Local teens start new Kowaliga Clothing linePublished 11:00am Thursday, May 23, 2013
Four Alexander City 17-year-olds aren’t waiting until graduation before launching their business careers.
Benjamin Russell High School students Sam and Scott Sturdivant, Matthew Anderson and Robert Howard formed Kowaliga Clothing, LLC, last November when they were sophomores.
Their products are available at Kowaliga Marina, Lee Apparel, the Willow Point golf shop and Cloud Nine’s Crossroads store, and their company markets Lake Martin-themed T-shirts, hats and accessories.
Howard said he saw an article about young entrepreneurs and instantly knew it was something he wanted to do, but the biggest hurdle, the boys said, was convincing their parents that they were serious about starting a business.
“They thought we were kidding,” Sam said.
After the boys researched their project, however, Howard’s father set up a limited liability company in his own name, and before starting their company, the boys conferred with local business people, including Dave Commander at Russell Marine, Scott Goslin at Kowaliga Marina, Steve Forehand, counsel for Russell Lands on Lake Martin, and Randy Lee at Lee Apparel.
“They were really helpful,” Howard said. “They gave us some good advice on how to market our product. Steve Forehand went over the legal stuff with us. We’ve learned a lot.”
Most of what they have learned though, the boys agreed, has come through the experience of operating a business.
“We started out with each of us having a separate job in the company, but we learned fast that we all had to help get everything done,” Anderson said. “We have no office. We’re all at school all day, and we are involved in different sports and have different schedules.”
The next step was to develop a logo and shirt and hat designs. Then, they began the hunt for suppliers, a printer and an embroiderer.
“We had 36 shirts to start, and we sold those pretty quickly,” Howard said. “Then, we took orders at Christmas. We ordered 72 long sleeved shirts, but delivery was a hassle.”
The shirts arrived just before school dismissed for the Christmas holiday.
“We delivered all of the orders that we could at school, but then we had to drive all over town to deliver the rest of them,” Scott said.
After the Christmas delivery problem, they decided they needed a website that offered their customers the opportunity to purchase products online.
“The website also helps us get our name out there,” Sam said. “At first, we were grassroots, but we can’t keep going back to the same people to buy shirts.”
The four young businessmen are members of the BRHS Future Business Leaders of America club.
Scott said the business has provided great experience for the future.
“This is great for getting into college, too,” Scott said. “How many kids can put on their applications that they have run a business?”