Jun 29, 2012 - Claremont, Calif. - A student startup that turns T-shirts into a means to help people around the globe won first place in the 2012 Henry R. Kravis Concept Plan Competition.
Thomas Carey '13 models a Serengetee T-shirt.
A student startup that turns T-shirts into a means to help people around the globe won first place in the 2012 Henry R. Kravis Concept Plan Competition.
The award recognizes students or alumni of The Claremont Colleges who develop a business plan that reflects the competitive nature, flair and aptitude required of today’s entrepreneurs.
Thomas Carey ’13, Jeff Steitz (CMC), Madeleine Busacca (CMC) and Emmy Perez (Scripps) received a $4,500 prize—plus another $500 for winning the People’s Choice portion of the competition—for Serengetee, LLC, which creates custom T-shirts featuring pockets made with fabric swatches from nations around the world.
The company donates half its profit to charities and microloan programs located in the countries of the fabric’s origin. Launched in February 2012, it sold more than 300 shirts in its first month and now generates up to $8,000 in monthly sales. It has also established partnerships with charities in 16 countries, including South Africa, Indonesia, Nicaragua and Bulgaria.
Originally founded by Carey, Steitz, Sean Yen (Pitzer) and Ryan Westberg (University of Arizona), Serengetee sprang from a study abroad experience.
“While Jeff was on Semester at Sea, he noticed the vast potential of the textile markets of the countries on the itinerary. He wanted to connect customers to the globe through something as simple and popular as a T-shirt,” said Carey, who was roommates with Steitz sophomore year. “He is great at coming up with ideas while I am good with technology. He called me in January and asked if I was interested in helping him.”
Carey built the company website, filed trademarks, registered the corporation, opened its business account and oversaw order shipping. He also cut and pinned pocket fabric onto T-shirts alongside his roommates, but now the young entrepreneurs contract with a tailor.
Bearing the tagline, “Wear the World,” Serengetee offers 70 pocket fabric choices from 20 countries and plans to add another 40 fabrics over time. Friends, family and even complete strangers have offered to bring new fabrics from their travels, Carey said.
“As an engineering and biology major, I never expected to find myself playing a substantial role in an apparel startup. Serengetee is evolving faster than any of us ever expected and has the potential to become a large company with several full-time employees by the time I graduate.”
While he hopes to remain involved with the company, Carey plans to pursue graduate study in biomedical engineering after graduation next year.
Media Contact: Judy Augsburger