Rob Dobi Talks The End Of Emptees & The Start Of

With the eminent closing of the largest t-shirt community on the web, t-shirt lovers and community members have been in a frenzy about what the future may hold. Emptees over its three year run has become the number one destination for artists, companies and t-shirt lovers to converge, get advice, buy designs, learn and of course talk some shit.

With this new void in the tee world Rob Dobi has joined forces with AKT Enterprises to once again make the t-shirt universe whole. Read what he has to say about the past of Emptees and the future of!

For the the few people out there that might not know whom you are could you introduce and tell us a bit about yourself?

My name is rob dobi, i am a graphic designer / illustrator based out of connecticut. i have been doing design work in the music industry since 2003 and have ran my own t-shirt line since 2004. for the past two years i have been a moderator on popular t-shirt site

So let’s get right into it. On 1/31/11, Matt Wigham of Indie Labs and dropped an absolute bombshell on the t-shirt world announcing that Emptees would be shutting it’s doors March 1st. How did you take the news when you first read it and did you foresee this coming?

It was a serious downer. as much as the site would get out of hand at times, emptees grew into this massive community of over 32,000 tee enthusiasts, designers and brand owners that would feed off of each other for work and inspiration. i guess i could sort of see it coming for awhile, for the past year or so it was really the inmates running the asylum. i’m not throwing indie labs under the bus or anything, but i think the site just sort of spun out of control and they gave the community the wheel so they could focus on big cartel / pulley. i don’t blame them in the least bit, i don’t think anyone expected the site to get as big as it did, and in the end there just weren’t enough means to control the problems that were plaguing the site.

Immediately after the announcement of the end of Emptees community members began wondering and asking what the future may hold. Being an Administrator on Emptees and one of the most respected members in the Tee Community did you feel a sense of responsibility to get a new website together for the over 32,000 existing Emptees community members?

I sort of felt that way, i’m not the guy with the most successful company, i’m not the biggest hype man, but i do think i’ve been around long enough to know what works and what doesn’t. Having tried to control emptees for the past two years i learned a lot about what goes into keeping a community happy. i try to think about what it was like for me when i was younger and how there weren’t many ways to promote your work online. If there were no emptees, bandjob, mintees etc… tomorrow i’d be fine, but I’d like to think about young designers who would like a place to display their work and get noticed. There needs to be a creative outlet for apparel designers and emptees certainly filled that void, I was happy to step in and try to take over once they closed up shop.

Lets talk a bit about! It has been announced that Kevin and Jared of AKT Enterprises reached out to you about starting the new site. Since that relationship has come to fruition how have things been moving?

Fast and furious. I was the first one Indie Labs told about the closing of emptees around 2pm, by 2:15 I had already put a draft together trying to rally the troops. A few hours after Matt made the post announcement, shortly after I made my call to arms post which was met with an overwhelming amount of support. Emails started flooding in about possible donations, coding help, design work and everything else that could help build an emptees replacement. That night I got a phone call from longtime friend Kevin Khandjian from AKT enterprises. We spent a bit discussing ideas and work hasn’t stopped since. I have known Kevin for probably eight years now and I trust him and his team to have this up and running in record time. Expect the core version of the site up soon with more bells and whistles to come.

One of the knocks on Emptees was that the site became increasingly negative over time. Do you have any plans for trying to keep the site more positive and moderated?

Absolutely. sometimes a little negativity is good for everyone, but when it spins out of control like in the recent johnny cupcakes vs. pyknic debacle, you realize certain things need to be nipped in the bud before they start. In the past people would make fake accounts and troll others to no end, a few accounts were funny, but 95% of the time they were just cowards hiding behind an avatar. There will be more control for moderators to see if two accounts share the same IP, ability to ban rippers, banning those with racist or homophobic insults etc…

Another reason stated for the close of Emptees was the cost of hosting compared to the amount of revenue the site took in. Are there any plans for membership dues or more advertising spots on the site to help cover costs?

We have plans set in place that can hopefully keep the site afloat. we are looking into having ads, but not paid memberships. if a time does come where server costs etc… do get out of control we are hoping the community could pitch in a buck or two if it is a slow month.

In what ways can we expect Mintees to be the same at Emptees and in what ways will it be different?

We hope to have the same emphasis on t-shirt design and community building that Emptees had, with the shirts being more curated and the forum with 10% less drama. I would like the tees section to be held to a much higher standard, not just a place where anyone can dump some doodles with “FOR SALE” under it. I want art directors / bands / tee buyers to actually peruse it and like what they see. At first every tee coming through mintees will be added to a queue for the moderators to approve, once someone is trusted or has shown they post nothing but solid work over time (i.e. greg abbott, dan mumford, etc…) then they will be able to post work without restrictions.

Care to share any new and exciting features that you have in store for us?

While not everything will be available at launch, we have some fun features planned, like custom member profiles to serve as a portfolio, the ability to “follow” designers and more.

With 32,000 members and no place to call home people have been scrambling to come up with a new home. So far we have Bandjob, and of course your new brainchild Mintees! Do you think it is a positive or a negative to have this many sites splitting up the community?

Why not? Just more outlets for artists to expose their work. I don’t think any of the owners of the sites are viewing others as competition. AKT is collaborating with the black axe (creators of a project right now so everyone is on the same page.

When can we expect the new site to be launched?

Before March 1st! Stay tuned to or follow for updates. Thanks to everyone for their support, it means a whole lot to me.

  • This is good to hear. Despite not being really active on Emptees the past year or two, I fully back Mintees and continue my interest in tee design and the people doing it! I think the shakeup has actually caused a lot more interest and camaraderie, so I think Mintees will really take off, even if it only has 10% of the commuity that Emptees did.

  • Completely agree with this. Seems like since this has gone down the community has bonded together a bit more. hopefully nothing but positive things come from this!

  • Pingback: Tweets that mention Rob Dobi Talks The End Of Emptees & The Start Of | I Am The Trend --

  • Excellent pre-launch interview, guys. 🙂

  • Super excited to see what comes of this, I wasn’t a huge contributor to Emptees because I preferred to stay out of the drama, but I did frequent the site and read up on the resources and such. My heart goes out to those working their asses off to get Mintees started up!

  • Really looking forward to seeing this come to fruition! Mintees sounds very promising and I’m sure it will surpass it’s expectations.

  • Technically, the majority of Emptees’s content has already migrated to So, that’s good news!

  • thanks!

  • This is a good read. Gives me a good feeling and some excitement about whats to come from mintees!

  • fopifopi

    so promising but no indos :'(

  • so many lulz