This BGS member-owned business has a positive message and the drive to succeed.
When the pandemic reached Elon University in North Carolina in the spring of 2020, BGS members Stephen Hawthorne, Andrew Veillieux and their friend Sean Hess had to do what the rest of the world did: socially distance themselves.
Like many people, they were unable to socialize in person—apart from weekly grocery store trips.
“Isolation was very difficult. Every day was more or less the same, and adjusting to online class was a challenge. Staying at school in our off-campus house made it a bit more enjoyable as I had my roommates’ company to enjoy, but it was weird not being able to interact with anyone else. The same routine made these grocery store trips the highlight of the week, as it was one of the few times we got to leave the house, see other people, and just be out in the world. One thing that really was a challenge was the immense free time we had. With school now being virtual, and my daily routine turned upside down, I knew I had to find a way to be productive.”
So, finding themselves with extra time on their hands, they designed t-shirts for themselves with the saying “good to see you” printed on them.
“We initially started out making 3 t-shirts, one for each of us,” said Hawthorne. “We liked the phrase, and we wanted to wear it proudly on our weekly trips to the grocery store.”
The shirts were a big hit; Hawthorne and his friends noticed that strangers would smile or laugh, and tell them, “Hey, it is ‘good to see you.’”
“The saying was once such a passive, subconscious greeting used in our past lives,” Hawthorne said. “But now it carries so much more weight and importance in a world that had been distant for so long. It was like by reading the message, it could turn strangers into neighbors.”
“We knew we were onto something great.”
“It was that decision, to use the phrase, ‘Good to see you,’ to spread a positive, uplifting message throughout the community that was the bedrock for our venture.”
Hawthorne, Veillieux and Hess launch their merchandise company, Good to See You, that summer.
To help their new business take off, Hawthorne, Veillieux and Hess consulted with other small business owners near Elon’s campus, as well as their Entrepreneurship professors. They were able to utilize the Elon Acorn Fund, a fund that grants student entrepreneurs with capital to help them jump-start their business. This investment allowed them to run several marketing campaigns via Facebook and Google Analytics, as well as Trademark their phrase, “Good to See You.” They sought the help of the Elon Law School Small Business Clinic, that partnered them with lawyers who assisted them in registering and filing for a new trademark that would protect the intellectual property of their business.
“When doing something new for the first time, there is always a learning curve. I have owned and operated previous service businesses in the past, but a clothing company was something new for all of us.”
They utilized resources found on the internet such as videos and articles to learn the logistics of manufacturing clothing at scale, different marketing techniques, and how to utilize social media to generate awareness around their brand. Out of all the resources they utilized, none was more effective than networking. They found that the more people they talked to, the more they grew. “From local entrepreneurs to Elon professors, we set up “informational meetings” multiple times a week just to get outside perspective and advice on how we should position ourselves for success.”
Officially launching on June 15th, 2020. The initial response was great, but it was mostly friends and family who wanted to support the brand and liked the phrase. Their business truly began to take off once they started creating masks at the end of July 2020. These masks ended up being the perfect platform for their phrase, as it allowed our customers to share this hopeful message in a safe manner. It was a way for the wearer to greet strangers passing by and to connect with people through a simple phrase.
Their journey to get their product into retail stores initially started when they met with the owner of a local coffee shop in Elon, The Oak House, to get their opinion on the brand and gather insight on how to market and expand. They really liked the product and the meaning behind the company, so Stephen and his partners offered them a couple of free masks to give his employees to wear behind the counter. It turned out to be a great way to advertise and get some brand recognition around Elon. A week later The Oak House called them and explained that customers loved the mask and the phrase, and that they would like to start selling them in the store.The group set up an outreach program to expand. They each contacted a specific store segment and presented their masks. It entailed sending out 30-50 emails a week to their specified segment (E.g. Coffee shops) that explained their mission and product, and how they could work together. Persistence was key, they faced a lot of rejection and many non-responses, but they pushed forward. For every 100 no’s, there was a yes. The shops that gave them a chance proved to be a success as customers loved the brand and message, and it was a profitable endeavor for them and the store owners.“That has probably been the biggest accomplishment out of all this is that we were able to build some great relationships with other entrepreneurs and small business owners.”
Achieving this level of success was much harder than they expected, but more rewarding than they ever could have imagined.
“We have found that the more we grow, the harder we have to work, and the harder we work, the more we grow. This experience has been amazing as I have learned so much about business and what it means to be an entrepreneur.”
“There is so much to be done at all times, from fulfilling orders, to store outreach, to design, and marketing that it becomes overwhelming. At the end of the day, though, it is amazing and our dream that we can pursue this full time one day.”
In less than a year, Good to See You products are being sold in 12 stores across three states. Hawthorne, Veillieux and Hess have added hats, hoodies and masks (their top seller) to their merchandise line, and they’re working with fellow Elon students to expand their design catalog, grow their social media presence, and get high-quality photos.
Hawthorne noted that his work ethic and personal motivation to succeed drove him to success—just as it drove him to achieve the grades necessary to earn membership in Beta Gamma Sigma.
“Much like I put countless hours into my studies to allow me to obtain a high GPA, I harnessed that same drive and diligent work ethic to allow my brand to get to where it is today,” Hawthorne said. “We still have a long way to go, but I continue to work harder and harder every day to make sure I give my company all it needs to succeed.”
Thank you to BGS member Stephen Hawthorne and Good to See You for providing quotes and photos to help us tell their story!