Business by the beach: Gone Beachin' clothing company inspired by Florida beaches
No matter who you are, there is no issue a trip to the beach can't solve.
Grandville senior Andrew Russo agrees, and he's willing to bet his business on it.
In February 2011, Russo traveled to Florida for the Disney College Internship program with his best friend, Davenport University senior Dustin Cronkright, where they would inadvertently lay the ground work for the clothing business they currently own and operate: Gone Beachin'.
“The name came about when we were in Florida because we would always leave our roommates a note when we went to the beach on the weekend, saying ‘Gone Beachin','" Russo said.
In March, after reflecting on the fun they had in Florida two years earlier, Russo and Cronkright decided to apply for a limited liability company and a trademark to make their way toward launching a beach-themed clothing business.
This business would ultimately hinge on the fun, carefree notion of "Gone Beachin'" the pair created in their travels together.
The merchandise consists of shirts, tank tops, sunglasses and window decals. After more research and testing, the duo also hopes to dip into the swimsuit market.
Like any small business, managing not only the merchandise, but everything behind the scenes can be taxing. Russo does his share with style.
In addition to his Gone Beachin' responsibilities, Russo is a full-time graphic design student at Central Michigan University. He works at the university's MEDIAgraphix office, and is president of the registered student organization Design Herd.
Russo's determination, creativity and passion for technology and design makes him the perfect match for his business-minded partner.
"Right now, I'm finishing my degree (in computer networking), but when I finish that, I want to take classes for graphic design so I can help Andrew with that side of the business," Cronkright said. "Right now, I handle the distribution side of things."
The duo have combined their talents to help sell their products at trade shows near their hometown in Grandville, as well as dipping into the Mount Pleasant community, with an appearance at MAINstage.
The majority of their sales are made through their website, but they are hopeful about getting a physical store in the future.
“We don’t have our own store, so we sell mostly online because we’re using the money from our pockets to pay for this and we can’t afford a physical store yet," Russo said. "We really want to get our own shop eventually."
While the business doesn't have a physical location yet, this hasn't stopped their customers from noticing the quality of the products this business offers.
“We were contacted by a retailer called 'The Hut No. 8' in August to sell in their stores," Russo said. "They’re a national business, but this is a franchise and they bring brand name clothing, even if it’s local, into their store, rather than having their own stuff to sell.”
In addition to the retail opportunity they were offered, the duo put themselves in the running for the Intuit QuickBooks Small Business Big Game competition in an attempt to spread their name as far as possible.
Gone Beachin' has already made some impressive headway in the Intuit competition, as they were officially placed into the second of four rounds.
If selected from 20 semi-finalists, and eventually the four finalists, a professionally made Gone Beachin' commercial could be aired during the Super Bowl this February.
"Small Business Big Game is a contest for small businesses and we're excited to have made it to the second round just by votes from people who liked our business," Russo said. "We shot a (promotional video) ourselves to attract voters to get us into round three."
Russo is using his design savvy skills to master the video around the clock, as most of his free time is dedicated to tasks involved with the business.
"My weekends are mostly dedicated to working on things for Gone Beachin’ because I’ll have to drive (to Grandville) to do inventory, shoot footage or do other things for the business,” he said.
The hard work the pair has put into the business is beginning to pay off. They are starting to get recognized by more people, including Royal Oak senior, Gordie Morton.
Morton is the co-creator of an event called Tree Love Collective that was held in Mount Pleasant Oct. 24 to bring together artists and musicians for a night of fun an inspiration.
Russo was invited to set up a booth at the event to sell Gone Beachin' merchandise, since the shirt designs can be appreciated by any artist at the event.
"We chose to bring (Gone Beachin' merchandise) to our event because I've known Andrew for a while through graphic design classes," Morton said. "I thought his shirts would be a good addition to the event because I appreciate all the work he's put into them and wanted to help his cause."
Aside from being successful, the duo wants to inspire people.
“We want to bring communities together to inspire them to go to the beach and to actually have clothing that would be comfortable and nice to wear, not the cheap ones that you can buy from a street vendor by the beach," Russo said. "We want something to inspire people to go beachin’.”