SEUN OLUBODUN, 31, of Northern Liberties founded Duke & Winston, a line of casual tees, polos, hats and ties ranging in price from $24 to $68. He launched the company in 2009, and last December raised $30,000 on Kickstarter.com. The money allowed Olubodun to hire a full-time assistant and a part-timer, and to begin attracting wholesale buyers. The Temple grad was born in Great Britain and moved here with his family when he was 10.
Q: How did you come up with the idea for Duke & Winston?
A: I was working for a Web-design company in Old City and we were trying to pitch to a client with a T-shirt company in Boston. His logo was a cupcake, he had a store that looked like a bakery and he drove around in an ice-cream van and sold T-shirts out of the back. There wasn't a go-to, really casual line in Philly. I felt if I started one it might take off.
Q: The story behind the name?
A: Americans like old British stuff. I have an English bulldog named Duke, and I was thinking back to [former Prime Minister] Winston Churchill, his nickname was the British bulldog. Our logo is a bulldog with top hat.
Q: You launched amid a recession. Why?
A: I identified who I wanted to sell T-shirts to and knew they would still buy stuff they liked. They were young professionals, starting law or medical school, but who had disposable income.
Q: Please describe the brand.
A: It takes its cue from the Brits - refined but preppyish - but 80 percent of the clothing is made in the U.S. The customers kind of know me and see I'm hustling to make it. I thought my customer would be mid- to late-20s, but now I'm selling to guys in their 30s, 40s, who have kids.
Q: How's the biz model work?
A: The store in Northern Liberties gets walk-ups and trunk shows, but the Web has been one of the primary ways to attract shoppers, and we recently started doing wholesale. We're in about 20 stores here, down the shore and in East Coast sites like Nantucket and Newport.
Q: What's been the biggest challenge growing the business?
A: Figuring out how to get it national has been a challenge. I need someone who believes in what I'm doing and says, "OK, this could be the next J.Crew, Ralph Lauren or Vineyard Vines."
A: Last year we did $150,000, and this year we're on pace to hit close to $400,000.
Q: What's next?
A: I'm pitching to investors in New York. We want to raise $600,000. If we do, we want to be in 150 stores by the end of 2014 with revenues of $1.2 million, and $2 million in 2015. The 150 wholesale accounts are strategic to boost the company and maintain the brand. Ideally, the wholesale component generates enough revenue to allow us to open more Duke & Winston stores.