Big Business Swings and Misses at a New Fan Favorite – A Small Biz Case Study

Big corporate types are always saying how important small businesses are to economic growth. They say this, but do they ever really mean it? Perhaps, as long as the little guy isn’t smarter, craftier or more creative. As long as the little guy isn’t slicing out a piece of the pie. Allow me to introduce Darren Meenan, unfortunately not Meehan.

Darren is the owner of The7Line.com, named after the subway line that brings you to CitiField, the home of the New York Mets. The7Line.com produces increasingly popular and incredibly unique t-shirts for Mets fans. If you’ve been to CitiField recently, you’ve no doubt seen folks wearing them. They have personality. They make you laugh. They are for the fans. Oh, and they also helped Darren rake in over $200,000 in gross sales last year. Guess who doesn’t like that – Major League Baseball’s Players Association. They are claiming that Darren is infringing in that he is using the players’ names or likenesses even though Darren has a relationship with the players themselves — and they like his brand.

Let’s put this in proper perspective. Major League Baseball is a multi, multi, multi-billion dollar industry. Owners make a fortune, the Major League Baseball Players Association ensures that players make a fortune, and the various media outlets that cover games at the local and national levels make a fortune. Do you know who doesn’t make a fortune? The fans. Quite the opposite actually. Fans lose money at the ballpark: tickets, beers, hot dogs, ice cream, and on and on. And if you want to buy an official team shirt, prepare to fork over some more pretty pennies, which brings us back to Darren.

Darren is operating a small business. His sales are mainly online though he does sell t-shirts on game days from inside an Irish pub in CitiField. Fans don’t mind buying these shirts because the shirts are a wearable love letter to them. They know that Darren is one of them. They know that he is loyal to them, that he cares about them. So then what’s the problem?

The problem is that the Major League Baseball Players Association wants to limit his creative process, which is what distinguishes his brand from the more mundane official MLB products. Often, people are all too willing to acquiesce to corporations but in the case of The7Line.com, I don’t see this train stalling. And it’s gnawing at the MLBPA. It’s gnawing at Corporate America. The man who grossed $200,000 in sales is poised to beat a member of the Billionaire Boys Club. If only this were true for every small business.