In the fall of 2007, I pulled an old scarlet and grey sweater out of my grandmother’s basement and wore it to a tailgate. I never looked back.
I founded Alma Mater in 2008. I was 26 years old. My goal was, and still is, to wake up the licensed team apparel market by designing garments that were unique in style and gave a quality fit. At that time, the industry was void of it. After years of product development, Alma Mater is now delivering styles to the masses as the first specialty brand in fan apparel offering affordable fashion. And I’m proud to be one of the few woman-owned companies doing it.
BusinessInterviews.com: What inspired you to launch your business?
Amanda Sima: I’ve always been a creative thinker and had ambitions to start my own company. When the idea came to me for a licensed apparel line, I went full speed ahead.
BusinessInterviews.com: Do you have any recent success stories that you’d like to share with our readers?
Amanda Sima: Our greatest success this year was achieving over 90 NCAA licenses, which is no small task that took a lot of years and resources to obtain. From there, the ability to build out a program with a national retailer to serve these markets is our greatest success to date.
BusinessInterviews.com: What issue does your core product help solve and how so?
Amanda Sima: Fan apparel is massively stagnant in both style and fit. If you’re only in the market for a graphic tee, fleece or jersey you’re all set, but there is an increasing demand for more fashion and quality apparel in this industry. Female and millennial shoppers are in the market for more variety and creativity and are increasingly looking to atypical doors to buy their fan apparel, which often times are not licensed pieces at all. This is leaving many retailers baffled at decreasing sales. That is where we come in: fast fashion that reflects mainstream trends for licensed gear.
BusinessInterviews.com: What has been your biggest challenge as a business owner and how have you met that challenge?
Amanda Sima: Like most new companies, our biggest challenge until now has been access to capital. The licensed goods industry is very expensive and the costs of obtaining licenses and building out apparel lines for approval all come before any product can even be sold in the market. So raising money to do business in an industry with no guarantees can be very challenging. The upside is if you’re fortunate enough to gain licenses and perform in the marketplace, the scale of growth can be swift and investors can then see the potential. In our case, we were able to find investors who believed in our vision and had the same patience and persistence we did to support our efforts.
BusinessInterviews.com: What’s the most exciting thing on the horizon for you/your Company?
Amanda Sima: We are currently most excited about the prospect of entering the professional leagues, mainly NHL and NFL, in the next 12 months. Like NCAA, there is still so much room for product innovation for these fans and the licensee pool is much more exclusive. If we’re able to obtain these apparel licenses, we will have proven ourselves as true innovators of fashion fan apparel.
BusinessInterviews.com: Where do you envision your company in 5 years, 10 years, 20 years?
Amanda Sima: We try not to get ahead of ourselves but do know we would like to be the main source of quality fashion for licensed apparel.
BusinessInterviews.com: Have you had any mentors or role models that have influenced you? Describe the impact.
Amanda Sima: Currently my mentors are my investors. They are all self-made and that inspires me.
BusinessInterviews.com: Do you consider yourself successful and by what means do you measure success?
Amanda Sima: By industry standards, we have achieved the impossible. A small start-up company in this space has very little chance of obtaining licenses, let alone putting product in the marketplace. Even if you get that far, your stuff has to sell. By all these measures, we are successful. But for us the path to different successes is just beginning.
BusinessInterviews.com: How do your competitors view you?
Amanda Sima: For the most part I’d imagine they view us as definitely different but simply delivering a niche.
BusinessInterviews.com: What advice do you have for other entrepreneurs and business owners? What do you wish someone told you?
Amanda Sima: Embrace the set backs. Nothing is ever going to play out exactly according to your business plan, and in fact it may look nothing like it. Realize quickly that success does not happen without some failure. Knowing that, it will be much easier to guide through the fog of uncertainty when it happens and plow forward in trying times where your acumen must be at its best.
BusinessInterviews.com: What’s the biggest risk that you’ve ever taken and how did it turn out?
Amanda Sima: This is it and we have yet to see how it will turn out! At this point we are very optimistic we’ll see a return on our risk.
BusinessInterviews.com: Anything else you’d like to comment on while we have you?
Amanda Sima: Thank you!
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