UA student to expand T-shirt business, donate to build school in Ghana
A student run clothing company, co-founded by a current UA student, launched about a year ago and has since collected a nationwide fan base, with representatives on more than 100 different campuses.
Serengetee sells T-shirts with pockets made of different fabrics from more than 30 countries. The company began with a few thousand dollars and has since evolved from its dorm room startup phase to a full scale production facility located right outside Los Angeles.
The idea for the clothing company came in fall of 2011 when Ryan Westberg, a UA economics senior, and fellow cofounder Jeff Steitz, a graduate of Claremont McKenna College in Claremont, Calif., studied abroad with Semester at Sea. The two visited 13 different countries on three different continents and collected rare fabrics from each country.
“While in these countries, we were able to see how amazing each country was,” Westberg said. “We were also able to see the problems and poverty of each country.”
Before returning to the United States, Westberg and Steitz began brainstorming ideas of what to do with the fabrics that could help them promote a charitable cause. After thinking of the idea to design pocket T-shirts made of fabric from each country, Westberg and Steitz started the business by finding tailors, seamstresses and anyone else they could hire to sew their T-shirts.
Westberg and Steitz decided 13 percent of proceeds from each Serengetee shirt sold would go to a charitable foundation from the country or region that the fabric on the shirt came from.
Today, Serengetee has gained national and global recognition from dozens of college campuses, as well as Forbes Magazine.
“Our big break came when Jimmy Tatro wore one of our shirts in his YouTube videos and gave us a shout-out,” Westberg said.
Serengetee gained fame through social media, as well as word of mouth. As recognition grew among college students, Serengetee was able to establish a production facility outside of LA where all production is centralized.
In fall 2012, a Campus Representative program was launched; 90 representatives from 75 different colleges spread news about Serengetee across their campuses.
Seth Klebe, a junior studying environmental studies and political science at University of California Santa Barbara, has promoted Serengetee on his college campus through the UCSB Serengetee Facebook page, presentations to UCSB fraternities and sororities, promotional codes and by word of mouth.
“Friends and absolute strangers come up to me and they want to know what I am wearing,” Klebe said. “Now I have seen friends to absolute strangers rocking Serengetee tees.”
At the start of the year, more than 130 representatives from 120 different schools are now promoting Serengetee, across more than
37 different states, according to Westberg.
“I am always wearing my Serengetees when I am doing something cool because they represent pushing the limits and doing things that scare you,” said Alex Skanse, an environmental studies senior and a representative for University of Colorado Boulder. “Serengetee allows me to make a difference in the world.”
Some college students expressed their support for the clothing company.
“I’ve chosen to wear Serengetee because it is an awesome concept and it also looks really cool,” said Jake Moore, a UA undeclared freshman. “It is so interesting because a lot of people travel but don’t make connections to the places they traveled.”
Within its first month, Serengetee sold more than 300 shirts and, within a year of business, has gained more than $150,000 in revenue. The company will make its second campus debut in the UA bookstore Feb. 5 and 6. For each shirt sold in the bookstore, $5 of the purchase will go to building a school in Ghana. Westberg said building the school will help give back and make a difference for future generations.
Starting in late September, the Serengetee team will travel for a year, visiting four continents in the hopes of expanding business, Westberg said. The trip will be filmed to raise awareness about global issues. Serengetee collaborations with celebrity sponsors are in the works this year, as well as other unannounced charitable events.
“I’ve never been so passionate and hyperfocused on anything like I have been on Serengetee,” Westberg said. “I’ve found what I want to do for the next five years plus. I love everything about the company.”