By Debbie Lechtman Fachler> Sophomore > Syracuse University > Magazine Journalism, Photo by Beatrice Schachenmayr
For Syracuse University sophomore James Barrett, what was once a final class project has turned into a full-fledged business that he hopes to pursue as a career after graduation.
Last spring, Barrett, a communications design major, took an elective on printmaking.
For his final project, he designed T-shirts with a drawing of a hand doing a peace sign. Before producing the shirts, he created a Facebook event with a picture of what they would look like.
He received such a positive response that, instead of making 20 shirts like he had originally planned, he made 80. Today, Barrett has sold 600 shirts for 10 dollars each to people from all over the country. He also maintains a website (www.jamesbarrettco.com), a blog, a Twitter and a Facebook page for his company and has two interns working for him.
“I didn’t go out to do business,” Barrett says, “All the money I make, I told myself that I’d use it for the shirts.” To this day, Barrett has invested all of his revenue into his business.
Barrett is one of thousands of young student entrepreneurs around the country. In light of a lacking job market, many recent graduates and students are turning to entrepreneurship, which nowadays is not any riskier than finding a “real job,” according to the New York Times.
Barrett, who has achieved all of this success without any paid advertising, says that his company still has a lot of potential to grow. His goal is to someday be known as a high-end graphic tee designer with his tees sold in stores. “I think if I pursue it as a career it can become very big and sustainable, especially if I meet the right people at the right time,” Barrett says.
Barrett says that in the future he would like to produce shirts with designs other than peace signs. So far, his company sells four t-shirt lines: Peace Tees, Peace Sleeves, Peace U and Peace Limited. “When I have future designs I hope people would want to get them because of my name, as they will already have seen and liked my other designs,” he says.
Despite his success, Barrett explains that being a student entrepreneur is no walk in the park. “I don’t think people understand how much work it is,” Barrett says, “Every second that I am not doing schoolwork, I am working on my tees. Students approach me all the time, telling me that they want to start their own business, but they get discouraged when they hear how hard I have to work.”
Barrett also says that the experience has been a learning process, especially because he does not have a background in fashion or in business. “I’m getting a lot from it,” he says. “I’m learning from it and I’m also making it into a business. I think it could go in any direction, honestly.”