Verde Styles jumps from the basement to the national spotlight.
In early 2009, three friends and classmates, Nish Patel, a finance major, Matt Muchnick, a kinesiology student – both current seniors – and Chris Zachariah, gathered in Patel’s basement and began brainstorming business ventures.
Nearly two years later, the trio was voted No. 8 of 10 finalists in “The Planet” category of Pepsi’s monthly Refresh Project and, in two weeks, will be announced as one of the official winners of $25,000 from Pepsi to expand its business.
What started as entrepreneurial brainstorming “just for fun” turned into what is known today as Verde Styles, an eco-friendly apparel company dedicated to planting one tree for every T-shirt sold.
In 2008, they entered the “Be Your Own Boss Bowl,” hosted by the Fox School of Business. The grand prize – a $10,000 scholarship – required the winning team to present the best business plan to a panel of judges.
The team asked lawyers, businessmen and other professionals to help them write a detailed business model and pitched the sale of eco-friendly merchandise under a brand they dubbed Verde Styles.
The student entrepreneurs also went to the Small Business Development Center, where several interns gave them further legal aid and advice. But despite their hard work, they didn’t place in the Top 10.
“Temple encouraged us to keep going,” Patel said. So the team moved forward.
After arduous months, aid from SBDC, various sororities and fraternities across different college campuses and one Web editor from California, Alex Vazquez – whom Muchnick described as a “godsend” – Verde Styles took flight.
On Oct. 21, 2009, Verde Styles made its public debut at Temple’s Sustainability Day. In only three hours, the team sold more than 100 shirts for $10 each at the Bell Tower. In the next few months, the team brought Verde Styles to West Chester University and the University of Pittsburgh, where they experienced even greater success.
Last May, the Verde Styles team made an appearance at the Bell Tower for Recyclemania, where they collaborated with the Alpha Sigma Rho sorority who “helped [them] out a lot,” Patel said.
Although the Verde Styles guys received help from various companies, organizations on campus and the SBDC, one company made their current success possible – MTV.
“I never watch MTV,” Patel explained. “But one day in March of this year, I saw a commercial about Pepsi’s Refresh everything contest.”
Once he caught wind of the contest, Patel’s gears were turning; he, Muchnick and Zachariah modified their business model and spent months trying to enter the contest.
“[Registering on the website] was harder than picking classes on OwlNet,” Patel said.
“It was impossible,” Muchnick added.
Registration opens once a month at midnight, and for four months in a row, registration closed in less than six minutes. For Verde Styles, the fifth time was the charm.
Between July and September, the guys set up voting pushes with laptops, handed out cards at the beach with directions on how to vote, visited class lectures and took advantage of their huge fanbase to encourage their friends and followers to vote.
When they first started, they ranked in 240th place.
“I kept getting text messages from friends saying ‘I’m so sorry, Nish,’” Patel said. He explained that due to the high influx of visitors to the website, Pepsi’s server couldn’t update the numbers fast enough.
Once the technical bugs were fixed, Verde Styles quickly jumped to 22nd place, then again to 8th and reached their peak at 6th place. For the next month, their rank fluctuated between 12th and 8th places.
On Sep. 1, voting closed with Verde Styles ranked in 8th. Winners will be officially announced in two to three weeks.
As per the nature of the contest, the top 10 teams are each awarded $25,000 to expand their business ventures.
For Verde Styles, an already globally-recognized corporation, this money allows it to expand even further.
Ten thousand dollars is to be allotted for more organic products and new designs. Four-to-five thousand dollars will allow the company to partner with economically-conscious charities. Six thousand dollars will go toward recycling drives and other eco-friendly events. And $5,000 will be used for marketing and photography.
As for the future, Patel plans on expanding his website and hopes to eventually open a flagship store in Old City and make Verde Styles his life.
Alexis Sachdev can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.