I would like to believe that I had a normal college experience. Although I didn’t live on campus, I was still able to form meaningful connections with many of my peers. I joined various clubs, explored the pubs and restaurants that surrounded downtown, and took classes that helped me obtain my degree. Heck, I even studied abroad in Seoul, South Korea.
On the outside, everything was exactly what you’d expect from an 18-22 year old going through the “best four years of his life.” Everything seemed quite normal. The only thing different was that during my sophomore year, I created a clothing brand.
Yes, that’s right—I created a clothing brand in college. At the time, I didn’t think anything of it. It’s as if creating one was just part of the college experience, and that many took on this additional endeavor; and I’m sure many have.
But as I talked to my peers and heard the “Congratulations” and words of admiration, I realized something: making a clothing brand in college might not have been as normal as I thought.
How it started
My clothing brand’s origin story is very simple. During my first year of college, I met a group of friends via Tumblr, a world renowned social media platform. Not many of us lived in the same state, but we found solace and comfort in each other’s company, talking until early morning.
Among that group was another graphic designer who had his own clothing brand. He used Tumblr to bring in new customers from around the globe. Through our many talks and him introducing me to a few more brand owners, I became inspired to start my own. And then, Be Fresh ‘til Infinity was born.
The name could have been different, but at the time, when brands like Winner’s Circle Clothing and Stay Fly Apparel existed, it seemed like the right choice. My goals for the brand were this: create a design that people liked, put it on a shirt, then sell it to make profit. Easy, right?
Effort and a little luck
I always believed that I was a decent graphic designer. Taking classes in high school showed that I (sorta) knew my stuff. I was selected for various competitions, made posters to be distributed, and received acknowledgments for a magazine spread. All my efforts proved that I could make something out of it.
With this and the ideas that I had, I was certain that my clothing brand would be a success—and at first, it wasn’t.
Looking back, my debut designs were awful. They were nothing more than a block of text in bold letters that aimed to be witty, relatable, and new. “Style stays longer than the hype. Style stays ‘til infinity.” Cue the cringe and the regret.
Despite the horrible first launch, I looked towards my second set of designs; I decided that those would be less wordy and more graphic-y. For my second drop, I made three designs—and to my surprise, one of them became viral.
To Infinity and Beyond
Us ‘til Infinity.
The concept and marketing was easy: made for and to be worn by couples. Due to the abysmal sales of my first two designs, however, I didn’t expect much. And to be quite honest, I didn’t like the design myself. It seemed far too simple and way too corny. But perhaps, it was that dissatisfaction that served as a premonition for my upcoming success.
All it took was one couple, one photo, and a thousand reblogs on Tumblr to make my mailbox filled with confirmation emails of new purchases. The general public saw something in my design that I did not, and I’m grateful for that.
Although I used the pre-order method, people still waited, ready to add Us ‘til Infinity merchandise to their shopping cart. The taste of success was sweet and surreal, and something I could never get used to.
Putting in the work
Despite this overnight success, I could never really sit down and soak it all in. As a one man team, I had to do it all: creating spreadsheets, packaging and handling, customer service, and everything else in between.
Even though I enlisted the help of various friends, I never thought about looking for a business partner or recruiting an extra set of hands to aid me in day to day operations. Managing a clothing brand on my own taught me many things and I don’t think I would have wanted it any other way.
It was difficult and lonely, yes. But at the end of the day, I realized that with hard work and a bit of luck, anything is possible. Be Fresh ‘til Infinity may have not lasted until infinity, but I always look back at that time fondly, knowing I tried my best and made products and designs people loved.
To all entrepreneurs, CEO’s, and budding dreamers: don’t give up, put in the work, and don’t be afraid to fail. Your future self will thank you for that.