Interview With Julian Howard: Ohio Univ Entrepreneur
Becoming an entrepreneur is a difficult step for most people for multiple reasons. Many students fantasize about starting their own clothing brands, Julian Howard (Ohio University) actually did. In order to understand just how he and his partner Jonathan Knoffer (Kansas City Art Institute) surmounted their fears, Bright Futura decided to pick Julian’s brain.
How did you get started?
Basically my friend Jonathan is a graphic designer and he came to me with a design. The design eventually became the NATI design. The one you see now is a little different. He didn’t know how to find printers or how much things cost so I helped him out. We essentially got the designs printed and we started selling t-shirts out the back of a truck.
Did you do well in the beginning?
Surprisingly, selling them out of the trunk went pretty well. We sold out and made some more a couple times. Most of the sales were to friends, family members, and a few people we didn’t know.
Did you run into any problems?
Well after we decided that this was something we were going to do, we decided to try and get an LLC. We also wanted to copy write our name. However we ran into a problem. There was a clothing company actually called NATI Evolvement, which was too close to our name. Long story short, we end up getting a Cease And Desist Letter. We would have been sued for $15,000! Me and my friend were only in high school at the time so we kind of didn’t know any better. I mean at the time we really had no idea about what that even meant.
We would have been sued for $15,000!
Why were you almost sued?
Well one of our shirts was on the MTV show “Taking The Stage”. Me and Jon actually went to the Performing Arts High School in Cincinnati where the show was filmed. So after it was worn by Carlton Totten, and Adam Calvert we started getting a lot of publicity. We ended up getting a lot of orders but unfortunately the hype also led to a Cease and Desist letter. It was like damn, now we have to change our name.
Did you have to reinvent the brand at all?
After being threatened to be sued me and Jon, decided to sit down and think about what we could do to salvage the brand. We realized that the name was being used already but that our logo was original enough to keep. So we trademarked the logo and got an LLC under a different name. We ended up calling it Late Arrival LLC, which is now the name of the brand.
Why is the brand called ‘Late Arrival’?
Well me and Jon felt like we were a entering the business late. In a way we were fashionably late. The was chosen to make the assertion that it doesn’t matter when you arrive it really is all about as long as you get there.
How long has the brand been around?
In our sophomore and junior year of high school we were really active. During our senior year the brand was kind of dormant. The summer before college however me and Jon decided to pick back up.
Did going to college affect the brands development?
Jon ended up going to The Art Institute for graphic design and I began going to Ohio University for Music Performance. The fact that we went to different schools affected it little. Me and Jon promised each other that we would just continue to work hard and do what we had to do.
Was running a business difficult to do during your freshman year?
Being a freshman in college and running a business on the side wasn’t easy. I decided to put together a street team and that really helped. I had about 20 students who promoted the brand for me in exchange for free t-shirts. I told them that if they sold 3 shirts to anyone on campus at the cost of $10, I would intern give them one free shirt. We ended up selling a whole bunch of shirts this way. We end up selling about 400 shirts. That is basically tuition.
We end up selling about 400 shirts. That is basically tuition.
Did running the business ever interfere with your social life?
Actually, yes. You would think most people have credit cards and that they could just buy the shirts online but unfortunately for me most people wanted to pay cash. So I sold 400 shirts about 350 were hand delivered. Ohio State is not a small school either. I spent much of my free time packaging shirts and walking them to buyers. It was kind of a pain. But I developed a new system toward the end of the semester.
Did running the business ever interfere with your grades?
No, I always made sure my grades came first.
What was your most successful t-shirt?
Well during my first semester Ohio State was ranked #1 party school so Jon and I developed a design that played off of that. People absolutely loved it. The shirt really helped get my name out there especially being a freshman at OU. A lot of people new me as the t-shirt guy.
What is on the horizon for ‘Late Arrival’?
We are getting ready to put out new designs. We also just got a website up. Come next semester everything should be up and running! We are also trying to get Late Arrival to be sold in a local store. Ultimately, we are doing what we can to get our name out there.
Who is your entrepreneurial role model?
I don’t have anyone necessarily in my direct family but if I had to pick a celebrity probably Russell Simmons. He is really underrated.
What is the most difficult part about being a young entrepreneur?
Getting people to take you seriously. Being only 16 when I started a lot of people didn’t take me selling t-shirts out of a truck seriously. Now that I am a second semester freshman. I think people are beginning to take me more serious.
Most young people are broke anyway. Why not spend your money investing in your on ideas?
How were you able to turn your idea into something tangible?
To be honest, it is because we aren’t afraid to lose money. I mean you have to take risks. Most young people are broke anyway. Why not spend your money investing in your on ideas.
Do you have any advice for future aspiring entrepreneurs?
The key to entrepreneurship is communication trust and organization. Also never underestimate the power of grassroots advertisements.
Interviewed by Maximillian Garland