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Teed Up Meri Zeiff's T-shirt company allows kids to make a difference--while communicating positive messages.

By Gwen Moran

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

It grated on first-grade teacher Meri Zeiff to see her pupils coming to school with T-shirts emblazoned with "Spoiled Brat" or other negative messages. "That's not how happy kids think. That's how a jaded adult tells a kid to think," she says. She voiced this complaint frequently, often saying that she wanted to create her own shirts for kids. Finally, after several years, her mother got sick of hearing her talk about it and, in 2006, handed her $2,500 to help her launch verymeri, her Encino, Calif., T-shirt company.

Zeiff immediately went to work, turning to her pupils for inspiration and advice. During recess, she polled them about what they would like to see on T-shirts and found her instincts were right on. No "I'm with stupid" responses here. Instead the kids shouted out messages such as "First grade rocks!" "Go green!" and "I love Mommy!"

She narrowed down the responses and, with her seed money, had some T-shirts and a rudimentary website made. She invited mothers from the school over to see her new collection. About 20 showed up, and their responses--she sold out of the T-shirts--showed she had a viable business.

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