Kent State Senior Starts Cleveland Clothing Company
There will always be a bitter rivalry between Cleveland and Pittsburgh, but that did not stop a Pittsburgh native from starting a Cleveland clothing company. Big name Cleveland Browns players Raymond Ventrone, Joe Haden and Josh Cribbs are helping promote one Kent State student’s new clothing line.
Kent State senior Michael Moses always had dreams of starting a clothing company, and he did just that when he launched Brand 216.
“You automatically think of Cleveland when you see the design because the Terminal Tower is the number one in 216,” said Moses, founder and president of the company.
He hopes to create a new vision for Clevelanders and to provide citizens and Cleveland enthusiasts the chance to show the world their love for the city.
Entrepreneurship at Work
“It’s a big city with a lot of things going for it, and people don’t give it enough credit,” Moses said.
Moses has been in the apparel business for three years. He started by making custom-made shirts for high school sports teams, restaurants and clubs. Although he wants to enter the field of sports broadcasting, the applied communications major took an introduction of entrepreneurship course that pushed him toward the idea of creating his own brand.
“He is very hard-working, but beyond that, he is strategic in terms of how and where he channels his efforts,” said Denise Easterling, an entrepreneurship instructor at Kent State. “He always aims to get the maximum results out of the energy he puts into building his brand, and he really knows how to execute.”
Moses is also involved in the Collegiate Entrepreneurs Organization and serves as Kent State’s social media chair for the organization.
Moses said he was able to use the contacts and networks he developed while interning at WEWS-TV News Channel 5, ABC’s affiliate in Cleveland. He said opportunities and connections are what made him create the brand in Cleveland instead of Pittsburgh.
“I have a lot of support from my family and friends at home,” Moses said. “I love the city of Cleveland, and it brought a lot of opportunities for me.”
From a Hobby to a Business
His company turned from something that was just a hobby into a job. Moses said it wouldn’t be possible to run his company without the help of his Kent State friends and roommates.
“I take care of them with shirts because they know I can’t pay them yet for what they do,” Moses said. “It’s really important to take care of your close friends, I love them like family.”
Moses said the more he talks with different retail stores and athletes, the more he thinks it appeals to a wide audience and different target markets.
“I don’t want it to be too hip-hop or too preppy; I want everyone to be able to enjoy it,” he said. “If you’re targeting a specific audience, it’s harder. My goal is for everyone to enjoy it. If a 45-year-old dad can wear it one day, and a teenager the next, you know you’ve created something everyone can relate to.”
Moses uses American Apparel T-shirts, and the distributor had to approve his business plan before he was able to use the shirts for Brand 216. The clothing distributor wanted to make sure the well-respected American Apparel line would not be tarnished and Moses was starting a reputable company.
“I would like to think my dedication makes me different from other companies,” Moses said. “Every hour of my day goes to this.”
Big Expansion Plans
Ultimately, Moses’ goal is to build his brand nationally. He wants to expand to cities like Boston and New York City, with 212 and 617 as the area codes instead of 216.
“I want it to be big, but not right now because I have to worry about graduating first!” said Moses, who graduates in May. Eventually, he wants to add Pittsburgh, Chicago, Los Angeles and St. Louis as well.
To start the company and to expand it, Moses had to get the approval of a design company in Boston who patented every area code.
“It was a genius idea of them to do that,” Moses said.
How to Purchase
Currently, Brand 216 is an online clothing store. Moses launched the ecommerce website on Nov. 11, 2011, a date he chose because it is memorable. Starting the website before Christmas didn’t give him much of a break, but it was good for sales. Moses said he received 40 orders within three days.
He has a large base inventory center that he fills orders from and replenishes when needed. When an order is placed, he gets an alert on his phone and goes to his storage unit. He ships the purchases with a personalized note in each order. Moses said the note idea started from a woman asking for one, and then it stuck. Delivery typically takes two to three days, but is sometimes next day.
“I definitely want to find retail stores to sell it in, which is key,” Moses said. “It is sold at Second Sole in Kent. I’ve contacted Next, which has four Cleveland area locations, and Dick’s Sporting Goods among other.”
The brand appeals to sports teams and fans as well, so athletic stores are an expansion option.
Moses gave Brand 216 merchandise to Cleveland Browns player Ventrone, who is an alumnus of Moses’ high school. Ventrone got fellow players Haden, Cribbs, Scott Fujita and Carlton Mitchell to wear the shirts and tweet pictures of them wearing the brand. Moses also got merchandise to Cleveland Indians pitcher Joe Smith, who took a picture wearing it at a Cleveland Cavaliers basketball game.
Brand 216 T-shirts range from $19.99 to $24.99, and embroidered hoodies are $39.99. Moses said the prices are reasonable because customers are getting high-quality products.
For more information or to make a Brand 216 purchase, visit www.brand216.com.