SYRACUSE — What began as a small student-run custom-apparel startup business on two college campuses has grown to include 45 campuses across the U.S., including Syracuse University (SU).
Fresh Prints, now based in New York City, sells custom T-shirts, sweatshirts, other apparel, and accessories to college students. It is run almost entirely by students.
Its branch at SU has generated more than $135,000 in revenue in two years, says Shaan Baren, the Syracuse campus manager at Fresh Prints, and an SU senior.
“We make anything from T-shirts to beanies to socks, shot glasses to tumblers,” says Baren, who is majoring in sport management, with a minor in finance.
“Anything you want, we can do. I’ve done an order for all of them.”
Fresh Prints specializes in making apparel for fraternities and sororities, which comprise most of the company’s clients, Baren says. He also works with sports clubs, intramural teams, and campus charities.
The Syracuse branch of the business has generated about $137,000 in revenue since its January 2013 start, Baren says. He’s generated 110 customer orders, with an average of 85 shirts sold per order. Last semester, he says he produced $50,000 in sales. So far, in 2015, he has already generated $45,000 in sales. “And the semester isn’t over yet,” he says.
Baren’s start for Fresh Prints began through his cousin David Portnoy, who persuaded Baren to start and manage Fresh Prints at Syracuse University. Portnoy, the business’s first campus manager at the University of Pennsylvania (Penn), generated $350,000 in sales, according to Baren.
“He ended up making so much money from Fresh Prints that he was able to pay back his parents for tuition,” Baren says about his cousin. “He enjoyed doing it so much.”
Baren started with the business in 2012 and sold $12,000 worth of goods through 14 orders. By 2014, the Syracuse operation had produced the second highest revenue in the entire company, behind Penn, where the company began, according to Baren.
“They only beat me by a couple thousand bucks,” Baren quips.
Baren says he reached out to hundreds of people on the SU campus, ranging from fraternities and sororities to student organizations. His first order was with his own fraternity, Sigma Alpha Epsilon.
“I started reaching out to presidents of each organization,” Baren says. “I pretty much hit [up] every single person I could think of, University Union (the programming board of SU), student government. About half didn’t respond to me at all.”
How he works
Baren works by himself, usually from his apartment. He also works during his lunch break from his spring-semester internship with the Syracuse Chiefs baseball team.
In a typical day, he says he receives at least 50 emails, 20 text messages, and five phone calls about Fresh Prints.
The process for creating the clothing begins with an order, usually from a fraternity or sorority for apparel to be worn at a campus event. Baren then reaches out to one of the company’s 15 artists, who help design the clothes.
When the designer finishes the mockup, Baren confirms the order and sends it to a printing company. Fresh Prints’ main printer is located in St. Louis. But, Baren prefers to go with a Philadelphia–based screen-printing company called Tee Vision Printing, because it offers two-day shipping. Fresh Prints also works with suppliers, such as alphabroder, TSC Apparel, and Bodek and Rhodes, Baren says.
Fresh Prints’ main custom-apparel competitors are Custom Ink, based in northern Virginia, and Ohio–based University Tees, Baren says. Another competitor for him is Holy Shirt!, a custom-apparel firm based in Syracuse
Baren says one of the key ways Fresh Prints competes for business is by matching competitors’ prices. That’s part of the philosophy the company’s co-owners,
Jacob Goodman and Josh Arbit, believe will win over clients and keep them coming back.
“Jacob and Josh strongly believe that if I get someone’s business the first time and they’re happy, and everything runs smoothly, they’ll want to order from us in the future,” Baren says.
Baren is set to graduate from Syracuse University in May. With his impending departure, he is looking to train a new manager to take over the Syracuse operation.
He says he has a few people in mind — students from his fraternity and family friends from home — who are interested in taking over when he leaves.
“My goal is that they improve on it,” Baren says. “Take the [book of business] that I’ve created in the past 2 ½ years and build on it.”
How the company started
Fresh Prints (www.freshprintsshop.com) was started in 2009 by Jason Israel, a student at Penn, and Sasha Sherman, who attended Washington University in St. Louis, according to Baren. In 2011, Goodman and Arbit, two graduates of Washington University in St. Louis, bought the company and moved its headquarters to New York City.
Fresh Prints last year generated $900,000 in revenue, up from $500,000 the year before, says Goodman, who handles the company’s finances. The business expects to generate between $2 million and $3 million in revenue this year. Fresh Prints has 70 employees in total, including 45 campus managers and 15 designers, according to Goodman.