Red Piglet T-shirt designer wants to get his message out

Cedar Falls man sells shirts at Cedar Rapids venues

Mike Nelson arranges T-shirts at his Red Piglet stand at NewBo Market in Cedar Rapids on Friday, Aug. 19, 2016. (Adam Wesley/The Gazette)
Mike Nelson arranges T-shirts at his Red Piglet stand at NewBo Market in Cedar Rapids on Friday, Aug. 19, 2016. (Adam Wesley/The Gazette)

Mike Nelson knew what the name of his new business was going to be long before he knew what he would do with it.

“I tell this story to people all the time,” said Nelson, 43. “Several years ago I woke up in the middle of the night and thought, ‘Red Piglet.’ I jumped up and got on the computer to look on GoDaddy to see if the domain was available. It was, I got it and then I waited.” waited for three years before the site became active, in 2013, and the first source for Nelson’s wares — motivational T-shirts that he said “encourage uniqueness.” Emblazoned with phrases such as “Practice Your Purpose,” “Reinvent Yourself,” “Shift Status Quo,” and “Let Passion Be Your Guide,” among others, Nelson’s T-shirts send a message.

“There’s a message that I definitely want to get out there. With social media, we’re constantly comparing our lives to everyone else’s, and I think that’s one of the reasons people get stuck and don’t move forward with their passion,” he said.

“There’s a lot of ‘paralysis by analysis’ going on, and I think if we embraced our own uniqueness and encouraged others to do the same, the world would be a better place.”

Nelson, who lives with his family in Cedar Falls, has known for years that he wanted to break out and do something on his own. He’s been an art director for an advertising agency and graphic designer in the Waterloo area for more than 20 years.

That career has enabled him make connections that in turn have helped in launching Red Piglet.

The designs are Nelson’s, but the shirts are printed through a Waterloo screen printing company.


“I knew I wanted to do something that would help people, but I wasn’t sure what that would be,” he said. “It took me three years to get past the fear of failure and move forward.”

Putting his graphic design background to use, Nelson created T-shirt designs meant to motivate and inspire greatness.

“We’re all human, we’re all guilty of self-sabotage, we all stop ourselves from doing things we really want to do,” Nelson said. “Red Piglet is kind of a movement. We want people to join in.”

The T-shirts now are available at Newbo Shops at 208, at NewBo Market in Cedar Rapids, as well as during the Cedar Rapids Farmer’s Markets, where Nelson has a regular stand. It’s a beginning, Nelson said, that he hopes will lead to something bigger.

“In a perfect world, someday it would be nice to have a Red Piglet shop that features all of the Red Piglet line that I want to develop as well as things from other creative crafters,” Nelson said.

“In the end, I think Red Piglet just wants to help people get unstuck and help them do what they want to do.”

l Know a company that’s been in business for less than a year — but at least six month — that would be ideal for “The Ground Floor”? Contact Michael Chevy Castranova at

At a glance

l Red Piglet

l Available at Newbo Shops at 208, 208 12th Ave. SE, Cedar Rapids, and at Farmers Markets, set for Sept. 3 and 17

l On the web at



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