Spell It Out
What: Apparel and accessories with IM acronyms and emoticons
Who: Brian Fried of IM:It
Where: Melville, New York
When: Started in 2004
Startup costs: More than $50,000
How did Brian Fried, a marketing director for a mortgage bank, get into selling apparel and accessories? The entrepreneur says he simply turned his hobby of inventing into "a real side business." Fried, 34, is the creator and licensor of IM:It apparel, accessories and school supplies--brightly colored gear featuring acronyms such as "LOL" and "GTG," and various emoticons. Tapping into his 6-year-old daughter's inside knowledge of kids' fashion and the ever-increasing number of tweens and teens who use IM and text messaging obsessively, IM:It is the latest of Fried's numerous endeavors, which include an ad specialty company, kitchen houseware products and a few toy inventions.
Fried began IM:It by trademarking logos and conducting grass-roots market research surveys at Barnes & Noble. With the help of a licensing agent, he began to build the IM:It brand. Fried is working on getting his products onto shelves in Hot Topic, J.C. Penney, Macy's and Target stores. He also recently completed successful test runs at a few Toys "R" Us locations and is now in talks to create a full line of merchandise for the toy store.
Fried calls the trademarking route a "roller coaster" and the competitive and inconsistent nature of intellectual property and retailing "very emotional." But with a growing number of young-sters fixated on IM and text messaging, he believes web acronyms and emoticons will stick around for the long term.Today, Fried is working on expanding his line to include everything from sleepwear and makeup to stationery and home décor. He schedules his business around his day job and fatherly duties, spending early mornings and late nights making calls. And all the hard work is paying off--Fried projects sales of more than $200,000 in 2008.