By Abigail Allen
When senior Ethan Feick got his COVID-19 stimulus check in 2021, he applied for a business license and launched his company We The Believers in his parent’s garage.
With the money, Feick acquired a business license and began marketing his new clothing brand through paid advertising. He has since purchased a warehouse that houses over 1,500 units of clothes.
“I used that money, and I spent all of it off on my brand,” said Feick.
The company earned nearly $250,000 in revenue in 2022, and profits estimated between $20,000-45,000, said Feick.
Feick attributes much of the company’s success to his digital marketing practices. He utilizes TikTok and Instagram Reels to increase awareness of his brand through his own content creation as well as through brand ambassador programs.
In the short time We The Believers has been active, it has accumulated 2.3 million likes and 113,300 followers on TikTok and nearly 34,000 followers on Instagram.
“Sometimes [the content] doesn’t even have to do with the business. But if it goes viral, which it does a lot, it’s like that’s free traffic, free awareness and free exposure,” said Feick.
The company’s most-viewed TikTok video, which has over 2.2 million views, shows Feick walking up to a sign that reads “I’m sorry that the church hurt you. That was humanity, not Jesus,” while wearing a We The Believers T-shirt.
Dawn Olson, assistant professor of entrepreneurship and small business management, has had multiple students in the past who developed their own business.
“They would be more of what you would consider a pure entrepreneur—somebody who consistently comes up with new ideas and is able to take those new ideas and move them to something else,” said Olson.
A survey of college students from Intelligent.com found that “43% of students plan to start a business or consider entrepreneurship.”
Olson noted the challenges of being an entrepreneur in college. According to Olson, students face difficulty in acquiring adequate funding for their business and managing time.
“A lot of times, their businesses have been very small, obviously, because they don’t have scalability to be able to manage a full-time business and manage a full-time school load,” said Olson.
Feick faced the same challenges when starting We The Believers.
“The challenges were figuring out the tools I needed to use, the finance side of things, figuring out how to have enough money and figuring out how to use those tools,” said Feick.
His business model also currently includes using brand ambassadors.
We The Believers brand ambassadors receive a 20% discount on company clothing as well as a commission when ambassadors share a personal code with others. In return, Feick receives digital content he can use to market the clothing.
“They get commission. I get a sale. It’s a win-win situation,” said Feick.
Feick encourages other student entrepreneurs to take small steps when starting a business.
“By far, the hardest part was just starting,” said Feick.
Feick and Olson advise others to use the resources that are available to them such as researching and networking.
“It’s not just about coming up with the next latest, greatest idea or business. It’s about running a business in a community well, and that’s an important thing to know how to do,” said Olson.
In the future, Feick hopes to grow We The Believers into a million-dollar company, and he already has plans to start another company, as well.
“I want to scale it,” said Feick. “I want to grow this thing to like, a million dollars a year.”