Fellow students at Millsaps College, brothers in the Kappa Alpha Order and both members of the baseball team, Peter Rafferty of Ridgeland, MS and Nathan Pearce of Birmingham, AL realized they also shared a passion for business and the entrepreneurial spirit. These two are behind the wildly popular clothing line, The Fraternity Collection. “Our vision was to create an innovative clothing company marketed exclusively to fraternity men and the sorority ladies that love them,” the guys share. So in October of 2011, that’s what they did.
Trying their hand at selling heat pressed designs on a solid pocket tee, they soon realized they needed something new and different to set themselves apart in an oversaturated market. “It was around this time that our fraternity brother came to us looking for a place to live. We told him he could sleep on our couch if he taught himself how to sew these custom pockets,” they divulge, “With a little practice, he became very proficient, and, with him as our sole tailor, we sold about 50 shirts in those first few months.”
The small company soon began to expand and the duo acquired office space and grew their team of seamstresses. During the weekend of Black Friday, they ran a 30% off storewide promotion on their website and were met with unexpected success. “We were blessed with over $150,000 in orders that weekend. However, our celebration quickly turned to an intense problem-solving exercise.” They received news that their credit card funds were frozen and their manufacturers lacked the resources necessary to fulfill their orders. But with some sleepless nights, some creative thinking, and a little help from their friends, Peter and Nathan were able to ship out every item ordered in time for Christmas.
Now with a staff of over 30 employees, they have Fraternity Collection products in over 150 retail stores across the country. And the products are made right here in the South – in Columbia, MS.
Their best seller is their customizable pocket t-shirt. “We offer 42 shirt colors on which the customer can choose to put one of over 200 pocket options,” they tell us. And each pocket has its own special name – The Cindy, The George, The Isabella, The Beauregard, etc. They explain, “We initially began naming the pockets after important women in our lives, including our mothers, grandmothers, sisters, aunts, and girlfriends. We also named many of the pockets after Confederate generals, which reflects our time in the Kappa Alpha Order.” Their favorite pocket? “Our favorite is definitely The Washington, our American Flag pocket,” they share.
They’ve also recently introduced an interchangeable koozie. “We take pride in its design and have never seen another one like it in the world,” they tell us. The koozie consists of three parts – two sides and a bottom – that are attached by buttons, allowing customers to turn two koozies into twelve different combinations.
The guys also donate a portion of their sales to charity. They explain, “Helping others has been a goal of ours ever since we started Fraternity Collection. When customers order online, we allow them to donate 10% of their purchase to a charity of their choice simply by typing the name of the charity into the box. To date, Fraternity Collection has donated over $75,000 to various charities on behalf of our customers.”
For more information on The Fraternity Collection, visit fraternitycollection.com.
Photos by Claiborne Bryant