Students design business

Travis Perry

Fake it till you make it.

It’s a simple and effective motto, and so far it’s worked for Jesse Wallace and Randy Morgan. Balancing classes, full-time jobs and a fledgling business isn’t an easy task, but they aren’t going to leave ‘Feo’ as just another unfinished dream.

Spanish for ugly, Feo is also the name of Wallace and Morgan’s T-shirt business. Sparked by a friendship, some late nights and a good idea, Feo has already exploded into more than the two could ever have predicted. They are already working on the papers to trademark their logo, which is a duck with a bag over its head. While Feo has yet to reach past several areas of Topeka and Lawrence, these two entrepreneurs have lofty hopes.

Wallace said most great things start out as a good idea, and he thinks that is what Feo is. Afterall, he said the possibility of making a living designing T-shirts was just too much to resist.

“We wouldn’t care if we became millionaires,” said Morgan. “But just to make a living designing T-shirts would be enough for us. It’s not a get-rich-quick scheme, it’s just two friends who had a great idea.”

Feo already has anywhere from 50 to 100 shirts in consumer hands, said Wallace. These range from early hand-drawn T-shirts to iron-ons and a smattering of screen-printed ones. The duo has managed to get eight of their screen-printed shirts on sale at Midwest Skate in West Ridge Mall. However, while they may be featured in a skater shop, Feo doesn’t have a specific demographic target. It’s not about skating, surfing or snowboarding as much as it is just a “hang-loose” lifestyle.

“Moms think the duck is adorable, and that’s been quoted,” said Wallace. “It’s a simple design, so really everybody likes it.”

As the two delve further into the realm of entrepreneurship, the fine print and delicate nuances of business have become much more apparent, especially in the trademark process.

“All we want to do is put our logo on a shirt and trust people not to steal it,” said Wallace.

The main opposition standing in their way is time. Both have jobs as well as attend classes at Washburn, leaving little time to concentrate on the necessary legalities of starting a business.

“There’s a lot more stuff than we initially planned,” said Morgan. “But we don’t want to be the business that takes off and then gets hit a year later for something like not paying taxes.”

The idea for Feo was sparked in early February of 2006 when Wallace and Morgan suddenly had a moment of clarity as the idea came to them. During the summer, promoting the shirts was easy and there was ample time to concentrate on new designs, said Wallace.

The two would spread news of their trade by word-of-mouth or would wear their self-designed shirts to parties.

“People dig the background [of the business],” said Wallace.

While the two enjoy the challenge of starting Feo, the difficulty of launching a new business can be discouraging at times. Wallace said the support from friends and family members have been overwhelming and have been a big part of what has kept them going. It’s difficult, said Morgan, but if it were easy everyone would be doing it.

Those working with Wallace and Morgan include Rick LeJuerrne, the regional director of Kansas Small Business and Development, the Topeka Chamber of Commerce and Justin Shiney, who runs a screen-printing business out of Lawrence.

“As far as the whole process goes, it’s who you know,” said Wallace. “It’s all about making contacts.”

Both Wallace and Morgan agreed that anyone wanting to start a business should know it would usually fail on the first try. The key is to keep at it and stay determined.

“If the pet rock can take off, why can’t Feo?” said Morgan.