Most sophomores at West Virginia University are busy just trying to juggle their classes, a social life and maybe a side job. Kyle Gillis, a sophomore industrial engineering major, and his cousin, Garrett Yurisko, a sophomore television journalism major, have decided to add starting a company to their plate as well.
Day One is an urban clothing brand that aims to inspire those who wear it. But Gillis wants people to know that their brand isn’t just about the clothes. “We want to inspire people to do what they love,” explained Gillis, a Wheeling, W.Va., native. “We want them to like the style, and then be inspired.”
Gillis and Yurisko want people to be the “same old kids from day one” and to pursue the things they’ve always loved doing. This also led the duo to turn their company from just a clothing brand to a lifestyle brand.
The Day One website, set to launch later this month, will feature the clothes, but will also focus equally on music videos and mini documentaries produced by Yurisko and a blog that will tell the stories of people who wear their clothes and are inspired to do what they love.
“We want people to put on our clothes and create their own identity,” said Yurisko, from Moundsville, W.Va.
The idea started in December 2012, and the two have been working with friends to make it happen. They first started to just make T-shirts they thought were cool, but it snowballed and became a way to inspire people to “do what they love from the get-go,” similar to how Gillis and Yurisko live their lives. The apparel is meant to be the catalyst for living the wearers’ dreams.
For Gillis, part of that dream includes the opportunity to study abroad.
“When I arrived in Morgantown for my freshman year, great things began to happen for me,” he said. “Seeing a larger, more active city really brought out a different side of me. A few months into the school year, I thought that if Morgantown could do this to me what would happen if I was to go to one of the largest cities in the world?”
Gillis will be spending the spring 2014 semester in Hong Kong, studying at Hong Kong Baptist University. But his work with Day One won’t end just because he’s out of the country. “Running the business with a 13-hour time difference will really build our communication skills as a small, new company,” he said. “We will be holding weekly conference calls online for everyone involved to keep the ideas flowing.”
Making Day One happen, as Gillis and Yurisko were quick to point out, has been a team effort. “We don’t see the company in tiers,” said Gillis. “No one piece is more valuable than the others.”
Yurisko comes up with the ideas for the designs and helps craft them to look the way he wants them to. He works with a graphic designer back in Wheeling on this function. He also produces much of the website content, especially the videos that feature Day One lifestyle brand members.
Gillis, on the other hand, uses the skills he’s learning as an industrial engineering at WVU to lead the business and production side of the venture.
One of his many functions is to choose the fabrics for the shirts. “I pick out the best quality; I don’t think of the price,” he said.
Gillis said this experience has taught him a lot about management and leadership. He also said he learned more about logistics and budgeting than he could have ever learned in a class. The hardest part, he said, was starting, which required a business plan.
“I learned that business plans change,” he said. “I actually came up with a business map. It’s a general idea that becomes more specific as we move along. A business plan would have restricted growth.”
Gaining the capital to start was also difficult. Gillis recounted that they suffered four loan denials before his dad put in a line of credit for them.
“We actually ran out of money before we got the loan,” said Gillis. “We rethought it and started to involve more people. We probably got ahead of ourselves.”
“We realized we had to go 100 percent,” said Yurisko.
Gillis, however, said that his goal is not to make money in this venture.
“Honestly, if I look back on this and don’t make any money, I won’t regret it. It’s not about that. I love doing this and I love inspiring people to do what they love.”
CONTACT: Mary C. Dillon, Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources
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