Monday, January 11, 2010

Student Entrepreneur in action - Student business targets to-be freshmen

Source: The Lantern

By Michelle Sullivan -

While the job market might look dismal to some, one group of Ohio State students has combined T-shirts, underwear and social networks to jump-start a business and make some money in the process.

Frosh Tees, a Web-based T-shirt company that targets classes of incoming college freshmen, is the brainchild of third-year business student Nils Root. He said he came up with the idea through Facebook.

“I noticed in my ‘OSU Class of 2011’ group there were some pathetic attempts at creating a unifying class shirt,” Root said. “I thought the combination of a target market organized on Facebook along with a simple product would make for a doable business.”

As it turns out, it does. Root and several of his friends design, market and sell T-shirts for individual graduating classes throughout the country. Each shirt represents the city to which college-bound customers are headed for school. Columbus’ shirt is scarlet and gray and says “See you on High St.”

When Root started Frosh Tees in the fall of 2008, the Columbus tee was one of five shirts available. Now, there are more than 100.

Orders are printed on demand through a shirt shop in Chicago.

“We’re essentially 20 times larger than we were when we started,” Root said. “We get more and more orders every day.”

He attributed the increase in sales to the company’s recent marketing push and revamped Web site. They have even added a new product to their item list: Frosh Panties.

The idea behind the underwear stems from Victoria’s Secret Pink’s campaign toward college students, said Grace Tuttle, a third-year in marketing.

“There’s no real competition for Pink on university campuses,” Tuttle said. “So we created this generic underwear as an alternative.”

Facebook and Twitter have been the Frosh Tees team’s main vehicle for advertisement. They target Facebook groups created specifically for classes of incoming freshmen, said Alix Keil, a third-year in strategic communication.

She said there is an advantage in students selling to students.

“We have a connection with these students,” Keil said. “From a consumer’s perspective, they see we’ve already been there. We know what looks good, what other students would wear.”

Frosh Tees broke even last year and is on track to reach that point again soon. Root said profits will be invested back into the business.

“The lifestyle I live right now … I’m in college; everyone’s broke around here. There’s no real hurry to pull out a bunch of money from this,” he said. “Hopefully, we can just keep investing in the company and grow it until that day when we leave college and will be excited to have an income.”

Root said he wants to be a full-time entrepreneur in the future, but he does not know for certain if Frosh Tees will be the direct path toward his goal.

Frosh Tees “is changing so rapidly, I don’t even know what February is going to look like, let alone 2011. I just focus on next week’s marketing push.”


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