A Real-Time, Real-Sales Spin On Entrepreneurial Education

By Diane Mastrull
The Philadelphia Inquirer

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) A rapidly growing startup founded by students is giving other students a chance to experience entrepreneurship first hand. “Fresh Prints” creates custom-print apparel, mostly T-shirts and tank tops. The company has “campus managers” at 80 schools throughout the United States. The managers are entitled to at least 7 percent of sales. With a few exceptions, a manager has an entire campus to himself — or herself.

The Philadelphia Inquirer

Melanie Weinsten, 20, has just finished her sophomore year at the University of Pennsylvania, where she is an economics major minoring in mathematics and neuroscience. Yet what is arguably her most impressive accomplishment had nothing to do with academics.

It had to do with sales. In the spring, Weinsten sold $127,000 worth of custom-print apparel, mostly T-shirts and tank tops, the largest individual sales in a semester at Fresh Prints, a rapidly growing start-up.

Based in New York but with Penn origins, Fresh Prints has “campus managers” such as Weinsten at 80 schools throughout the United States. It was founded by students not only to sell to other students, but also to give them a taste of what it’s like to be an entrepreneur.

“They’ve set up a program where I get to run my own start-up, but they provide me with tools along the way,” Weinsten said on a recent visit to Tee Vision Printing near Kensington. It’s one of eight printers Fresh Prints uses around the country.

Weinsten’s sales are starting to mean some serious beer-and-pizza money. Her total for the 2015-16 school year, her first in business: $163,500, of which she got to keep $13,997.

All Fresh Prints campus managers are entitled to at least 7 percent of sales, and up to 9 percent, based on bonuses for reaching certain sales goals. With few exceptions, a manager has an entire campus to himself — or herself. In the Philadelphia area, Penn is the only campus where Fresh Prints is active.

“We’d love to have more Philly schools,” said Jolijt (Yo-light) Tamanaha, 23, a 2015 political science graduate from Washington University in St. Louis and chief marketing officer at Fresh Prints.

Penn has been consistently fertile ground for the venture since friends Sasha Sherman and Jason Israel started it there and at Washington University in 2009, seeing sales potential in all the sororities and fraternities, athletic and service clubs.

Two years later, the company, with a presence on nine campuses, was profitable but not big enough to support Sherman and Israel, who were graduating. They sold Fresh Prints at an undisclosed price to two students who were interested in growing it and running a business: Jacob Goodman and Josh Arbit, students and fraternity brothers at Washington University. Goodman, a New York native, was majoring in finance; Arbit, from Teaneck, N.J., in entrepreneurship.

Goodman and Arbit spent the 21/2 years until they graduated expanding operations to other campuses, mostly through student referrals. Fresh Prints reported $1.9 million in revenue in the last 12 months.

Product design is primarily through https://freshprints.com/. Customers can either do their own designs or use one available through Fresh Prints.

A campus manager’s main job is to develop and process sales. That explains why the application process is “painfully long,” Tamanaha said. “We only hire 3 percent of the people who start the application.”

But those who make it through the five rounds — written questions, behavioral analysis, case studies, mock email sales pitches to Goodman, and a phone interview — have demonstrated what Tamanaha said is a trademark characteristic of a successful campus manager: persistence.

Because of the time it takes to develop skills and a market, Fresh Prints will not hire campus managers who are beyond their sophomore year.

Weinsten cited sales as the biggest learning curve, “figuring out the best way to reach people. For college kids, I text a lot.” For leads, she relies on social media, such as event announcements on Facebook, and on fliers distributed on Penn’s campus.

Though there are loads of custom-apparel vendors on the internet, Weinsten said she emphasizes her locally based service, which enables order fulfillment in as little as a day or two in a pinch (a week to 10 days is preferred), and “extremely low prices.”

“We know a lot of these kids are working on tight budgets,” she said.

Weinsten will be looking to tap more of those budgets in the fall: “My goal is to get over $200,000 in sales next year.”

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