When Nish Patel finished his Operations Management midterm at 8 p.m. Oct. 26, he didn’t go home to rest or study for his remaining mid-semester exams.
Instead, he hopped in a 1970-something, dark-blue Chevrolet van and, after a quick stop in his hometown, journeyed 314 miles to Pittsburgh, where the young CEO would promote Verde Styles, his eco-friendly, graphic tee company.
Packed inside the van were 700 T-shirts of different sizes, colors and styles, three of Nish’s colleagues – company co-founder and Vice President Matthew Muchnick, Vice President Sean Coker and Chief Operations Officer Rahul Patel – and one working cell phone.
Seven stops and five-and-a-half hours later, the van arrived at 4 a.m. The guys slept for only a few hours on a friend’s apartment floor before an all-day promotional event at the University of Pittsburgh.
They sold 200 T-shirts by 6 p.m. Wednesday and, an hour later, piled back in the van to head home. Nish had a finance midterm the next morning.
The momentum of their 27-hour trip summarizes Verde Styles’ one-and-a-half-year evolution. In that time, the company won $25,000 from Pepsi, planted 1,000 trees (one for every T-shirt they sell), sold T-shirts in Germany, England and 21 states, organized eight promotional events and hired one 18-year-old web designer from California, Alex Vazquez, whom Nish has never met in person.
In addition to working 30 to 40 hours per week to maintain Verde’s steady online business, most of the team – which also includes artist Dave Ruffner and Ian Mclean, who helps obtain the T-shirts they customize – are still working toward their bachelor’s degrees and receive little compensation for their work.
“None of us take a salary,” Nish said. “None of us are getting paid.”
But their hard work is paying off. In August, Verde won $25,000 from Pepsi’s Refresh contest, which awards $1.3 million per month to businesses, nonprofits and people with ideas to make a positive impact.
Calling its idea “stylish apparel for a sustainable tomorrow,” Verde Styles submitted goals to host 20 recycling drives across the U.S., initiate five park and beach cleanups, triple its planted tree count and increase its line to more than 25 environmentally friendly products.
Today, the company sells eight T-shirt styles – available for men and women – as well as wristbands and drawstring bags. Nish, Matt and Sean were recently featured in a Pepsi commercial, and the company has plans to promote its products at a dozen music festivals this summer.
Yet Verde Styles’ charismatic leader remains humble, attributing the company’s success to the hard work, and luck, of his colleagues – Nish refuses to call them staff or employees.
“We spend every day together,” Nish said. “We kind of have to get along.”
– Chelsea Calhoun
To see Verde Styles’ full line of graphic tees, visit www.verdestyles.com.
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