By Sarah Beth Costello
This article was feature on the Elon University Web site: click here
Two years ago, Bryan McFarland ’04 decided the T-shirt industry provided an ideal
outlet for a young entrepreneur searching for a niche in the fashion industry.
McFarland noticed that while V-neck tees were popular, few retailers carried simply designed, eco-friendly and unique shirts.
“I couldn’t find any graphic V-necks and I started thinking, ‘Why is nobody creating these?’ I did a little research and decided I could jump into this market and create a name. The more niche you can get, the more you can get a unique following,” explains McFarland who established the product line Vintage V by David Mac.
In December 2007, McFarland launched Vintage V by David Mac. The Philadelphia native began marketing his shirts on his Web site and through networking. He relied heavily on Elon alumni, friends and family to help spread the word about his company and to wear the tees in public.
“I have always had a strong entrepreneurial drive since I was a little kid,” McFarland says. “I’ve always wanted to create my own thing and do something on my own.”
McFarland brought in friends Chris Glen ’05 and Jennifer Fulmer Guthrie ’04 to help him with the company, which is based in Glenmore, Pa. They used their Elon degrees to make it successful.
“When Bryan came to me he [already] had a designer to design his logo and it wasn’t working out,” says Guthrie, who majored in digital art. “He remembered this was what I did in college. I worked on the logo and the Web site and from there I asked, ‘What can I do to help you out?’”
Glen, who earned a degree in communications, wrote press releases and brainstormed marketing strategies with McFarland. After about eight months, McFarland asked Glen and Guthrie to join the company full time.
As the designer, Guthrie creates the various T-shirt logos, as well as the Web site. Glen works in marketing, contacting boutiques and the media to promote the shirts. McFarland and Glen are in Pennsylvania while Guthrie lives in Nashville, Tenn. McFarland credits the strong bonds among Elon alumni for bringing the trio together.
“The creativity Jennifer brings to the table with her design work is amazing,” McFarland says. “Chris has such off-the-cuff ideas in writing content and reaching out to public relations people. The company wouldn’t be where it is today if I hadn’t brought them on.”
McFarland says his Elon education helped sharpen and enhance the business skills he gained while working for his family’s business during college. As a business major, McFarland participated in the Elon Enterprise Academy (EEA) in the university’s Martha and Spencer Love School of Business. The EEA offers students a hands-on approach to entrepreneurial education.
“EEA took something I was interested in and fine-tuned my skills and knowledge with real-life applications,” McFarland says.
Glen says he uses his communications studies to enhance the public relations work he does for the company.
“My classes are coming in very handy now,” says Glen, who also praises the faculty and staff he worked with at Elon. “Professor Tom Nelson, especially. Every once in a while, I send him an e-mail and let him know what’s going. He’s always been helpful.”
Like any fledgling business, Vintage V by David Mac has experienced successes and setbacks. Yet McFarland is undaunted. He views those challenges as learning experiences.
“I think failure leads to success,” he says. “If you sit there and analyze why you failed and take it as a learning experience, the next time you try to succeed, you’ll be more likely to do so. I also have the attitude, why can’t we start the next big clothing line?”
McFarland and Glen have also marketed to a bigger audience, sending shirts and press releases to celebrities and their agents. McFarland would like to expand the company’s product line to include sweatshirts and jeans. They also want to partner with organic companies and farms, and donate money to school music programs or nonprofit organizations.
“I’d love to have everything we do contribute to some organization,” Guthrie says. “That’s our next step right now. We’re trying to pin down the philanthropies we want to be involved with.”
These days, McFarland, Guthrie and Glen are searching for a manufacturer that can produce the V-necks using all organic materials.
“Our slogan is ‘stay free,’” says McFarland. “So many people get wrapped up in their daily lives, chained to their jobs and they’ve got to have the mentality to get out and smile. It’s that mindset of lets step back and enjoy life.”
Check out the tees at www.vintagevneck.com