If Christian Harkson and Brendan Pape are any indication, the entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well in young people.
Harkson, 22, a Gig Harbor High School graduate, and Pape, 24, own Disidual Clothing, a company they started in April 2010 while they were still at Bellingham’s Western Washington University, from which the two graduated in fall 2011 with degrees in communication.
Disidual — a combination of the words distinct and individual — focuses on screen-design prints. The business was launched in Pape’s bedroom, eventually moved to a garage and now occupies a portion of a Bellingham warehouse at 4208 Meridian St., formerly home to Erin Baker’s Wholesome Baked Goods.
The progression is indicative of the venture’s success from its modest beginnings. The business made $60,000 in its first year and $107,000 in 2011. Gross income doubled from year to year while they were students at Western, Harkson said.
Not bad for two guys who started off three years ago as two broke college students.
“It was a small thing,” Harkson said of an endeavor that started out as a hobby. “We wanted to have fun with it.”
Harkson, who grew up in Gig Harbor, wasn’t completely without experience in the clothing industry. He worked for a summer at Imperial Motion, a Tacoma-based lifestyle clothing brand, where he learned about screen-design printing.
He also credited Kevin Davis, his Gig Harbor High School marketing class teacher, for getting him excited about going into business for himself.
Both men have a passion for designing shirts and the outdoors.
Western’s bookstore was the first location to offer the duo’s clothing for sale. Selling T-shirts from the campus bookstore proved to be a smart move and put the business on the local map.
“You couldn’t walk around Western without seeing one of our shirts,” Pape said.
The university served as a springboard for Harkson and Pape to show their products to students, a key demographic of young people who enjoy outdoor activities. It gave the owners a chance to get feedback while they attended classes.
Disidual Clothing now has apparel in 15 locations, including Central Washington University, Eastern Washington University, the University of Washington, several boutiques and sports stores in various malls.
“It kind of just took us with it,” Harkson said of the business.
Harkson and Pape are ready to take the next step to expand their business. They have plans to manufacture a fleece jacket as part of an expanded clothing line for fall.
Pape described the jacket as something that will bridge the gap between clothing you can wear casually around town, as well as something that will effectively protect against the elements while someone works or plays outside.
Taking that next step requires funding, so the company has started a $25,000 Kickstarter campaign to get the prototype to market. People can go to the Kickstarter website and make a minimum $1 pledge. The project will only be funded if at least $25,000 is pledged by 5:03 p.m. March 6.
The owners said they’re grateful for all of their success so far and all they’ve learned along the way.
“It’s been a huge learning curve. We’ve gained a lot of knowledge over the years,” Harkson said, adding you don’t need to be a business major to succeed in business.
The fact the business is doing so well, he said, is proof that the younger generation can accomplish great things through hard work.
And they still have a long way to go.
“We’re excited to keep moving forward,” Harkson said.
For details about the company and its Kickstarter campaign, visit www.disidual.com or its page on Facebook.
Reporter Brett Davis can be reached at 253-358-4151 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter, @gateway_brett.