UA students start T-shirt businessby tcguestblogger on Apr. 16, 2012, under Life
Serengetee is a new student-run clothing company that allows clients to customize T-shirt chest pockets with unique fabrics from all around the world.
With each T-shirt purchase, Serengetee donates half of its profit to a charity or organization in the region the fabric is from.
“Rewarding for our customers is our mission,” Jeff Steitz, 20, founder and chief executive officer said. “We return 50 percent of profits back to the regions where the fabric comes from.”
Serengetee uses 80 different fabrics from more than 25 countries, and offers a variety of pocketed shirts including V-necks, tank tops and racer backs. Each shirt is customizable in black or white and made in the U.S.A.
“We needed a product that we knew anyone could wear and something that anyone could be interested in,” Ryan Westberg, 21, a University of Arizona student and chief marketing officer said.
Steitz met Westberg when both participated in a Semester at Sea program during the spring of 2011. From their travels, the idea for a customizable T-shirt pocket began.
“I am always motivated by the prospect of traveling,” Steitz said. “Having the opportunity to visit our partner charities and search for new fabrics abroad is an extremely appealing reason to be in such a unique field.”
Market-places in countries such as Ghana, Guatemala and New Zealand inspired the founders to purchase yards of fabric and get involved with the world outside of the United States.
Expanding their idea became the next task.
With the main guidance of Steitz, Westberg and the Serengetee staff looked at companies such as Tom’s and Patagonia.
“We based our business model a lot on Tom’s shoes,” Westberg said. “They have the great one for one campaign, which is very effective and they have a great company image.”
Westberg found it important to interact over Facebook and Twitter when starting the company.
“We did a promotion in the first week where you change your Facebook profile picture and do three-plus statuses,” he said.
Doing so earned college students a position as a campus correspondent at their respective college. With 100 plus students at more than 50 colleges, Serengetee’s popularity spread.
“It’s the buzz around campus,” Matt Wasel, 21, a University of Arizona student and campus correspondent said. “I hand out Serengetee stickers and inform students of the awesome customizable fabrics.”
Along with Wasel, many others used Facebook as an opportunity to support Serengetee.
“Some people came out of the woodwork wanting to get involved, wanting to help us out to spread the word,” Westberg said. “The support was overwhelming.”
With the help of Semester at Sea, Westberg believes their idea of making a difference in the world is achievable.
“They support our mission and are supporting us any way possible,” he said. “We have been contacted and we hope to develop a relationship with them.”
Serengetee looks to expand from just an online store. With fabrics ranging from seersucker to traditional Mexican artwork, there is truly a fabric for everyone.
“I can see us in every store,” Westberg said. “We can be in surf shops, JC Penny or Nordstrom.”
Steitz said that their donations are a huge driving factor in the company’s early T-shirt sales and success.
“Twenty-five percent goes in the form of direct donations to a charity of the customer’s choice, while another 25 percent is reinvested in that community,” Steitz said. “College students are tremendous givers if you give them the chance.”
Despite the company’s early dependency on collegiate-level social media, Westberg feels there is no age too young or old to help support the countries around the globe.
“I can see us fitting in any situation because we can go for that urban look and we can go for that preppy look,” Westberg said. “The possibilities are endless.”
Even though Serengetee is still developing, T-shirt sales are strong.
In the first month alone, over 300 T-shirts were purchased after their website launch in February.
“Customers all over the country have bought Serengetees for themselves and as gifts,” Steitz said. “Even more impressive are the number of repeat customers who are coming back for more.”
As Serengetee looks to the future, the company is motivated by possible new relationships with charities and organizations.
“I cannot wait to watch the progress of our partner organizations and see our investment portfolio grow to new countries abroad,” Steitz said. “We are truly going to make a difference in these countries.”
With more than 11 charities currently in partnership, Serengetee makes it known that it is a for-profit organization that fully intends to gave back to the country that the customer chooses fabric from.
Serengetee continues to look for support and spread its name through customer travels and support.
“Our future goals are to have schools built and to make a real difference in these countries,” Westberg said. “Take a picture by a waterfall. You will remember that forever and Serengetee will be there right with you.”
For additional information, visit serengetee.com.