Brendan Pape and Christian Harkson chose a challenging time to start a business, but they've survived and are ready to take that next step.
While still at Western Washington University, Pape and Harkson started Disidual Clothing in April 2010. Saddled with student loan debt, these two launched the company in an extremely difficult economic environment for start-ups.
The business, which focuses on screen-design prints on clothing, is making plans to manufacture its own fleece jacket that Pape says will bridge the gap between something you can wear casually around town as well as effectively protecting against the elements while doing outdoor hobbies. The company has started a $25,000 Kickstarter campaign to get the prototype to market.
"It was the last thing my parents wanted me to do," said Pape with a laugh, acknowledging that being a broke college student three years ago was a risky time to start a business. "I always wanted to design shirts, and we both have a passion for the outdoors."
The company started in Pape's bedroom, eventually moved into a garage and is now occupying a portion of a warehouse at 4208 Meridian St., formerly home to Erin Baker's Wholesome Baked Goods. The apparel products are in 15 local stores, including Western's bookstore.
"The bookstore really helped us out," Pape said. "When we started we weren't sure whether people would like it."
Starting at Western also gave them a chance to show their product to students, a key demographic of young people who enjoy the outdoors. It gave the owners a chance to get feedback while attending classes.
"It was hard to balance going to class with printing until 4 a.m.," Pape said. "Since graduation we've been working hard to get to the next level, but it's been hard to do without funding."
For details about the company or its Kickstarter campaign, visit disidual.com or its Facebook page.
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Retail Tip Sheet runs each Sunday.