KINSTON — The big city of Raleigh is pretty special. There’s the hustle and bustle of the people, bright lights lining the skyline, culture and diversity on every corner, and plenty of things to make the city unique.
We all have some connection to North Carolina’s capital city. And for one Raleigh native, she is helping to remind the whole state that We Be Raleigh.
“I tell people all the time, in Raleigh you can walk into a bar and see a guy who’s wearing sweatpants talking to a guy in a suit and everyone is having a good time,” said Amanda Blackburn. “There’s always a good time, there’s always good people.”
Blackburn, 26, developed We Be Raleigh, a company that puts North Carolina-based designs on T-shirts, prints, drinkware, and any other fun things she and her team create.
Blackburn earned her bachelor’s degree in graphic design from UNC Charlotte. She returned to her hometown of Raleigh where she spends her day designing as part of the marketing team at Highwood Properties. She spends her evenings creating memorable designs celebrating Raleigh.
Blackburn said the web of creation for We Be Raleigh began weaving its way to fruition while sitting around at Foundation bar in downtown Raleigh in late 2014.
“Some friends and I started it around the holidays,” said Blackburn. “One of our friends was moving and talking about how he wanted a Raleigh T-shirt so he could represent this place he’s been enjoying for the past five or six years. I started doodling one of the designs on a napkin at the bar, and from there it started spiraling into more and more designs.
“We figured why not go for it and see how it goes.”
In March 2015, the company launched several T-shirt designs, including the design from Blackburn’s napkin which turned into a T-shirt that says, “If I die in Raleigh, at least I will die free.”
“I’ve lived in North Carolina my whole life, but you can sit there and research this whole place and find things you didn’t know,” she said. “I read our state’s Wikipedia page and our state tag line of ‘First in Flight.’ Then we turned that tag line into a flight of beer and ideas just kept coming.”
“First in Flight” is now a slogan on a T-shirt and drink bottle with a flight of beer properly represented underneath the motto. We Be Raleigh offers happy supporters apparel, decorations and drinkware. Merchandise includes sayings such as “It’s Better on Top” with a location reference noting it’s better to be North Carolina than South Carolina.
Another popular design includes “Cherie Berry Lifts Me Up,” in celebration of North Carolina’s commissioner of Labor. The design featuring Berry’s picture pays homage to the elevator queen who, as most North Carolinian’s know, has her picture on the elevator’s certificate of operation.
“I was sent an article about how Cherie Berry was so recognizable because her picture was in elevators,” said Blackburn. “We thought we had to come up with something for this because this is too well-known among everyone in North Carolina to not take advantage of it. The ‘lifts me up’ coordinates with the fact elevators lift you up.”
(The article in reference, “Cherie Berry put her picture in every North Carolina elevator. Here’s how that affected her re-election,” was published by the Washington Post on April 14, 2016.)
“So many people make comments on this design,” said Blackburn. “It’s one of those things that if you are from here or you’ve lived here, you know who she is.”
Even Berry herself appreciated the T-shirts and shared the design image with her followers and fans on social media.
We Be Raleigh does most of its sales online at WeBeRaleigh.com , but often can be found at festival booths.
“I’m constantly doodling in some sense,” said Blackburn. “If I’m doodling, I’m actually paying more attention than not. I start my design process from there.”
More designs are in the works, and Blackburn continues to expand the business.
“When I run into people wearing the shirt, I never say I made the shirt, but I will ask them about it,” she said. “People in turn tell me it’s this company who makes really neat things about North Carolina, which is really nice to hear.
“We Be Raleigh is a company that is really proud of where it’s from. Hopefully a little witty and makes you laugh when walking by.”