Students create expanding T-shirt business


CW/ Joe Will Field

Halle Bonner, Contributing Writer

Because of three students at The University of Alabama, football fans can represent their favorite coach by wearing a shirt with their face on on it.

The shirts are distributed by Ian Stone, Matt Lewis and Drake Grisham. In September of 2017, Stone and his team launched their business HeadCoachTees, and ever since then, the business has flourished.

“It’s no longer a lemonade stand on steroids or just selling shirts,” said Stone, a senior majoring in communication studies.

Stone said the group is projected to have about $10,000 in sales by the end of the season, which is comparable to about 22 percent of small full- and part-time businesses’ 2018 annual sales, according to a survey conducted by Business Know-How. The Small Business Administration defines a small business as having less than 500 employees, and HeadCoachTees has three.

When Stone, Lewis and Grisham first started, Adam Brooks, assistant director of public speaking, said the men needed someone to tell them, “You can do this.” Brooks was the person to do that.

“These are young entrepreneurs who know how to hustle, and they really believe in their product,” Brooks said. “I think at UA, we have to encourage more people to take those kinds of opportunities.”

With the help of Brooks, the group debuted T-shirts with University of Alabama at Birmingham football coach Bill Clark’s face. They sold their product at multiple events, the store My Town My Team and online. Ever since then, the business has continued to expand.

“We’re doing very well currently,” Stone said. “We have expanded to Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton with coach Lane Kiffin and will be going back there for fall break.”

After Kiffin met with Stone and his team, Kiffin sent the boys to Owl Time, a store close to FAU, and encouraged them to talk with owner Mark Noll about partnering with him.

“When they came down to our store they seemed like really great guys, and you want to do business with them,” Noll said. “We have had the shirts in our store for only a month, and it’s already moved up to a top-five seller in our store.”

HeadCoachTees has heard the request to put Nick Saban’s face on a T-shirt and is working toward getting Saban to sign consent for his face to be worn around everywhere.

“I have been in communication with Capstone Agency, and we’re coming up with a ‘Get Coach Saban’ campaign so we can get the whole campus involved,” Stone said. “I have also been talking with Mr. Keenan Brown, a sports communication professor, about how his class is doing a mock campaign as their final project. I’ve been communicating with him about making the campaign one for HeadCoachTees so we can use that and tie it into Capstone Agency, sports communications and HeadCoachTees all at once.”

After seeing the growth of HeadCoachTees, the founders decided to create a business model that reflects coaches’ values, vowing to donate 10 percent of the profit to the coach’s foundation of choice.”

“We just wanted to make the coach more relatable and people not see them just as a coach but as a person with beliefs,” Stone said.