“Ambitious Kids tees tend to be conversation starters,” says Kyle Hale, founder Ambitious Kids, a children’s T-shirt company. From cheeky faux travel tees for “Meltdown Island” to retro looks inspired by ‘80s and ‘90s culture, Hale says his toddler and youth T-shirts draw a lot of attention.
Scrolling through Ambitious Kids’ website is a stroll down memory lane for many parents. Tees like “Can I Get A Booyah” and “Kicking It Old School” were inspired by Hale’s own experience growing up in the Lake Minnetonka area in the ’80s and ’90s, and he’s passed some of this slang down to his young son Sky (3).
“Booyah was something I taught Sky to say because I thought it would be funny, and then he just liked to say it,” Hale says. After turning this family inside joke into a kid’s T-shirt design, Hale says the verbiage has gotten Sky some public attention.
“The ‘Booyah’ shirt actually is Sky’s go-to travel shirt,” Hale says. When Sky walks through an airport, shouts of “Booyah!” often follow him through the terminal. “That’s kind of part of the brand,” Hale says. “I think there’s a gravity to it that kind of invites you to laugh and have some fun.”
Before venturing into his own brand of tees, Hale had worked in an entirely different lane. “I was a founding partner at Bite Squad and served as our COO there,” Hale says. After they sold the company, a restaurant delivery platform, to a competitor in 2019, Hale wanted to leverage his skills into a more creative pursuit.
Although he didn’t have any formal art or design training, Hale says the idea for a nostalgia-inspired kid’s T-shirt brand had been chirping within him for awhile. “If you look at my childhood drawings, I’m not very good,” Hale says. “So, I was like, ‘Shoot, I need to learn how to draw.’”
Hale spent a year teaching himself to draw and developing the initial concept to prepare for his brand launch in December 2020. “It was really frustrating and hard, but, eventually, I was able to get the concept 90 percent of the way there, and then I work with a graphic designer just to polish it,” he says.
But building a clothing brand from scratch required other rarified skills and know-how, from understanding how ink interacts with fabric colors to how to place designs, so that they are properly displayed while being worn. Hale chooses to use water-based inks, and many of his shirts are also tri-blend fabrics that include recycled plastic.
Along with connecting kids to the adults in their lives, Ambitious Kids has also given Hale the opportunity to connect with other parents. “They message me on Instagram and say, ‘Hey, these are really fun. Thanks for making these,’” Hale says. “Especially, this last year, we needed some fun and laughter in our household.”