For Cole Ciambro and Chris Stefanou, two area entrepreneurs and Miami University graduates, debuting a startup is old hat.
That’s an impressive feat for any innovator, made more remarkable that Ciambro is 24 and Stefanou is 23.
It’s this shared history of leaning in to innovation and creation that led to the advent of Chapter Threads.
The story begins when the duo was coaching lacrosse at Talawanda High School. There, they worked with a Nike rep who introduced the pair to an online apparel fundraiser, which they then used with their fraternity chapter (Phi Kappa Tau — Alpha Chapter).
The event was so successful that they decided to quit their internships and create an apparel company of their own.
“Any mistakes have led to our success. Getting past those mistakes and failures is a huge thing, and also a huge confidence booster.”
Pro Logo Shop “moved very quickly; it had $100,000 in revenue within months,” Ciambro said. It also garnered clients like the Cincinnati Athletic Club, as well as fitness centers and schools throughout the country — think Cal Poly, University of North Texas, and more.
While the company found success, Ciambro and Stefanou could still identify opportunity for another venture within their industry: the Greek life community.
“We saw ourselves not struggling with the Greek market bulk orders,” Ciambro said. There was an untapped and potentially lucrative market there; it just needed specialized attention.
That’s what catalyzed the idea for Chapter Thread in November of 2017. It’s a startup that aims to provide “top quality, authentic brand name gear branded with your logo at a fraction of retail prices,” its LinkedIn states.
It works like this: Customers go to the Chapter Thread site, purchase its licenses and request a proof. The site walks the user through a simple design process, alerting them via email when the work is complete and when to expect the next set of communications from a Chapter Thread rep. Orders are fulfilled through a third party.
The company ships bulk orders across the country, and doesn’t just serve serve just fraternities and sororities; the orders could be for special events of all stripes, like family weekends, parties and more.
What sets Chapter Threads apart from other online apparel shops? “A., Our designs. B., our campus rep program,” Ciambro said. “We are going to create a massive, massive campus rep network.”
Campus reps will earn money and free gear, and the Chapter Thread team plans to have a network of 600 within the next three years.
“We truly believe that this is a foot soldier game,” Ciambro said. “We can’t be at every campus; in order to fulfill [orders], we need to have people out there at each college.”
The company has already begun utilizing campus reps, and orders have begun coming in.
In addition to theses reps, the team has hired a designer for Chapter Thread, has three distributers and a wholesale printer the size of Walmart, Ciambro said.
In terms of funding, “Chris and I stared Pro Logo shops with $300 each,” he added. “We sourced everything out. [With] Chapter Threads, we put in a couple thousand; we wanted full ownership in everything we do.”
Ciambro said the team would love to see more than $500,000 in revenue within Chapter Thread’s first year, as well as additional employees on the team.
In the meantime, it’s about leaning into “the idea or belief that if you have an idea, go for it, chase it and don’t hold up.”
It’s an attitude he hopes others from his generation and younger embrace: “To really go out and do someehting that they love, and not just love, but are really passionate about,” Ciambro added. “Go out and try to do it.”
Even if you fail, as Ciambro said he and Stefanou had. “Any mistakes have led to our success,” he continued. “Getting past those mistakes and failures is a huge thing, and also a huge confidence booster.”