirt that would proudly announce her heritage to the entire world. The stylish white tee boasting Karandikar's ethnicity in a festive font not only silenced the nosy; it also inspired Karandikar's new company, Heritage Teez, where the motto is "Show the world your rootz!"

"I designed the first shirt for myself, but whenever I wore it, I'd hear things like 'Hey, I'm Irish, Italian, Spanish, and Dutch--where can I get a shirt that says that?'" explains Karandikar, a realtor who has lived all her life in the San Jose, CA area. "I did some research, and discovered that there were the usual funny shirts, like Kiss me, I'm Irish, and FBI: Full Blooded Italian. But there weren't any companies dedicated to promoting one's heritage--especially a multi-cultural heritage--in a way that's fun, but also stylish. And that's how Heritage Teez came about."

Karandikar turned to her roots, not only for her company's genesis, but also for her business partner. Cousin Samantha Brown, who works in finance at Adobe Systems by day, toils in her spare time side-by-side with Alisha on virtually every aspect of Heritage Teez.

And she helps keep the mood upbeat. When Karandikar insists that partnering up is a natural by-product of their lifelong friendship, Brown guffaws. "I don't know what she's talking about. We've been feuding for years."

Then Brown, whose own Heritage Tee reads Irish/English/German, breaks into a smile. "No, she's right. We are a very close family. I guess you could say it's family ties that are going to make this company soar."

She isn't kidding: Even the kids have been tapped to help out. Brown's 13-year-old daughter, Kylie (English/Irish/German) helped design the company logo. And Karandikar's 14-year-old son, Riley (African American/English/Swedish/Italian) loves hearing rave reviews such as "Sick," and "That's tight," when he wears his Heritage Tee to school in his role as a human advertising vehicle. Even the family pets have been enlisted.

"My dog, Arie, is very unique looking Airedale/Labrador mix who was always getting that same question my cousin was getting," laughs Brown. "'What kind of a dog is that anyway?' A canine version of Heritage Teez seemed like a natural, so we have also created Muttz."

There are many companies out there that make tees for humans promoting a particular dog breed. "But there aren't any for the dog--especially a Heinz 57 type of dog--that tells the world what he is," explains Brown. "When Alisha takes out her Shih Tzu, Gizmo, in his tee, and I take out Arie in hers, believe me, it's an incredible conversation starter! People love the idea!"

Brown adds, "I have found that dogs tend to bring people together. Maybe Muttz Teez will encourage even more of that."

If you ask Karandikar, it's a bet worth taking. "I wondered initially if a tee shirt promoting one's heritage might be interpreted as slightly divisive--a sort of 'I'm this, and you're not' kind of thing. But actually, it's turned out to be completely the opposite. When everyone's walking around with shirts that proclaim their heritage, you start to see not how different we all are, but actually how much more we are alike than we think. "

You can order your own heritage tee shirt in a variety of styles at http://www.heritageteez.com.

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Alisha Karandikar
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