Staying Warm with The Hardy North

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We all know them, the ‘do it all’s’ as I say. These are the kids who are never satisfied with what’s on their plate…there’s always room for more. While we normally see them in the classroom or in extra-curriculars, they exist in the startup world too. A shining example is the team at Collegiate Sun: Alexander Tschopp, Anthony Scadariato, Gage Hunt, and Justin Stamp. These guys just can’t stop coming up with cool new companies.

I sat down with Gage Hunt last week for a coffee and some fashion advice – Gage is the marketing director for The Hardy North, a high-quality knit sweater company, and a senior in the Dyson School.

Gage’s success seemed to revolve around one mantra: take advantage of opportunities as you see them. He started in an introductory business course with Prof. Perez which required multiple group projects – it was here that he met up with these other ambitious entrepreneurs to start the original team. The boys talked about gaps and opportunities in the collegiate market – being college aged students themselves, they asked what trends were on the rise. The first answer: sunglasses. This spawned their first company, Collegiate Sun, tailored sunglasses for college campuses and organizations. [Read E@D’s story on Collegiate Sun here]

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A huge success, the boys were hungry for more. They met and talked about what other opportunities were out there. Gage remembers reading Take Ivy, a photography book about Ivy League style. Flooded with pictures of embroidered sweaters and college initials, Gage asked why that wasn’t prevalent anymore on his campus and it’s alumni. After toying with the idea, the boys made a prototype of that classic collegial knit sweater and on a whim decided to pitch the idea to The Cornell Store – they saw that there was a lack of high quality products for college alumni in today’s souvenir-shop collegiate bookstores and to their surprise, management was so impressed that they asked for an order on the spot! This was yet another opportunity to grab.

So began the creation of The Hardy North a company rooted in high quality American made knitwear. But the process of incorporation would prove to be a bit difficult mostly developing a thorough supply chain. When we pull clothing off the store rack we rarely think about how it got there in the first place. I asked Gage to explain the flow and here’s how it works:

  1. The team met with a wool collection house in South Carolina to gather raw materials. This is where wool is scoured of impurities and combed.
  2. A spinning mill was contracted in Maine to turn the wool into thread. To be able to sew together the sweaters, the wool must be in a usable form.
  3. Now to get the colors they want the wool must go through a dye house also in Maine to find the perfect color balance.
  4. The thread finally moves to a full-fashion knitting mill (Keff NYC) where it’s cut and sewn. Full fashion means the thread is woven throughout the entire sweater versus low-quality production methods that weave separate parts of the sweater together. Full fashion may justify a higher price because it means this sweater will last. Get ready to hand it down to your grandkids.
  5. The final product gets shipped to The Hardy North team who sells primarily through their online site and college bookstores.

 

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The team recently returned from a trip to Camex, the largest college campus bookstore business conference in the country. Suppliers of collegiate products come from all over to network and show off new lines for upcoming seasons. After only a couple days promoting, The Hardy North was able to introduce 15 new retail locations and an additional $30,000 for their suite of brands. Not bad.

What’s next? The team is looking to make a mass market ‘made in America’ line. The demand is there but the products are slow to follow. They’re also currently exploring expanding into college aged consumers with a new apparel line. Strategic alliances with producers are now in the works to further grow the firm.

Keep an eye on The Hardy North and Collegiate Sun Brands to see what these do it all’s have planned next…

Check out The Hardy North here