Starting a t-shirt company straight from the basement with Peter Fertigena

We caught up with Peter Fertigena, the 27 year old founder of Academy Printwear. Peter studied in Southern Connecticut for 3 semesters but then dropped out because he hated learning facts and just wanted to discover new things. He began touring with a band he was a part of and ran into problems printing merchandise. It was then that he decided to take on the challenge, and soon Academy Printwear was born out of the basement.

Academy Printwear has experienced significant growth in recent times and through hard work, innovation and Peter’s constant desire to stay one step ahead, he plans to take the company even further. Read the full interview with Peter below…

I was in a group and we always felt like we were being ripped off printing merchandise so we bought a $1500 screen printing kit I took 5 orders before we even knew how to print a shirt to pay for it and started print t-shirts. in our basement. 3 years ago, when I had a large client base, I took the plunge and started doing this full time. It was very difficult at first to run the business from the basement, so I had the crazy idea to fully sell this movie on under the name My New Haircut, which was never made. The video got 23 million views, I ended up managing them by sending them on a national tour, and that’s where we grew into something more than just a t-shirt company. In January, we just launched our own clothing line and are very excited to sell our own product!

Have you always seen yourself starting a business?

To be honest, I always wanted this, I didn’t know that the academy was where I would end up. Some of my family members own Subway franchise stores, I knew I didn’t want to work in the food industry, I wanted to do something more creative.

Did you drop out of college to start a business? If so, how did you make that leap and know it was a good idea?

I dropped out of college, but not necessarily to start this business. I quit touring with a band that I was in at the time for a while. College made me feel very confused and trapped and I hated just getting the facts, I love discovering new things. I love trial and error, it’s the pure essence of entrepreneurship. I don’t think I ever “know” things are good ideas, you kind of just feel it, I knew I had a good concept so I just followed it and it worked fine so far.

You’re talking about how the term “Academy” caught on with Generation Y… What other marketing strategies do you use to hit your target audience?

We make a lot of viral videos with our series called academy LIFE, we also do a lot of work with the music industry, doing various concerts and interviews with our clients. We work closely with Red Bull and just recently did a little tour of Northeastern College where we hosted house parties and brought in some amazing bands to play with. We have a great network of companies large and small that we work with and cross promotion really plays a key role in our marketing.

Income of 300 thousand in the first 12 months is amazing. What do you think was the key to this success?

I think you have to be creative, work really hard and always try to stay one step ahead. We rely on our diverse network to be aware of the latest bands, websites, clothing labels, trends. Luck also has something to do with it, you always need a little of it. On top of that, there’s also the less glamorous side: keeping your ledgers tight, paying people on time, and managing the business side of things is the hardest part, and yet the most important part. But if you work hard, keep your word, think outside the box, and stay true to yourself and your brand, you’ll be fine.

What have you learned about working with business partners? How did you manage to remain friends, but at the same time shake the business world?

Business, friendship, family – everything is on the thin line here. Every day we work together and also hang out outside of work. The most difficult thing is to separate emotions between business and friendship and be honest with each other. We try to behave as if the academy is its own entity, and the company is the real owner, and it dictates what should happen. Everyone has the same attitude: the academy is a way of life, not a job, so it makes life a little easier.

What was the most difficult thing about creating and managing a company?

I think about the ups and downs and at the same time try to manage real life. Sometimes it seems to you that you will earn millions, and sometimes you want to crawl under a rock. If you keep the bigger picture in mind, it makes things a little easier. Plus, you have to deal with so many different people every day, especially your co-workers/friends. You have to respect people, which is never easy. You have a million things spinning in your head at the same time, a lot of stress, and it is easy to remove it from the closest people.

What is the future of Academy Printwear?

We just released our own clothing line in January, time to start saving some of these golden ideas for ourselves lol. We have plans for concept retail stores, several new product types that we’re introducing right now, and some key partnerships that you’ll hear about shortly.. Every day is new and something always surprises me, it’s all about not making the same mistake twice and pushing yourself and your brand forward.

What advice can you give to an aspiring entrepreneur?

Constantly engage in self-education, no one will do anything for you, you must constantly develop. Climbing one mountain, you find yourself at the foot of another. Surround yourself with good people and make sure they believe in what your brand stands for. Manage your emotions at the macro level and your money at the micro level. Communicate and treat everyone with respect, you never know who will one day do great things.


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