By Matthew Gwin
The recent series finale of “Ted Lasso” doesn’t mean end credits for a Kansas City teacher whose T-shirt side hustle scored big throughout the show’s run — thanks to a notable assist from his childhood friend Jason Sudeikis who began wearing his designs in early episodes.
Brendan Curran, founder of the apparel company Three KC, saw perhaps even more interest in his shirts during the show’s final season, with Sudeikis — the Overland Park-raised actor and comedian who leads the show’s ensemble cast and stars at the titular character — sporting multiple KC-made shirts during his off-the-field scenes as Ted Lasso and in public appearances promoting the show.
The wildly popular, Emmy Award-winning series’ final episode premiered last week on Apple TV.
Three KC — inspired by what Curran refers to as the three kings of Kansas City: the Chiefs, Royals and barbecue — got its first big boost when Sudeikis wore a “Joearthur Gatestack” shirt designed by Curran back in Season 1.
“It changed everything,” Curran said. “I had that shirt out for one year (already), and I sold some, but not a ton. . . but as soon as Ted Lasso was wearing it, people were crazy for it.”
Further capitalizing on his newfound success, Curran produced a line of Ted Lasso-inspired merchandise. Though he’s not an officially licensed Ted Lasso seller, Curran knows he has Sudeikis’ blessing, he said.
“Fortunately, I know if I design anything (to do) with Jason — not his exact face — he’s OK with it,” Curran said. “So I just have to come up with Ted Lasso-inspired designs.”
Indeed, Sudeikis wore even more of the designs as the show rolled on.
Curran’s foray into the world of Ted Lasso has extended beyond Three KC products, gaining notoriety among diehard fans of the series, he shared.
“The Ted Lasso community has been pretty cool,” Curran said. “I’ve gotten to know a few people. There’s a Ted Lasso podcast (called Richmond Til We Die) that I’ve chatted with and connected with a little bit . . . It’s been a neat community to just connect with people.”
Beyond the ‘Ted Lasso’ bump
Still, Three KC’s growth has extended beyond Joearthur Gatestack and Ted Lasso, Curran said. Most notably, Made in KC began carrying Three KC products in its stores, as well as in the new airport terminal.
“I’ve had a lot of friends who, when they go through the airport, will send me a picture of the merchandise area with the shirts,” he said. “It’s still very surreal.”
Beyond the celebrity bump from his buddy Sudeikis — whom Curran met playing basketball in eighth grade — Three KC has received some sales spikes following social media posts that authors Brené Brown and Jen Hatmaker made featuring the company’s shirts.
“(Sudeikis) sent one to Brené Brown, and when she posted a picture of it on her Twitter, it was an unreal spike,” Curran said. “Jen Hatmaker actually bought a Ted Lasso shirt, and she put it on her Instagram, and that was bonkers once her followers saw that.”
As sales increased, Curran got “Joearthur Gatestack” trademarked, in part to curb a slew of unauthorized imitation products.
“It’s not been as much, but there are definitely still people out there who are ripping off the design and selling them,” he acknowledged. “I think it’s unavoidable, unfortunately, but once that whole trademark process went through, it definitely cut it down.”
Closer to home, Three KC designed the official T-shirt for Chiefs radio announcer Mitch Holthus that was sold in Hy-Vee stores, Curran said.
“It’s the good ol’ Midwest,” Curran said. “Kansas City people want Kansas City shirts, in particular with the Chiefs, but even though the Royals are down, people are still buying Royals-colored shirts. Fortunately, Kansas City people just love Kansas City shirts.”
A product of life
Although Three KC has enjoyed a surge in sales and visibility thanks to its celebrity fans, Curran said the business still remains a side hustle.
Most days, Curran is busy teaching statistics, coaching basketball, and serving as the assistant director of student life at Saint Thomas Aquinas High School in Overland Park.
To maintain his work-life balance, Curran relies on Seen Merch as his local screen-printer, and uses a print-on-demand service through his website.
“I don’t just store all the shirts; I’m not the one shipping all those out, because I just couldn’t do it if that was the case,” he said. “I just have to come up with the designs and maintain the website, which is not much.”
Curran has no formal training in graphic design, having simply picked it up while teaching high school technology courses, he said. Recently, he’s designed some logos for friends simply for fun, he added.
Curran was inspired to launch Three KC by the memory of his great-grandfather, who died before he was born.
Despite a lack of education, Curran’s great-grandfather designed and built an “awesome” barn, Curran shared, then played the fiddle at a subsequent barn party.
That story inspired a line that has become Curran’s entrepreneurial and personal mantra: “Build the barn and play the fiddle.”
“That’s been a big piece moving forward with Three KC,” he said. “I don’t always know what I’m doing, but I’m just going to give it a go.”
Curran hopes that his three sons, his students, and others will see his entrepreneurial journey and be inspired to create their own, he said.
“I had no background in graphic design, no background in business,” Curran said. “One thing I’m hoping my kids see is that sometimes you’ve just got to go for it. I don’t always know what I’m doing on the business end of things; I’m still figuring things out as I jump through it, but that’s OK. It’s just fun.”