Rah-Rah Rides

A new take on hubcaps helps rabid sports fans cheer their alma maters anywhere they spin their wheels.

What: Designer hubcaps for sports fans
Who: John D. Smith of Clever Covers Inc.
Where: Orlando, Florida
When: Started in 1996

College sports fans will buy just about anything with their favorite team's logo on it. That's why John D. Smith, 33-year-old president and CEO of Clever Covers, suspected he'd have a "built-in market of fanatics" when he designed his product, a line of hubcaps emblazoned with the logos of collegiate sports teams.

"Every year, there's a new crop of graduates, there's new alumni, and [there are] guys who graduated 40 years ago who are retired and have money and can't wait for football season," Smith reasons.

He'd seen team flags and other car accessories at school stores, but nothing high-quality enough to withstand the environmental rigors of being driven around town on game nights. It took him three years to finalize the patented design for his hubcap, which is made of PVC plastic and attaches to a vehicle's wheels using industrial-strength, Velcro-like fasteners. Smith even speed-tested the hubcaps on a NASCAR racetrack to ensure they wouldn't fall off when in use.

The hubcaps, which retail for $59.95, are sold at team stores and through his company's Web site. So far they're a hot booster item with University of Florida, Miami State and Florida State University students and alumni. (Those three schools alone brought in sales of $200,000 last year.) With 20 universities in the pipeline across the country, sales are expected to top $1 million this year. What's next on the horizon for Smith? Obtaining licensing rights from a slew of professional sports teams.

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This article was originally published in the February 2002 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Rah-Rah Rides.

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