In conversation, northern Scottsdale resident Deborah Muller is light, relatable and loves to punctuate her thoughts with a witty quip.
So it comes as no surprise her newly launched T-shirt line, Schmattees, is equally as charming and funny.
With phrases like “salty like the dead sea” and “party like a lox star” printed across a solid-colored tee, it’s hard not to smile at the playfulness of it.
Muller came up with the idea for Schmattees in February, while she was getting her hair done at a nearby DryBar.
Flipping through the pages of “Money” magazine, an article about an entrepreneur who found success designing T-shirts caught her eye. It was her light bulb moment.
“I started reading it and I thought, ‘I could do this.’ I live in T-shirts, except when I have to throw on lipstick and actual heels when I go out to an event,” Muller said. “This taps into my skill set. I think I’m kind of punny – at least, my husband always says that with an eye roll.”
Muller then applied to Merch by Amazon, an invitation-only, on-demand T-shirt printing service that allows sellers to create and list designs on Amazon for free.
With no upfront costs, sellers get paid a royalty on every product sold. Plus, all products are eligible for Prime shipping, meaning Amazon Prime members receive the products usually within two days.
Muller’s application was approved much quicker than she anticipated – within 12 hours.
She brainstormed over 20 different phrases, created all of the designs and uploaded to Amazon.
“I’ve thought really long and hard about each and every one and I love them so much,” she said.
Muller began selling the shirts two months ago, and since, she has sold over 25 shirts.
“I’ve gotten really good response from it; people love it,” she said. “I will probably say my mom and brother have not bought any of them.”
Muller’s target audience includes people who “want to wear both their Jewish pride and their sense of humor at the same time.”
She added: “I think when you do a little tongue-in-cheek humor with that pride, it’s less in your face because like my mother always said, ‘If they’re laughing at you, they can’t kill you.’”
The name “Schmattees” was inspired by Muller’s time working in the fashion, publishing and public relations industries in New York.
“That’s where I really heard people joke and say, ‘Oh, you are in the schmatta trade,’” she said.
“Schmatta” is a Yiddish word that literally means “rags,” but has been used to describe the fashion trade, particularly New York City’s Garment District.
“I thought that’d be so funny to tie it in since I’m doing these real niche, Jewish humor T-shirts, and I don’t know how the inspiration hit me, but I was like, ‘Schmatta? Schmattees!’” Muller said.
Merch by Amazon content creators can choose any price they want for their products, and Muller intentionally chose to price the shirts at $18 each.
“Eighteen has significance in Judaism. The letter ‘chai’ translates to life, and 18 is the number,” she said, adding:
“It’s kind of like an inside joke. You obviously do not have to be Jewish to buy these shirts, but if you are and you have a baseline knowledge, maybe it makes you laugh a little.”
Muller’s best sellers include “if you can’t say anything nice, say it in Yiddish,” “party like a lox star” and “salty like the Dead Sea.”
“I like it because it’s biblical,” Muller said of the latter phrase. “That was actually inspired by my own lovely son, who is ‘salty AF,’ as he likes to say.”
This isn’t Muller’s first time owning a business; She owns the eponymous public relations company, Deborah Muller Public Relations, and is a public consultant for several Valley Jewish organizations, including the Greater Phoenix Jewish Film Festival and the Desert Gathering Jewish Music Festival.
But this is the first time she’s had to sell her own product.
“It’s a whole different animal selling hard goods because I could say, ‘Here are the results of my PR campaign for your business,’” she said. “I am definitely learning the ins and outs of being a female entrepreneur.”
Moving forward, Muller will continue on with public relations while continuing to grow Schmattees.
She’s most looking forward to not only continuing to flex her creative muscles, but also grow her business acumen.
“You’re never too old or middle aged to learn new things, to learn new skills,” she said.