J.T. Levin and his business partner, childhood friend Brian Geffen, started their business while still in college — Levin at the University of Missouri and Geffen at the University of Colorado.
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San Diego-based Duds by Dudes, a screen printing and embroidery business, prints just about everything you can wear. Some of their popular non-clothing items include beer mugs, shot glasses, key chains, pens and reusable grocery bags.
Levin and Geffen's business idea came about like most entrepreneurs — they saw a profitable service, and felt their ideas were better than the existing competition. Unlike many of their college classmates, however, they had no desire to get an entry-level job requiring many difficult hours.
"We were both in fraternities in college and saw just how much stuff Greek houses across the country get custom printed every year," says Levin. "We thought that by guaranteeing printing prices cheaper than most companies, we could generate enough orders for a little profit."
Levin says they planned ahead to know their business would work. "Research your business idea enough to know that long term you're going to be OK," he says, offering advice for would-be entrepreneurs. "If you really think you have a good idea, and reason to believe, do not doubt yourself at the first problem. That, and make sure to manage your cash flow."
Duds by Dudes had a very small start-up cost, but Levin had to make a small investment from his personal savings for start-up capital. He says they began by contracting printing, and guaranteeing work at a rate low enough to turn a small profit. Both Levin and Geffen operate their business as a licensed liability corporation.
The company now fills and ships orders for various merchandise nationwide. About 40 percent of sales generated by Duds by Dudes is local, while 60 percent of their items are distributed nationwide. Many of their customers come from contacts they made in college, including fraternities, sororities, as well as corporations, charities and companies.
Levin and Geffen know their business has serious potential, but they always remember to have fun with their sales and Web site.
Levin says entrepreneurship is designed for people to take advantage of the benefits and freedoms of working for yourself. "Let your business be a job, not a chore," he advises, adding that business owners should enjoy running their business and providing for their customers.
"We saw the way most groups dealt with their custom clothing orders and wanted to do it better," he says. "Our business originally started for a little extra spending money, and then somehow we just stumbled on this viable business. T-shirts will always be cool."