When I first heard about Milwaukee OATS, a local screen printing company, I thought of grain. To my surprise, the name has no connection with hearty grains. Instead, it’s short for “Just a T-Shirt”.
Enrique Murguia, the owner of OATS, never saw himself as a screen printer. As a kid, he struggled to connect with people, but found a way to express himself by creating urban art.
“When I grew up with English and Spanish, my communication skills weren’t the best,” said Murguia. “Art has allowed me to connect with different communities and break the barrier.”
Another passion for Murguia was politics. In high school, he tried to experiment with art to shed light on local issues. However, nothing clicked until he saw Shepard Fairey’s work. Fairey is a street performer and founder of OBEY Clothing, best known for Barack Obama’s “Hope” poster for the 2008 presidential campaign.
When he was enrolled at Stevens Point University, he created shirts for his group of friends from videos on YouTube and mentored by Bay Tex Inc. After attracting a small clientele on campus, OATS was founded.
“Even though we were offering a product, a product that meant so much to someone, at the end of the day it was just a t-shirt,” said Murguia.
Enrique Murguia screen printing | Courtesy Enrique Murguia
OATS has worked with organizations such as Urban Underground, Youth Justice Milwaukee, and the Wisconsin Department of Children and Families. OATS not only creates goods for organizations, but also works with individuals who create their own brands and movements. According to Murguia, Milwaukee is creating its own ecosystem for entrepreneurship.
“I know if I can help one young person, that young person will go to church and help ten other people,” Murguia said.
Currently, OATS is opening an internship to teach the art of screen printing and building your business.