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Colin Beard took an entrepreneurial class during his sophomore year at Fossil Ridge High School. One of his assignments was to develop a business plan. He did. But he didn’t stop with making a plan.
His junior year he set out to implement his plan designing artwork for T-shirts. “I do all my designs on the computer,” Beard explained. “I don’t draw, but I’ve always been fascinated with graphic design. He likes to use SUN — spreading unique notions — to describe what he does.
For a while, he hired out the printing. Then his vision expanded. With the help of an “angel investor,” he bought a screen-printing press, installed it in his dad’s basement, and in 2012 became the sole owner and employee at Technique.
Less than three years later, it’s fair to call 20-year-old Beard CEO of a company that grows and changes by the day. He’s now a sophomore at Colorado State University studying — guess what — business administration with a concentration in management.
His business grew so fast that he was able to pay off his investor in eight months. In January 2014, Beard says he “put on the big boy shoes” and moved to space in Kintzley Plaza in LaPorte. There he has room to display his wares and operate his printing press.
There’s also an office in his space where big decisions are made. They happen during weekly planning meetings with his closest cohorts, Ben Madrick, also a sophomore business major at CSU and Michael Reyna, 20, who is majoring in apparel and merchandising. Madrick and Reyna knew Beard in high school and share his enthusiasm and commitment to the business.
Madrick is an organizer, idea man, works on branding and keeps the shop functioning on schedule. Reyna’s expertise is in developing their line of clothing, coming up with new ideas and coordinating with the Denver firm they’ve recently contracted with to do their manufacturing.
It’s fair to say that Technique’s business meetings aren’t what one might imagine for a fast-growing company. They take place at weird hours in the confines of the company’s small office which features three comfy chairs, a couch piled high with backpacks, and a refrigerator in the corner stacked nearly to the ceiling with groceries. And of course, there’s a prominent computer. The place has become Beard’s second home.
Between juggling life as a full-time student and a full-time CEO, he grabs food and rest when he can. “I sleep on the couch here more often than I do in my own bed,” Beard admits, barefoot, with a bit of bedhead, making himself a ham sandwich as we talk, mid-afternoon.
He’s discovered that taking courses online frees up some time for him. “More than once I’ve thought about quitting school to devote full-time to my business,” he said. “But I know it’s important to earn a degree. I’m going to finish.”
His family, including parents, grandparents, siblings and cousins, have watched with interest as his business grows. They’ve even helped out gathering in what Beard calls a “sewing circle” where they snipped and ripped and stitched to create unique shirts following Beard’s designs.
Technique has come a long way from the days when Beard sold one shirt at a time. “Individual sales are hard,” he said. From early on he has leaned heavily on Facebook posts to promote and describe the progress of his venture. Most of his customers find him online. “I kind of like being a well-kept secret.”
Colorado and Nebraska high schools, sororities and fraternities and music groups appreciate the uniqueness of his wares. These days his website, techniquestore.com makes it possible for customers to shop, order, proof and pay for their items online. Because their overhead is minimal, Technique offers the lowest prices around.
A long row of T-shirts and hoodies line one side of the showroom where customers can see the uniqueness of Technique’s products. Beard and his buddies are thinking big, envisioning taking over an adjacent space for a more extensive showroom one day.
But Beard likes to take one step at a time. “Making money has never been the primary objective,” he said. His focus is on making sure his customers are well-served. As the company grows, he’s determined to preserve that philosophy.
Two small lions sit on either side of the company’s front door. I’ve always loved lions,” Beard said. But here’s no sign that says Technique. In fact, the place looks like it’s closed. One tenant in Kintzley Plaza had no idea there was a T-shirt company on the premises.
Beard is not worried. He’s come a long way since his first Facebook post in early 2011 featuring a single short-sleeved T-shirt with a snowboarder logo. It got two likes.
He could be a lion disguised as a fresh-faced, barefoot college student, doing something he loves with a couple of his good friends. Tucked away in a second-story space in a very small town, relying on social media to spread the word, he may be the new face of business in 2015.