CHICAGO — The owner of a Chicago-based T-shirt company said a woman in Arizona stole ideas from his company to start her own, but he got help from his fans to get her to shut it down.
Joe Johnson, the owner of Obvious Shirts, creates T-shirts for Chicago Cubs fans. While people may not know his face, they have more than likely seen his shirts.
Fans of his company described the shirts as fun and tongue-in-cheek. One of them reads, “Javy Baez will tag you out.” Another reads, “The greatest game ever played was on a Wednesday in Cleveland.”
“You know what? Stating the obvious things in sports, it gets a reaction out of people,” Johnson said. “It gets people talking. People come to Wrigley with signs stating how they feel about a particular player. I just put that on a shirt.”
Since Johnson started the business three years ago, he’s sold over 40,000 shirts. He said it took a lot of work to design, manufacture and secure licenses.
He said, like any other successful idea, there were copycats. In particular, a woman named Kristen Crone who reached out to him about a partnership.
“She wanted to work together, and it didn’t pan out for obvious reasons, and she decided she was going to take my idea,” Johnson said.
Johnson said she went on an Arizona television station touting what she claimed was her idea, but clearly ripping off Johnson’s shirts and swapping out Chicago-themed slogans for other ones.
“She took the idea and ran with it under a new name, and went on a news station and went on tv and lied about the entire story,” Johnson said.
When fans heard about what happened, they responded with thousands of messages on the Obvious Shirts Facebook page.
One fan wrote, “Please stand up for your brand and do not let this woman take credit for what you have worked so hard for !!! This is unacceptable!”
Many others joined in to support Johnson. Many suggested that he contact the Arizona news station that ran the story.
“I owe everything to the Cubs fan base, I didn’t realize, expect or foresee this much support or recognition,” Johnson said. “I am a company of one, nobody knows my face, but today validated that everything was worth it.”
Within 24 hours, the situation was resolved as it appeared that Crone took down her company’s website, Facebook page and Instagram.
Johnson said Crone has called him, but the two have not yet spoken. WGN’s attempts to contact Crone were unsuccessful.