This week’s featured company is Hype and Vice, a clothing brand that’s looking to change the way college students look at sportswear. The idea behind the company was developed by USC Alumni Kim Robles and Cecelia Gonzales. “Our goal is to fill the gap between traditional style of Game Day clothing that you normally buy at the bookstore and self-made clothes created by girls who cropped, snipped, and printed their own outfit” says Gonzales.
This sports wear clothing brand is especially designed for the female segment of the market. “We see potential in the whole industry” says Robles. “I was in a sorority and saw how many girls wanted something completely different. So what they did was buy clothes from the bookstore and either cut it up to fit their personal style right before Game Day or made their own from second hand clothes. I saw an opportunity to change this problem”
The pair also want to create a powerful brand presence. In college bookstores, there is almost zero brand recognition. Most people only bought merchandise because of the college logo label. According to Robles, ” In this era, people want to emotionally identify with the product, and so we’re creating a brand that can capture that via an edgy, innovative, modern style of clothing.”
The pair’s main target are female college students. Furthermore, because the business in an online brand, Hype and Vice can connect with high school students and young alumni. “We’re actually extending the lifetime value of the customer, “ Gonzales explains.
Robles and Gonzales estimate the sports merchandise licensing industry to be worth $14.5 billion in total. However for female college students alone, it is worth $2.6 billion nationally. The pair is highly optimistic about this market. “Aside from college students, we see opportunities in other license ports industries like the NCBA, NFL which we can potentially tap into.” explains Robles.
Robles and Gonzales are recent alumni of USC WITH Robles graduating with a degree in Business Entrepreneurship and Gonzales graduating with an Associate degree in Fashion Design from the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandise and a Bachelor Degree in Business from Marshall.
The pair were roommates for four years and were greatly involved in USC Greek Life before going into the Business together. Of the pair, Robles handles the Finance and Operation systems while Gonzales handles the Marketing and Design. “We are complete opposites but we work well together,” says Robles.
With regards to how the process works, it is very simple. All you need to do is go on the website and build a unique outfit by mixing and matching the product lines. This includes tops, skirts, accessories, chokers, glasses, and once you click on the Shop button, you can see the products available for your purchase.
In terms of how the product stands out compared to competitors, the product stands out because of the brand. “We’re trying to create a brand students will recognize and identify with. We use students to model the product. We spread it on social media etc” Robles explains. “Furthermore, since we started, we saw the whole industry has traditionally been very male-oriented with Jerseys, T-shirts, oversized sweats with little apparel for women”
The pair’s dream is to have an e-commerce website available to every University in every state across the country. Currently, the company has contract manufacturers in the Greater Los Angeles Area but as the business grows in scale, the pair plan to vertically integrate the supply chain.
For funding, Gonzales explains the company is seeking more investments to expand and grow “We’ve been in business for three years and have money raised from self funding but we are now currently looking for angel investors in a pre-seed round.”
Founders Kim Robles and Cecelia Gonzales at USC Demo Day