Oldpeoplebrand uses UNIBusiness to learn, grow
Oldpeoplebrand, a clothing company created by five Cedar Falls High School students, is a classic misnomer.
Just the opposite of what the name implies, oldpeoplebrand’s target customer is the young, hip and energetic individual, who is looking for a different vibe in their clothing style. That’s exactly what Hollis Wilson, Joey Dunning, Lars Christiason, Mack Eastman and Camden Dusenbery saw when they looked at ways to pool their collective talents.
In late 2017, the five friends started creating unique, handmade shirts to wear for themselves. They didn’t plan on selling them at first, but once the group started sharing pictures on Instagram, they received messages from people asking to buy the products.
Now, a year later, oldpeoplebrand is a recognizable brand in the area, bringing the streetwear culture, which finds its roots on both the east and west coasts, to the Midwest.
“We originally started the brand as a way to express ourselves,” said Wilson, who originally came up with the idea and serves as oldpeoplebrand’s CEO and art director. “Around here, there’s not a lot of retail brands that are targeting the streetwear culture, so we saw an opportunity and we wanted to give people around here a way to express themselves.”
“We want to create a culture around our brand,” said Joey Dunning, designer and photographer. “People with similar interests to us can express themselves through what they are wearing or through some of the things we do through photography.”
Oldpeoplebrand has released a few collections in 2018, all revolving around central, unique themes: furniture, movies or house utilities, like a lightbulb. While young, these five professionals have big goals. They have plans to make oldpeoplebrand an entire brand, starting with various lines of clothing all the way to the types of music they listen to.
A helping hand
Four of the five members of oldpeoplebrand participate in Cedar Falls High School’s Center for Advanced Professional Studies (CAPS), a program that allows high school students to tackle real-world problems, projects and designs.
Before the group joined, Mark Aalderks, who teaches in the CAPS strand focused on business, communication and design, heard about oldpeoplebrand through a high school newspaper article. He thought he could offer them some help.
“We sat down in the boardroom at the high school and asked them questions about their goals for the company,” Aalderks said. “They all said they wanted to make something of it.”
So four of the five members joined the group — one couldn’t make it work with this school schedule — and started regularly attending the half-day CAPS meetings. Over the summer, the business, communication and design strand of CAPS moved into the Business and Community Services offices at the UNIBusiness school. This allowed members of oldpeoplebrand to meet with professionals in the John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center, who have helped formalize the group’s plans and goals.
“They’ve been helping us stay on track and give us milestones to work toward,” Wilson said. “We report to them after every collection and we look at what we did right and what we did wrong. They help us plan for the future quite a lot.”
JPEC also helps oldpeoplebrand find opportunities to market itself. In October, the group participated in UNI’s Elevator Pitch Competition, which was held by JPEC. oldpeoplebrand finished in third place and won the $100 prize.
As oldpeoplebrand continues to gain assistance from UNIBusiness, Alderks continues to hear good things about the group.
“I keep hearing that the kids are very teachable,” Alderks said. “They want to learn and are open to suggestions. To have young professionals like that who are in high school is pretty amazing. Because of CAPS and UNIBusiness, they can set their own agenda of what they want to accomplish.”
Because all of its products are handmade, oldpeoplebrand only sells a limited amount of clothing on its website, oldpeoplebrand.com. But the group is working hard toward getting into retail stores around Iowa. They are also hoping to offer products in local clothing shops soon.
“We’d like to get to the point where we are releasing seasonal collections, like a spring, summer, fall and winter line,” Wilson said. “We’ve been able to create a complete look for our brand. So you can tell when people are wearing our clothes. That’s been helping us grow and meet more people around the area who are trying to accomplish the same goals as us.”