By TAYLOR HARTZ
Three Southington High School seniors are advancing their education in marketing by using their business and sales skills outside the classroom. Evan Aiudi, Natalie Rickard, and Margaux Degumbi, all students in the SHS Marketing III course, have created their own company.
North Coast Clothing, a New England themed t-shirt company, has earned the students more than $4,000 to date.
“We’re half way there,” said Aiudi, who hopes the group will sell another 200 of their long-sleeved t-shirts.
The company offers four designs for the shirts, available in grey, white, turquoise, and navy blue. Each shirt bears the North Coast Clothing (NCC) logo on the top right corner, with a different design on the back of each.
Modeled off of a U.S. “North Coast” theme, the shirts are designed with anchors, life preservers, starfish, and maps of New England.
At $20 per shirt, the students sold their first 160 products to students at SHS.
The halls of the high school are filled with fliers for the company—one flier every 15-feet to be exact.
The shirts are modeled by mannequins in the school store, and by the company owners themselves throughout the school day, while morning announcements advertise their products.
“We just tried to flood the school with advertising and flood Twitter and Instagram with content,” said Auidi.
The students built a solid online presence and kept active social media accounts for the clothing line as well. North Coast Clothing has its own website, along with Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts. After reaching a goal with their classmates, they sought to make sales in the rest of the community.
“Facebook has been a big help,” said Auidi, who said they received dozens of orders from parents of peers and SHS alumni after posting in online community forums.
“All the adults have been super supportive,” said Auidi.
The team said that SHS principal Brian Stranieri and Superintendent of Schools Timothy Connellan were “hugely beneficial” in helping them promote their brand throughout the school district.
Doug Spain, owner of Pro-Image in Southington and an SHS alumn, was also a major supporter of the brand.
Spain provided the students with discounted printing services for their products, without which the students said the production of their shirts would not have been possible.
In addition to support from ProDesign, the team said that choosing to create a clothing company offered them a low startup cost, and brands including Vineyard Vines, Tommy Hilfiger, and Ralph Lauren ensure a target-market with a “high-end prep style” following.
When processing orders, the students offer in-person sales and online purchases, and provide free “shipping”—all online orders are hand-delivered by the students.
The owners agree that they enjoy delivering each shirt personally because they like to see who is ordering them, who the shirt is for, and why they decided to purchase their product.
“Local interaction is the best,” said Aiudi.
While they have seen a steady flow of orders, starting and maintaining a company has been a real learning process for the seniors.
“Communication and compromise are integral to success,” said Rickard, “I’ve learned how to deal with real life business situations such as negotiations and sales proposals.”
When starting the company, Rickard focused on using her personal network to spread awareness of the brand. While Aiudi worked to push the company in the right direction, Degumbia focused on a successful “word-of-mouth campaign” throughout the town.
Degumbia said her role in reaching out to local students, citizens, and businesses gave her “a better understanding of the business world and its competitive nature.”
The students still hope to make 200 more sales to fulfill their quota of 400 products sold. Their ultimate goal is to earn enough from their sales to finance a trip to Nashville, Tenn., this April where they hope to attend the International Career Development Conference (ICDC). At the conference, the team will have the chance to present their product in a professional business setting.
Each of the three students plans to pursue an education in business next fall and hopes that using the success of their SHS class project to attend the ICDC conference will better prepare them for their college education and careers.
All of the North Coast Clothing products are available online at www.NorthCoastClothing.net.